SEO Question: What is a sitemap and why do I need them on my website?
Another great question, so lets break this question down into two parts.
What is a sitemap?
A sitemap is a list which the search engines (or search spiders) will use to find all of the accessible web pages on a site.
Typically web users can also use these as they are normally formed in a hierarchical fashion with the most important pages appearing at the top of the sitemap.
Sitemaps usually come in 4 different formats; XML, HTML, ROR and URL List.
Why do I need sitemaps?
In June 2005, Google introduced “Google Sitemaps” so web designers, developers and SEOs can publish a list of web pages for Google to look at and follow. In November 2006 Yahoo, MSN (now known as Bing) and Ask also started to follow the same protocol. This then gives you the opportunity to tell the biggest search engines in the world about your website and all of the web pages which are available.
Having a sitemap doesn’t mean that your web pages will be crawled or included in to the search index, but it is one of the best ways to tell all of the search engines about your entire website.
Typically XML sitemaps are the best, but using HTML and plain text versions can backup the XML if any problems are found. ROR sitemaps are site feeds and are great for keeping up with sites that are regularly being updated with new content and blog posts.
To create a Google friendly sitemap, I’d recommend http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/
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