January 11, 2005
Sitemaps are seemingly minor features — a simple page full of links. As a result, they are often overlooked in site design. This is unfortunate, as a sitemap is an essential component of a well-functioning web site.
Sitemaps serve two purposes:
- They allow search engines to find every page in your site.
- They allow visitors to locate pages in your site.
If you have a functional search facility, the majority of site visitors will probably turn to that first before using a sitemap. Nevertheless, sitemaps should still be included for their search engine functionality if for no other reason.
Forget all of the various fancy graphical sitemap pages that you may have seen – the sitemap page itself should be simple, with a link to each and every page in the site. Each link should have the page name as it’s link text, and should also include a “title=” attribute. The title attribute can match the page name, or it can be used to indicate another targeted key phrase for the page.
The sitemap should be linked on at least the main page of the site, and on each page if you include on-page navigation. Get in the habit of keeping your sitemap up to date — when you add a new page to the site, add a new page to the sitemap. If you are using a content management system, such as blogging software, this process can probably be largely automated.