What is a sitemap?
A sitemap is a file that lists all (sub)pages of a website. It can therefore also be called a kind of map of the website in question. The sitemap is therefore a hierarchical and complete overview of an entire page and can therefore be useful for search engines (SEO) as well as users (overview).
- Is available in several variants (html, xml)
- Helps with (faster) indexing of web pages
- Is a structured representation of all individual pages
- Search engines can crawl more intelligently with it
- Recommended for large and new projects
Sense and purpose of a sitemap
With the help of a sitemap an internet presence is listed hierarchically considering all existing subpages, this can be done visible for humans or it can also be “machine readable” in the background. In the early days of the internet, the original purpose of sitemaps was to support users in navigating through a website with all its subpages. For this purpose, a “map” of this kind was placed on the start page as a clickable link for onpage optimization. Furthermore, such a site map of a site was used to further strengthen its internal linking. Today it is not so common anymore that visitors use such a sitemap for orientation or to get an overview. This is because there are now more advanced menus etc. which make navigation much easier. Nevertheless it makes sense to generate or use sitemaps, even if this is not mandatory. Because now sitemaps are primarily more relevant for search engines like Google and Bing, so that the website can be successfully and precisely listed in the search results. In this way, the search engines are given clues regarding crawling and indexing. Google and Co. now know how the webmaster has structured the contents of his entire website. A sitemap therefore plays a not unimportant role in the indexing of a page
Types and benefits of a sitemap
To ensure that the search robots do not miss any single page in very extensive projects such as online shops, the use of a sitemap is recommended. This also helps if the individual pages are not yet so well linked to each other or if it is a brand new website. There are several types of sitemaps. First, a distinction is made between HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps. The names originate from the file format, because HTML sitemaps are called sitemap.html and XML sitemaps were saved in a format that is readable by search robots, such as sitemap.xml. While HTML sitemaps are more of a table of contents and are a kind of relic from the early days of the Internet, XML sitemaps are written in a special format that is not readable by humans. The latter also contains other metadata such as the importance of the URL (priority), the date of the last update and much more. The HTML Sitemap file (also simply called Sitemap) is linked as a separate subpage on the home page of the website and the user can click through all existing subpages if he wants to. There are also other types of sitemaps, which are distinguished according to the type of content they contain: Video-Sitemap, News-Sitemap and Picture-Sitemap. For mobile-optimized Internet pages, it is a good idea to create a mobile sitemap. There are different ways to create a sitemap. The usual CMS and shop systems usually offer a function for the creation. In addition, there are numerous useful sitemap generators on the net. This gives you the possibility to generate your sitemaps fully automatically. In order to make search engines aware of your sitemap, you have to refer to it in the robots.txt file. Webmasters can submit sitemaps via tools such as Google Search Console. XML sitemaps have many advantages: New pages are crawled more quickly and hidden and poorly recognizable content is taken into account. In addition, badly linked and orphaned pages are detected