Sitemaps are a very important component of a well optimized website. There are four different Sitemaps that your site should offer:
- HTML Sitemap: This is a sitemap for visitors. Typically linked to from the global footer, the HTML sitemap page should offer a complete outline to your site that allows visitors to easily see every page (for small sites) or at least every category and sub-category that your site offers.
- XML Sitemap: The XML sitemap is critical for SEO because this is a document or documents (for very large sites) that lists every single page of your site. An XML sitemap should offer four pieces of information about every page.
- Importance: From 0.1 to 1.0 with 1.0 being the highest. The homepage should be a 1.0 and every other page should typically be given an importance score based on where the page sits in the hierarchy of your site structure. For instance if the URL of a page is: www.example.com/category/sub-category/page-name then the URL structure of that page is 3 indexes deep and therefore that page would get a 0.7 in the XML sitemap. Of course if you feel that a particular page is more or less important to the site, then you can give that page whatever score is appropriate.
- Change Frequency: This suggests to the search engines how often the page is typically updated and therefore how often they should come back and crawl the page. It is great to have the search engines crawl your pages regularly, but only if you are actually updating some information on that page.
- Last Updated: This is the date of the last update. If the page is updated regularly, this is good to include. If not, then you may want to leave this info out.
Make sure that your XML sitemap is submitted to Google Webmaster tools and Bing Webmaster tools. This will help ensure that your entire site is crawled and indexed.
Tools for Generating A Proper XML Sitemap
- If you have a Drupal website, use this module to quickly and automatically add new pages to your sitemap: Drupal Sitemap Generator
- If you have a Wordpress website, use this plugin to quickly and automatically add new pages to your sitemap: Wordpress Sitemap Generator
- Magento: Improved Sitemap Generator For Magento
- Ruby On Rails Sitemap Generator: Download from Git Repository
Specialized Content Sitemaps
- Image Sitemap: An image sitemap is a great idea for sites that feature a lot of images. For instance if you blog daily and always include an image, then an image sitemap could help your site get more exposure through Google. Including an image sitemap will help your images show up in Google’s image search, and this can be a strong source of traffic for some sites.
- Video Sitemap: A video sitemap can help your videos show up in search results. Google seeks to diversify their search results and providing an additional call out to your video content will give it a greater chance of showing up in relevant search results with a video thumbnail. Here is some more information on creating a video sitemap: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/80472?hl=en