What is the Sitemap?
Have you ever been to a mall? Yes, everyone would have, I guess so.
There are malls in the world that are amazingly big like a golf course or even larger than that.
People sometimes get lost and try to search for the stores, which they have been looking for by asking the guards and other visitors.
However, have you noticed one thing that every well-established mall has a visual display which lists all the stores and their locations in the mall.
These displays are sometimes in the form of LED display or a banner and are known as store directories or the sitemap of the mall.
Here’s an example of a complete sitemap of the Kingsway Mall, Edmonton, Alberta. It displays the exact floorwise location of the stores inside the mall.
If you have visited this mall or any other mall, you might have found the store directories which would have undoubtedly helped you in searching for the stores as well as determining your location in the mall.
Suppose you want to visit a store named American Eagle Outfiters in the Kingsway Mall of Edmonton, Alberta.
How will you reach there?
This store directory is available in the mall’s lobby (and on each floor) will help you in that case.
You can quickly search the American Eagle Outfiters store in just a few seconds.
In this example, as per the sitemap, it is situated on the 2nd floor, and the store number is Q2 which is shown in the image.
So basically, a sitemap is built to help the user or bots to find the desired results in minimum time.
Or in other words, it is an interactive list of contents in which all subparts are inter-connected and the each part is in return connected with the main heading.
What is the sitemap on a website?
If you have created a website of your own and want to get it acknowledged by the search engines and readers, then you must have a sitemap of your website.
Typically it is said that only large websites must have sitemaps.
However, for a well-structured website and to ensure proper indexing in the search engines, every blogger must have a sitemap.
To get the better understanding lets check out an example.
Moz has done trials on the crawl time of search bots vs. the blogs with the sitemap and without the sitemap.
In the First experiment, one blog designed, and no sitemap submitted to yahoo and google search engine.
First Crawl time of posts for Yahoo and Google were noted through the tracker.
Then a graph was plotted between crawl time and the number of blog posts.
Average crawl time for Yahoo found to be 1758 minutes, and for the Google, it was around 1350 minutes.
These crawl times for any blogger are disastrous.
In the second experiment, Sitemap of posts or blog first submitted to Google as well as Yahoo.
Then the same practice was done same as the previous one.
In this experiment, average crawl time for the Google found was 14 minutes, and for the Yahoo, it was around 240 minutes.
You can clearly notice the significant variation in above two examples.
After submitting the sitemap, indexing of website has increased by 99% in Google and by 87% in Yahoo.
That is why sitemap on a website is crucial for faster indexing.
A sitemap is a file where pages of blogs can be structured in a way that Google robots can easily find the website and its content.
Google bots can quickly read the content through this sitemap and internal links.
In the graphic shown above, I have depicted a site map of a typical blog.
We can consider this example as a tool to explain the sitemap on a website.
Remember guys; Sitemap is an organic model.
This formal model is well connected and interlinked with each other through the links.
In a typical blog, there are pages like Categories, About page, Products, Services, Contact page, Downloads, etc.
Also, There are sub-pages or subcategories which are interlinked through these links.
Types of Sitemap –
If we try to divide sitemap into categories, two classes which will come out on the basis of end users.
- Sitemap for users
- Sitemap for search engine bots
The sitemap for users:
The sitemap for users is nothing but just a basic navigation of website which helps users to achieve desirable results in minimum time.
The perfect example of these types of sitemaps are the e-commerce websites like eBay, Flipkart, Amazon, etc.
Suppose, E-commerce sites are a normal website or a blog without any sitemap.
A customer wants to purchase a camera from the online shopping.
How will customer search his query on the website?
Soon he will get disappointed and will leave the website.
So for better conversion, an e-commerce website must have a proper navigation or a user sitemap. All its products just 3-4 clicks away.
For a perfect e-commerce site, all the products should be just 3-4 clicks away.
In a survey, It was found that tThe number of steps starting from product browsing to the checkout process should be minimum during the shopping on electronic commerce websites.
People find it one of the biggest irritations and which directly affect the conversion rate of the website.
The number of steps makes people abort which directly affect the conversion rate of the website.
In the above-shown graphic, It is clearly visible that out of 1568 respondents 633 people (almost 40%) found too many steps as an irritation factor during online shopping.
How sitemap affect the conversion rate? In detail, we will discuss this later.
First of all look at the perfect example of sitemap/navigation of an e-commerce site.
In this example sitemap of Flipkart has shown in the graphic.
You can easily observe how comfortable and convenient is to browse any product in Flipkart.
There are different categories like electronics, appliances, etc. and also there are subcategories which directly divert the traffic to the product page which they want to buy.
Average steps to checkout in Flipkart is six which is the optimum level for maximum conversion.
For achieving that, they have designed their website accordingly.
The sitemap for search engine bots:
When we talk about the sitemap for search engine bots.
There are two types –
A) HTML Sitemap B) XML Sitemap
A) HTML sitemap :
HTML sitemap is a model which user and the Google bots both use to crawl the pages of the website.
These sitemaps are so easy in use that they are known as user sitemap.
Through the HTML sitemaps, users and bots are always one click away from the things they want from the website.
These sitemaps can easily be linked to the content of the website.
For better understanding lets look for the best example of an HTML sitemap.
ATB Financial company is one of the largest financial institutions and 4th in Canada’s Top 50 Best Workplaces.
If we look the sitemap of ATB Financial, they have categorized all their services in very structured manner.
All their links are only just one click away in the sitemap. Whatever services you want to opt or look any information, you can easily navigate to that page by clicking once.
B) XML sitemap :
For a new blog or a website, there is not much exposure available.
Backlinks and incoming traffic from other blogs are difficult to achieve in the immature stage of a new blog.
So to make your presence on the internet search engine, you need to index your website in search engines.
And how will you do it?
Yes! Through XML sitemap. Google has created the XML sitemaps so that search bots can easily find and index the new pages on the internet in minimum time.
Sitemaps are not the guarantee of indexing all the pages and content of your website.
But it ensures whatever you are creating on the internet must be indexed in minimum time.
Otherwise, it will take a long time in indexing through regular (without sitemap) crawling.
XML sitemaps are invisible. These can not be visible as like HTML sitemaps.XML sitemap files are located in the root folder of your domain files which only search bots can read.
XML sitemaps also give you the advantage to choose what to access and what to be not.(through robot.txt). We will learn about robot.txt in our next posts.
The above-shown graphic is the example of an XML sitemap.
This sitemap is a case of a video sitemap.