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Guide to Navigation: What is a Sitemap in SEO?

Garenne Bigby
Garenne Bigby
at DYNO Mapper

A sitemap is a file (XML, HTML, etc.) that is filled with URLs that are associated with one single website.

It can be thought of as a log of every web page on the site. It needs to be found easily on the website so that search engine crawlers can stumble upon it if you are not crawling the website manually.

Sitemaps were created when websites became larger and more complex, and blogging gained popularity with their owners updating their content on a daily basis.

Millions of websites update their content on a daily basis now, and sitemaps have allowed search engines to track all of the newly updated content much easier, and allowing it to be discovered more quickly and accurately by search engines.

Search engines no longer have trouble tracking content on websites that constantly change, thanks to correctly implemented sitemaps.

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Using a Sitemap

A sitemap is used to let search engine crawlers follow these given links to all of the individual pages so that the program will not overlook any of the content or pages. Sometimes, a webmaster will leave a URL out or make them invisible because the link is not designed for the website visitor to use.

Because of this, some of the URLs on a website cannot be crawled by a search engine bot or spider. When you choose to implement a sitemap, you are enabling a process that generates files that are hosted among other files on the website, and transfer the information about these pages to search engines. It helps to apply the information about your website and its content to search engines.

Sitemaps are used to enhance the indexing process performed by crawlers and they will also allow access to otherwise inaccessible pages. This means that the pages that are not able to be found through the on-site menu may still be indexed by the search engine and its process.

A sitemap will never visually alter the way that your website is displayed, and it does not change the way that a website is indexed. A sitemap will simply help the content on the website become more visible and accessible to search engines. It should be noted that just because you have a sitemap for your website does not mean that all pages will be indexed and optimized for search engines, and have just a slight effect on a website's overall page rank.

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Creating a Sitemap

Manually creating a sitemap is no longer a necessity with the invention of so many plugins and generators. DYNO Mapper's Dynamic Sitemap Crawler will create a sitemap from any website URL that is entered. There are also options for a more advanced crawl that would include sub-domains and options to ignore certain URLs.

When using DYNO Mapper, all that needs to be done is to enter the URL of the website into the correct field, and select “Create Sitemap”. From there, a visual interactive map will be created, along with detailed analytics about the website. You will gain access to all of the information regarding inventory, as well as the capability to collaborate with the other individuals associated with the project.

There are three variations of a visual sitemap that can be created and shared, and the website inventory may be easily searched to find any specific content that needs to be addressed. After this is done, the sitemap can be exported into a number of different files so that it may be edited and shared.

Does a Sitemap Boost Your On-Site SEO?

When you employ a sitemap, you are allowing search engines to access all of the pages on your website that you are telling them to see. The more pages that they have to index, the more authority that your website will gain. Your website will grow with the amount of information that it has to offer.

A sitemap's purpose is to ensure that search engine crawlers are able to crawl all of the information intended from the website. Sitemaps are not used for internal linking or navigation only search engine spiders. The boost in on-site SEO is real, though it is not huge but it definitely helps overall.

When a search engine crawls a website, the bot will check for text files and meta tags as well as any other relevant data on the website that can influence the rating of the importance of the content in relation to the search query. When you create a sitemap and place it on the homepage of a website, you should ensure that it encompasses all of the page URLs that are contained within the website.

This will allow visitors to the website to access the information that is available on each page. Because of this, the number of pages that are crawled will increase, making for a higher page ranking among search engines.

Search engines are used to provide individuals with information regarding the best way to get any information and services that they are looking for on the internet. As needed, they function as a directory with an index of information from websites and present this information to the user upon request. The main function of sitemaps to search engine optimization is the ability for a sitemap to allow search engines to crawl sites and then collect information.

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The search engine can then make this information available to anyone using the Internet that performs a specific search. A sitemap will enhance the ranking of a website within the search engine. The chain reaction of this is that when a website has higher rankings among search engines, the website will become discoverable to many more Internet users, thus increasing the traffic to the website.

Increasing traffic to a website is only the first step in creating a website that converts and reaches its goals while contributing to the website's perceived authority. Search engines bridge the gap between internet users and useful content, and an accurate and optimized sitemap will allow the bridge to be crossed much faster.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Garenne Bigby
Garenne Bigby
business.com Member
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Chicago Freelancer Developer and Founder of DYNO Mapper.