A Sitemap – always spelled with a capital S – is a list of the different pages in your site or in the simplest explanation, a map of your website. It is often one of the most overlooked items in search engine optimization work. It contains the structure of your site and displays its different sections and the hyperlinks existing between these sections.
Sitemaps makes navigating around a site easy since visitors would know where to go and what links to follow to go to a particular page in the site. Without a Sitemap, visitors to the site may have difficulty reaching the page that they want as they have to a bit of trial and error testing different links that will finally lead them to the page they want to be. It becomes even more difficult for users to navigate the site if you have quite a number of pages on your site as they will have to dig deeper to get to the page they want to be.
The more significant thing is Sitemaps are not used only by your site visitors. They are also used by search engine crawlers to navigate around the site most specifically by Google bots. With a Sitemap on your site, the search engine crawlers will also be able to locate and index your pages with ease. While we can’t say definitely that having a Sitemap will hasten the process of indexing your content, at the very least we can say that a Sitemap makes your site search engine friendly. New content will immediately be detected and crawled and the difference in the content from the previous crawl recorded.
Internet marketing strategies are geared towards getting prominent attention from search engine crawlers. The crawlers, especially the Google bots simply love new content that is why SEO experts are one in saying that as far as SEO tasks are concerned having new content on a regular basis is of utmost important for a site to rank well with search engines and for its contents to land in the top pages of the search engine result pages. However, even if you have new, good quality content all the time if the search engine crawlers have difficulty digging them up from the rest of your pages, they will simply come to naught.
And if you are wondering why have a Sitemap specifically for Google there are two answers to this. First, unlike MSN and Yahoo which use the traditional HTML site map only, Google crawlers only recognizes Sitemaps in a special XML format and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Second, Google accounts for 86% of all the searches made in the internet. From an internet marketing perspective, gearing your online marketing strategy towards Google is the most logical thing to get a piece of the sales leads coming from organic searches made through Google.
This should not be a cause for concern among internet marketers because Google follows the Sitemap Protocol 0.9 as defined by sitemaps.org which means the Sitemaps you prepare for Google must also be compatible with other search engines which adheres to the same protocol.
Sites that need Sitemaps include those that have dynamic content, features AJAX or images, and those that have quite a load of content which are not linked with each other well enough. Sites that are relatively new and have very few links to it will also need a Sitemap for the search engine crawlers to properly crawl the whole site.