A sitemap is a document that contains a list of the webpages on a website and their associated URLs (Uniform Resource Locators), these are links pointing to other webpages. It provides an overview of the website's structure, including page hierarchy and navigation links, and helps search engine spiders find and index webpages more efficiently. As such, it is an essential part of optimizing your website for search engines, also known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Creating a good sitemap with all the important information helps search engine spiders to quickly understand the structure and layout of your website. This gives them an easier time to crawl and index your webpages. A good website sitemap should also be organized in a way that encourages visitors to explore your website and visit different pages.
Creating a sitemap is usually a simple process. You will need to include all the URLs to your web pages. Some content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress have plugins available that automates the process. Others require you to manually enter the URLs in an XML file (this is the most daunting option, but also the most customisable).
There are several best practices and general guidelines to follow when creating a sitemap. Here are the most important ones.
• Keep it simple. The more page links you include in the document, the more clutter it becomes. A general rule of thumb is that a sitemap should not contain more than 500 URLs.
• Include only important pages. The aim of the document is to keep search engine crawlers focused on your important pages. Every link must lead to a relevant webpage.
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• Organise the links. You must group the links in a logical and organised way, to make it easier for search engine crawler understand the purpose of each page. Hierarchical sorting is recommended.
• Keep the document up to date. It is important to delete any links that point to pages which have been removed or under construction. Similarly, links for newly created pages should be added.
• Create a link from your homepage. For the benefit of users and crawlers, you should link to the sitemap from the homepage. You could also use the link to encourage visitors to explore more pages on your site.
• Create multiple sitemaps. This is particularly useful if your website contains numerous pages and/or images. You must divide the document into multiple, smaller sitemaps, to keep the links organized and easier to manage.
A sitemap is a powerful tool for guiding search engine spiders and allowing visitors to browse your website more efficiently. It is an essential part of optimizing for search engines, and you must adhere to the best practices and guidelines outlined above to ensure best results.