To ensure your web pages are correctly found and indexed by search engines, consider including a sitemap for your website. While a sitemap will not directly influence your place in search results and does not guarantee that your pages will be indexed, it is still an important aspect of search engine optimisation (SEO). Sitemaps assist the crawlers in navigating and correctly ranking your website, and allow you to communicate information about your web pages to those crawlers.
What are sitemaps?
A sitemap is also known as a ‘URL inclusion protocol’ and, put simply, is a list of the URLs in your website in a crawler-friendly format. Just as using robots.txt files allows you to instruct crawlers to ignore some of your web page URLs, having a sitemap will offer the crawlers a clear guide to navigating and indexing your website. Sitemaps can be beneficial in the SEO of a website which could be difficult or confusing for crawlers to navigate. For example, sites with a large number of pages, sites with pages that require log-in access, or sites that use a lot of Flash or image content may find it useful to have a sitemap. Information can also be conveyed to the search engines about web pages, such as when the page was last updated or the importance of the page in the website.
Creating a sitemap is easy, as there are many online resources which allow you to generate search engine-friendly sitemaps for your website. The sitemap can be submitted to Google, Bing and other search engines using their own submission forms, in much the same way as you can submit URLs to them. Sitemaps will halp to get the right pages indexed, and when used alongside robots.txt files, or ‘URL exclusion protocols’, they work to give search engines a clear and full picture of your website and a guide to indexing it.