Sitemaps - What Are They? Why Does Your Website Need One?

Web Design Be Found SEO

Published Mar 21, 2022, 10:38 AM
Approx. read time 5 mins

If you've been carrying out your own marketing, it's possible that you've come across the term "Sitemap" when trying to improve your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). But have you ever looked into it and thought, "I have no idea what I'm doing", or "I don't know what this even is"?

SEO is the art of improving where your website appears on search engines such as Google. There are many aspects of SEO you need to master, but this post, in particular, focuses on sitemaps.

What are sitemaps?

Think of it like a physical map or family tree. If you're looking for a certain place or relative, you follow the roads and branches until you find the right place or person.

Sitemaps work in the same way. They map out the route between content A and content B.

Users tend not to be concerned about sitemaps as long as they can find the content they need when they need it.

However, search engines are very concerned about your sitemaps. Typically, they tell the search engine which pages and content you consider to be the most important.

Basically, sitemaps are files where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your website and how they're all related to each other.

When search engines find your website it allows them to find the content more effectively, which can also benefit your human users.

Are there different types of sitemaps?

There are four main types of sitemaps you can use:

  1. Normal XML sitemap - This is the most common type of sitemap, this is the type that links to different pages on your website and typically includes details like when it was last updated, and how often it's updated (check out our sitemap as an example).

  2. Video sitemap - This is specific to help search engines understand the video content of your website.

  3. News sitemap - Helps Google to find content on sites that are approved for Google News.

  4. Image sitemap - Helps search engines find the images on your site.

Person using a map

Why are sitemaps important?

If your website is new and doesn't have many backlinks yet, it can help search engines find and understand the content on your site without needing it to be linked to from elsewhere.

Another important use for sitemaps is if you're selling products from your website. If you have a large catalogue of products, search engines need to be able to find each and every one of them. Unless you've managed to perfectly link them internally and have external backlinks to them, search engines might have a hard time.

Do all websites need a sitemap?

As the adage goes, it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Search engines always aim to show the most relevant results for search queries. This is why they need to know the content that's on your website and how it relates to the rest of your pages.

To find this information, they crawl through websites to read, organise, and index the content they find.

Sitemaps make the crawling process easier for search engines, which can increase your chances of boosting your SEO ranking.

If you don't use sitemaps, search engines may not find content as easily or quickly. This, in turn, can hurt your web rankings; if a search engine doesn't know about a page, how can it index it?

Another part of a sitemap is assigning a priority to a page. While this won't help you jump ahead of your competition in the search results, it does tell the search engine which pages you think are most important.

For example, if you offer a cleaning service, you'll likely have a web page selling the cleaning services you offer, including the techniques you use. However, you might also have a blog post that discusses the advantages and disadvantages of certain cleaning techniques. If you don't have a sitemap on your website, search engines might give both of these pages equal importance, which isn't what you were aiming for and could harm your rankings.

Why is it important to include pages with high-quality content?

Ranking on search engines is all about quality rather than quantity of content.

Take the following example:

Imagine you searched for top tips on web design and were presented with two different results.

The first website has a wall of text that's poorly formatted and laid out in a way that's hard to understand.

The second website has an infographic, example images, video explainers and a numbered list of their top 10 tips.

Which of these two websites would you find most appealing? It's more likely to be the second website.

This is why you need to include high-quality pages in your sitemap. Search engines are more likely to show websites that provide useful content to the end user in a way that's easy to understand.

So, does your website need a sitemap?

If you want your website to be found and ranked on search engines, it's best practice to have a sitemap.

If your website uses a content management system (CMS) such as Silverstripe, then you probably already have a sitemap in place.

But if not, then don't worry, we're here to help. Reach out today, and let's see how we can help you with your website needs.