Search engines play a critical role in any company’s online presence. They use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to improve the visibility of their content and promotions to their target audience.
Although SEO improves online exposure, its implementation isn’t as easy as it sounds. Companies use various approaches to apply SEO; these include sitemaps. In very basic terms, sitemaps are blueprints that organizations place on their websites to help search engines find, crawl, and index web content.
Your company can use a visual sitemap generator to create a sitemap that informs search engines which pages are essential to their websites and provides valuable details about those pages. For instance, sitemaps offer information on when a page was last updated and alternate versions of the page.
Sitemaps can benefit website SEO in various ways, here are seven of them:
- Highlighting The Site’s Purpose
Sitemaps play a vital role in highlighting the purpose of a website. As a content document, a sitemap helps companies define the value that a website offers to readers. This allows businesses to leverage SEO by identifying the most relevant, unique keywords or phrases to use on the sitemap. Keyword relevance on pages can be achieved using anchor texts.
- Identifying Essential Pages
A sitemap can benefit your website’s SEO by helping search engines find essential pages on your site. If you have a large website, performing a site crawl using an SEO tool prior to developing a sitemap can be helpful. It enables you to identify which pages get indexed and which ones don’t.
By adding main pages that don’t get indexed by search engines to your sitemap, you can boost your SEO significantly by allowing search engines to find and rank them appropriately. This eliminates any technical obstacles that could be keeping search engines from identifying and crawling those pages, which improves a site’s SEO.
- Preventing Content Duplication
Another way sitemaps benefit website SEO is by preventing content duplication issues. With content management systems becoming more complex, the possibility of generating more uniform resource locators (URLs) than actual pages on a website is high.
The systems can adapt web pages to user requests or needs by adding parameters to the initial URL version to create a second version. Often, search engines use the second version of a web page to generate duplicate content problems.
A sitemap goes a long way towards solving this problem by serving as an arbiter that helps site owners determine which URL is the canonical version of the original URL. Sitemaps do this by referencing actual pages while leaving out the duplicated ones.
- Instructing Search Engines
Since sitemaps serve as structured communication channels for search engines, they allow website owners to show search engines around the site. This enables search engines to understand website structure and index content appropriately.
For instance, extensible markup language (XML) sitemaps enable search engine crawlers and spiders to discover important web pages by providing URLs alongside maps showing all the web pages available on a site. This allows search engines to prioritize the pages for crawling quickly.
- Adding Site Links To Listings
Sitemaps also benefit website SEO by adding site links on organic search listings. Site links are links that lead to specific web pages. On search engines like Google, site links appear just below website descriptions to enable users to find the most relevant and valuable content on a website easily.
Site links are automated and are impossible to specify without the help of search engine algorithms. However, sitemaps can increase your chances of getting site links by guiding search engines to specific web page locations on your website.
- Increasing Crawling Speeds
On large websites, sitemaps reduce the time crawlers spend on crawling the sites by helping search engines discover web pages. They also help search engines find web content and move it up the crawl queue.
Further, sitemaps highlight web pages that search engines are likely to miss out on, like frequently updated pages. This improves the ranking of such pages in search results, which improves SEO.
- Boosting Site Visibility
When crawling some websites, search engines don’t always index every page. For instance, if a website has a link on one of its pages, search bots can follow the external links to ensure they make sense. When doing so, the chances of returning to the site to index the remaining pages are low.
Sitemaps can direct such bots to give them a clear picture of the website and consider every page. This enables the bots to stay on the site longer and follow the site’s navigation structure to boost online visibility.
When Are Sitemaps Necessary?
Sitemaps are not necessarily required on all websites. Your company should include a sitemap on its website only if the:
- Website Is Extremely Large
Big websites should have sitemaps to ensure that search engines crawl and index important pages. When a site is too big, web crawlers may overlook new pages or recently updated ones.
- Website Has A Huge Content Archive
Web pages don’t reference each other automatically. If your company website has an extensive archive of unlinked or isolated content pages, you need a sitemap. To ensure search engines don’t overlook such pages, consider listing them on a sitemap.
- Website Has Few External Links
Search engine bots and crawlers follow links on web pages as they crawl the web. If you’ve just launched a new site with only a few or no external links, adding a sitemap can help search engines discover pages that may not be linked to any other site.
- Website Has Plenty Of Visual Content
Websites that feature vast amounts of visual content need sitemaps to enable search engines to gather additional details where appropriate.
SEO plays a critical role in enhancing your website’s visibility online. However, adding a sitemap to your website can make your SEO strategy more effective in delivering the results you want. If you’re unsure about adding a sitemap to your website, the seven benefits discussed above can help you make a decision.