Sitemaps – what are they and what are they good for?
Since sometime around 2005, the term sitemap has come to mean many things to many people.
These are the two most commonly used terms –
- HTML Sitemap (old fashioned ‘sitemap’)
- XML Sitemap (sometimes called a google sitemap)
Either way a sitemap is a list of all the pages on your website.
Your HTML sitemap will list all your URLs on a webpage as links to all the pages on your site. Using URLs as the anchor text is what you want, but keywords (such as the title of the page the link points to) is better for SEO (search engine optimization) and more meaningful for those looking at the page.
XML sitemaps, on the other hand, are very different. It’s basically an XML document formatted to the schema of sitemaps.org; which defines a urlset and a list of urls; each of which can have additional data such as last modified and priority. XML sitemaps are not meant for human viewers and as such do not contain links; as it’s not a true hypertext document. You would create an XML sitemap, host it on your website and tell google and yahoo about it – it can help getting your site indexed faster but will not lead to a direct increase in SERPs rank but may increase traffic by a small amount.
Many people ask “Will a sitemap increase my rankings?”
The quick answer is “no”.
The proper answer is “no”, but they are beneficial.
Some people report that they have seen no visible improvement to their rankings for those sites with a google verified sitemap – the only slight difference is that new urls or changes sometimes get indexed faster – (and supplemented faster!)
Is it worth the hassle? You should check every line of code with xml as one mistake can sometimes render the whole sitemap useless, leading to all your pages being put at risk.
Then the next question is, “If they don’t increase the rank, how can they be beneficial?”
The answer to that is that sitemaps can get pages indexed that were not indexed before; so pages that weren’t in the index now get ranked, but existing pages don’t get a higher rank – it’s all about SERPs Saturation; the more pages you have indexed the more chance you have of getting a visitor. Want to know the quickest way to get indexed?…Create a google sitemap.
When we build a website using wordpress, it’s easy to install a plugin to automatically generate our sitemaps for us…and it will also auto submit them to each of the major Search Engines when we publish a post.