What is a Sitemap?
A Sitemap is a file that lists all (sub)pages of a website. You can therefore also speak of a kind of "map" of the website in question. The sitemap is therefore a hierarchical and comprehensive overview of an entire page and can be useful for both search engines (SEO) and users (overview).
- Available in several variants (html, xml)
- Helps with (faster) indexing of websites
- Is a structured representation of all individual pages
- Search Engines can crawl more intelligently with it
- Recommended for large and new projects, etc.
Meaning and purpose of a sitemap
With the help of a sitemap, an internet presence is listed hierarchically, taking into account all existing sub-pages. This can be done visibly for people or in the background "machine-readable". In the early days of the internet, the original purpose of sitemaps was to help users navigate through a website with all its sub-pages. For this purpose, a "map" of this kind was placed on the start page as a clickable link for onpage optimization. In addition, such a page overview of a site was used to further strengthen its internal linking. Today it is no longer so common for visitors to use such a sitemap for orientation or to get an overview. Because meanwhile there are more progressive menus etc., which make navigating enormously 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 listed successfully and precisely in the search results. This gives the search engines clues with regard to crawling and indexing. Google and Co. now know how the webmaster has structured the contents of his entire website. A sitemap thus plays a not unimportant role for the indexing of a page.
Types and advantages of a sitemap
The use of a sitemap is recommended so that search robots do not overlook individual pages in very large projects such as online shops. This also helps if the individual pages are not yet so well linked to each other or if it is a brand new Internet presence. 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 are saved in a format that can be read by search robots, e.g. sitemap.xml. While HTML sitemaps are more of a table of contents and a kind of relic from the early days of the Internet, the XML sitemap is written in a special, human-readable format. 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 his way through all existing subpages if he wishes. There are also other types of sitemaps that can be differentiated according to the type of content they contain: Video sitemap, news sitemap and picture sitemap. For mobile optimized websites 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 creating a sitemap. In addition, there are numerous useful Sitemap generators on the net. Thus there is the possibility to generate your Sitemaps fully automatically. In order to draw the search engines' attention to your own 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 faster and hidden as well as poorly recognizable content is taken into account. In addition, poorly linked and orphaned pages are identified.