The growing importance of XML and HTML sitemaps
Web page creation is no child’s play. A huge amount of time is spent in planning the look and feel of a website, before the actually development begins. From a user’s perspective, apart from the website itself, the only tangible evidence that vouches for this planning is the visible operational elements. In other words, front-end elements that are related to the functionality of the website. A sitemap is one such element.
The name is self-explanatory. But the simplicity that the word site map suggests is deceptive. Sitemaps are complex, regardless of how simple the structure of the webpage may be. Sitemaps can be created either in XML or HTML. These two types of sitemap are created for two different purposes – XML: reaches out to the search engine spiders, and HTML sitemaps are meant for users. While there are people who feel that it is better to just stick to either an HTML or a XML sitemap, most people believe that it is most advantageous to have both. Broadly speaking, sitemaps bring with them a sense that the site is organized, and it becomes easy for you to have a bird’s eye view of your site. Additionally, users also appreciate a preview of everything that site has to offer, rather than spend time discovering things click after click.
The HTML sitemap must represent the site in a very tangible way. It must be there present as a link on the homepage of your website. The design elements used, must reflect the overall tenor of the website. Unlike something like a road map which has the primary objective of giving clear and accurate direction, a sitemap has the additional responsibility of becoming a mirror to the rest of the site. The color coding, font styles, use of graphics etc are indicative of how you would expect the website to look. Users will make such a connection between the look of the sitemap, and the expected look of the site. If the sitemap is elaborate and colorful, and the webpage is bland, a user will feel cheated.
Having a sitemap also means not relying entirely on external links that will drive search engines to your website. This should in any case be avoided, but a sitemap would be a way to bypass a confusing or faulty internal link structure which may mislead search engines to orphan pages.
Generating a sitemap is not a very complicated process. There are enough free online tools available that will carry this task out for you. Alternatively, you have the option of downloading Google sitemap generator, and carrying out the given instructions. Needless to say the second option is the harder one, but then it also provides you with a greater control over the final output. Once you are done generating the sitemap, using either of these methods you need to upload it to your website and notify Google about the same.
The growing importance of search engine optimization means that it will soon become almost mandatory for websites to have sitemaps. As of now, Yahoo and MSN do not support sitemaps and ask webmasters to submit a stripped-down version of the sitemap i.e, a text file that has a list of all the url’s on the website. Although, given how prominent such sitemaps are becoming, there are good chances that this will change sooner than later. Sitemaps will in fact soon become a rather straightforward and convenient way of submitting one’s website to the search engines.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Munish Dev Rathee is a SEO cum content writer associated with a web design India , web development India , and SEO India company.