Not every website that you visit will have an XML and HTML sitemap, maybe it is something that you wouldn’t even notice?
We regularly get asked by our clients, do I need an XML and HTML sitemap. We often also get asked something similar by new staff that are in training. The answer to that question is; To enhance the visibility and indexing of web pages, sitemaps are indispensable tools. Two commonly used types of sitemaps are XML (Extensible Markup Language) and HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) sitemaps. Here we will delve into what XML and HTML sitemaps are, their respective uses, the features they bring to the table, and explore the easiest way to create both types within the WordPress platform.
Understanding XML Sitemaps:
Definition and Purpose: An XML sitemap is a file that lists the URLs of a website, helping search engines crawl and index its content efficiently.
SEO Benefits: XML sitemaps provide search engines with valuable information, including the frequency of content updates, importance of pages, and the time they were last modified. This helps search engines prioritise indexing and ensures that the latest content is discovered promptly.
Key Features: XML sitemaps can include additional metadata such as image and video information, enabling search engines to understand the multimedia content of a website better.
Exploring HTML Sitemaps:
Definition and Purpose: An HTML sitemap is a page on a website that lists all the accessible links in a structured format, primarily intended for human visitors.
User Experience Benefits: HTML sitemaps provide website visitors with an organised overview of the site’s structure and content, facilitating navigation and improving user experience.
SEO Considerations: While HTML sitemaps are primarily designed for users, they can indirectly contribute to SEO by helping search engine crawlers discover and navigate through the website more efficiently.
The Importance of Having Both Sitemaps:XML and HTML sitemaps serve distinct purposes and cater to different audiences. While XML sitemaps are crucial for search engines to discover and index content, HTML sitemaps enhance user experience by providing an organised overview of the site structure. Together, XML and HTML sitemaps create a comprehensive approach to ensure that search engines and website visitors can easily find and navigate through a website’s content.
Creating XML and HTML Sitemaps in WordPress:
XML Sitemaps: WordPress provides native support for XML sitemaps since version 5.5. We can enable and customise XML sitemaps by navigating to the “Settings” > “Reading” section in the WordPress dashboard.
HTML Sitemaps: While WordPress doesn’t include built-in functionality for HTML sitemaps, several plugins are available to simplify the process. One popular option is the “WP Sitemap Page” plugin, which generates an HTML sitemap that can be easily customised and inserted into any page or post.
Best Practices for XML and HTML Sitemaps:
To ensure the effectiveness of XML and HTML sitemaps, it’s essential to follow best practices for their creation and implementation. Consider the following guidelines:
Include all relevant URLs: Ensure that the XML sitemap contains all the important URLs of your website, including pages, blog posts, and media files.
Update the sitemap regularly: As you add new content or make changes to existing pages, update the XML sitemap to keep it synchronised with your website’s structure.
Submit the sitemap to search engines: Once you’ve created or updated the XML sitemap, submit it to popular search engines like Google and Bing through their respective webmaster tools. This helps search engines discover and index your content more efficiently.
Organise the sitemap logically: Structure the HTML sitemap in a user-friendly format, categorising content by relevant sections or topics. This helps visitors quickly locate the information they are looking for.
Keep it concise: While it’s important to include all significant links, avoid overwhelming visitors with an excessively long HTML sitemap. Focus on the most important and relevant pages.
Link from the footer or navigation menu: Make the HTML sitemap easily accessible by placing a link to it in the footer or primary navigation menu of your website. This ensures that users can find it easily, regardless of which page they are on.
Monitoring and Analysing Sitemaps:
After implementing XML and HTML sitemaps, it’s crucial to monitor their performance and make necessary adjustments. Consider the following practices:
XML Sitemaps: Monitor indexing status: Regularly check your website’s indexation status on search engines and verify that all relevant pages are being indexed correctly. If you notice any discrepancies or issues, review your XML sitemap for potential errors.
Utilise webmaster tools: Take advantage of webmaster tools provided by search engines to gain insights into how your XML sitemap is being processed. These tools often offer valuable information about crawl errors or issues that need attention.
HTML Sitemaps: Track user engagement: Use website analytics tools to track user interactions with your HTML sitemap. Analyse metrics such as bounce rate, time on page, and exit rate to identify any usability issues or areas for improvement.
Gather user feedback: Encourage visitors to provide feedback on the usability and effectiveness of your HTML sitemap. This can help you identify any shortcomings and make adjustments accordingly.
Why are sitemaps valuable to your business?
XML and HTML sitemaps are valuable assets in the realm of SEO. At CTO Digital, we make sure whenever we build a new website or begin optimising a new website, this is one of our very first starting points. XML sitemaps ensure efficient indexing by search engines, while HTML sitemaps enhance user experience and navigation. By following best practices for creating and implementing sitemaps, website owners can maximise the benefits for both search engines and visitors. Remember to regularly update and submit XML sitemaps to search engines, and keep HTML sitemaps organised and easily accessible to users. Additionally, monitoring and analysing sitemap performance allows for ongoing optimisation and improvements. By leveraging the power of sitemaps in WordPress, you can effectively enhance the discoverability and user-friendliness of your website.