4 techniques to maximize the value of your website's sitemap

4 techniques to maximize the value of your website’s sitemap

1. Bear in mind that a sitemap serves a dual purpose.

We have always pushed for the use of website sitemaps at Coast Digital. As a sitemap.html/.xml file has historically been the most effective method for informing search engine robots about all – or at least the most significant – web pages on a site.

While including a sitemap link in the footer of pages is just smart search engine marketing practice, it’s worth noting that a sitemap can also serve as an effective user navigation tool.

As users, we reasonably expect to see a homepage link in the top-left corner of a web page (or connected from a company’s logo) and a ‘about us’ link in the top navigation bar on the right-hand side. We may also reasonably expect to find a sitemap link in the footer.

However, we do not make the rules, and as Jakob Neilson points out in his book ‘Homepage Usability,’ your website is almost definitely not the first one a user visits. Indeed, they are likely to have viewed thousands of websites before to arriving at yours.

Inevitably, web users develop preconceptions over time. Therefore, it’s worth noting that the less time a user has to spend thinking about your layout, the more time they have to spend accessing your information and offerings. Why would you want to divert their attention with a convention-breaking design if all you’re going to achieve is frustration?

2. Don’t forget to include a link to your sitemap.

It’s easy to lose sight of your aims when optimizing a website for search engines. While achieving a high ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs) is desirable, the ultimate goal is for users to simply locate the most relevant pages on your site.

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Sitemaps are frequently concealed or placed ‘behind’ a website because they generally appear as a sequence of classified links with no obvious visual significance. Indeed, sitemap layouts frequently obscure a hierarchy of importance.

If certain sites are more significant than others or include account or profile information that requires regular access, creating a visually beautiful sitemap or even a mini-sitemap to indicate navigation on each page is a suitable solution.

3. Make navigation easier by utilizing sitemaps and mini-sitemaps.

You’d be surprised at the amount of traffic website footers receive in terms of navigation. According to some reports, sitemap footers account for 65-70 percent of a website’s total navigation.

It makes sense; header navigation is frequently used to sell things. Rather than that, mini-sitemap footers, such as the ones seen below from Apple.com, LinkedIn.com, and Waterscape.com, assist new and returning web visitors in quickly identifying the most critical sections of a website.

• In the instance of Apple, the user is sent to a page containing information about key Apple products, accessories, and software.

• For LinkedIn, key service elements such as locating an individual’s profile and setting up/managing an account are highlighted.

• The sitemap footer is used to showcase specific locations and activities in the Waterscape example.

4. Consider the additional benefits of a mini-sitemap.

In their footers, an increasing number of websites – particularly blogs – have simplified or mini-sitemaps. Personally, I believe they bring several substantial benefits:

• By including only pertinent links, mini-sitemaps enhance the user experience.

• A mini-sitemap assists new users to navigate the site easily. It clarifies the purpose of a website and the content it contains.

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• A mini-sitemap serves as a navigation tool for returning users.

• Links on each page educate search engines about which pages are the most significant in the website owner’s perspective.

• A footer sitemap enables the webmaster to add more connections to a website easily.

• The links in a sitemap can include descriptive anchor text for the linked pages, which will aid with SEO.

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