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Basics of Sitemap for Users and Search Engines

What is a Sitemap?

Sitemap is a navigational guide for your website informing users and search engines about the structure of your complete site. It is a difficult task to keep track of the changes when a site grows in size with high number of pages. Sitemap helps to understand the complex link structure of a site and importance of any single page when compared to the entire site.
Generally Sitemap is classified into the following two categories:
  • Sitemap for Users
  • Sitemap for Search Engines

Sitemap for Users

This is a simple HTML webpage part of your site which contains the link list of all pages in your site. The purpose of HTML Sitemap is to explain human users about the complete structure of your site in sections. This helps the user to understand what is the whole content of the site and locate the specific content easily.

Sitemap for Search Engines

One of the primary tasks of a site owner is to prepare a Sitemap and submit to various search engines for indexing. Sitemap for search engine generally uses XML format which serves the same purpose like HTML Sitemap with the difference that XML Sitemap helps the search engines to understand the site structure whereas HTML Sitemap is meant for the human users.
Search engine bots can easily crawl and index new and modified pages in your site with the help of XML Sitemap. You also can indicate the priority of a page to be considered for indexing compared to other pages in your site. XML Sitemap is not shown in the site navigation for the users but can be seen in the web browsers with .xml page. Below is an example of a XML Sitemap:
Most of the hosting providers offer automatic Sitemap generation for the site which is really a good option. This will automatically get updated whenever there is change in the page content. If your hosting provider does not offer an auto Sitemap generating option then generate your own or use XML Sitemap generation tools available online and upload it in your site’s root directory.

Submitting Sitemap to Search Engines

Following are the requirements for Sitemap submission to search engines:
  • You need to have a Webmaster Tools account in order to submit your Sitemap to search engines. Though some search engines like Bing offers anonymous Sitemap submission we recommend to use Webmaster Tools to track the search performance of your site.
  • You site must be verified in Webmaster Tools account before you can submit your Sitemap.
  • You can also submit RSS feed of your blog as a Sitemap. It is recommended to submit both RSS feed as well XML Sitemap in case if you own a blog.
  • Search engines will daily crawl your site based on the information from the Sitemap and look for new and modified content.
  • The errors and warnings in the Sitemap are shown in your Webmaster Tools account for further action.

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