A sitemap is to a website as the table of contents is to a book. The sitemap lists all the pages in the site, helping visitors and search engine robots find pages in that website. This not only encourages live visitors to return to the site, but also helps in the optimization of the site for search engines.
There are three major types of sitemaps:
1. indexed – The sitemap appears as an alphabetical listing or directory. The relationship among the pages is not indicated.
2. full categorical – The map displays all links which are classified in categories. This type was found to be the most preferred type by users as it makes it easier for them to search for certain topics in the site, and it eases comparison between and among categories.
3. restricted categorical – The sitemap displays all links in a chosen category at a time; you will not see all the links of a website, as compared to the full categorical type. The sitemap confines the list of links under a selected category. This makes viewing easier and less eye-straining.
With any of these types are techniques you can use to set up a superior sitemap. Here are six tips that you can use:
1. Link the sitemap only to your homepage. This will ensure that the search engine robot starts searching from your homepage down to all the pages listed in your sitemap. In this way, no page will be left unvisited by the robot.
2. Limit your sitemap to 30 pages. If you have more than this, the search engines might think that your sitemap is a link farm, and you will be penalized for that. Limiting the number of pages of your sitemap also prevents overcrowding of links. This will make viewing less tiring.
3. Check all the links in your sitemap. It can be discouraging for your visitors if they click on a link only to get a 404 error message or the page requested is not found. Or your visitors click on a link only to be shown a page that has a different topic to that of the link. You should, therefore, test your sitemap, clicking on all the links in every page, to ensure that there are no unbroken links, and that all links are indeed linked to the right page.
4. Give keyword-rich titles to your sitemaps. This helps in the optimization of your website. Search engine robots will search your website properly under the right category.
5. Provide a short description for the links. This will help your visitors to know what to expect to find in a link. This can save your visitors time surfing your website.
6. Be consistent in designing your sitemap with that of the other pages in your website. Use the same HTML template for all pages in your site, including the sitemap. This will establish identity and build character to your website.
By following the above tips, not only will you create a sitemap that is pleasing to the eye, but will also encourage your visitors to return to your site, have the search engine robots crawl through all the pages in your site, and increase your ranking in the search engines.