Having a ‘site map’ on your website is one of the many things you can do to improve search engine optimization (SEO). And like all good SEO techniques, as well as helping the search engines it also makes life easier for the human visitors to your site.

In its most simple form, a site map is just a hierarchical list of all the pages on your website. It shows how the pages relate to each other and it provides links to all of them. This is great for search engines as it makes it easier for them to find all the pages on your site. And it’s good for human visitors too as they can click straight from the site map to the page they want on your website.

A few years ago the four biggest search engines, Google, Microsoft/Bing, Yahoo and Ask, agreed on a common site map format called ‘XML Sitemaps’. This format specified how to create a site map that works well across the four main search engines, and defined how some extra features could work.

Here are some of the features of XML Sitemaps and the benefits of having one on your website:

 XML Sitemap feature  SEO benefit
For each page, the following information is specified: For each page, the search engine:
  • Date last modified
  • Knows how fresh the content is
  • Priority
  • Knows how important a page is compared to the rest of the site
  • How often the page is updated
  • Knows how often to come back to spider the content

Additionally, an XML Sitemap can provide access to areas of the website that are not otherwise linked, or may be difficult for search engines to access, such as pages built with ‘Flash’.

So, having an XML Sitemap on your website means that more pages are more likely to be found by search engines, which can only help you get higher up in the search rankings.

And how do I get an XML Sitemap?

There are some free tools available for creating XML Sitemaps. One of the most obvious – because it appears at number one on google if you search for ‘XML sitemap’, is at www.xml-sitemaps.com

However, it creates a ‘static’ map so if your web site changes, for example if you update a product or you add a new service, the map doesn’t update.

If you’re serious about SEO, you should consider asking your web agency to add a ‘dynamic’ XML Sitemap to your website – ie one that updates when you make changes to your site.