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Building A Website – Website Architecture (Site Map)

sitemapsWhat Is A Site Map? 

A site map (or sitemap) is a file that contains information about the organization of your website and its entire relative links. In other words, it lists the pages on your website and how they connect.

Site maps can be used for planning your website design. For this use, there is no specific format that must be used. It could be a graphics file, a spreadsheet, or even a hand-drawn illustration. Using a sitemap in the design phase is a good idea and can help with planning navigation menus and other elements that will appear on all pages.

Initially, we planned to detail how to use a site map to plan your website architecture in this post, but we found a great resource at https://www.protofuse.com/blog/details/how-to-design-structure-website-with-sitemapping/. Please take a look to learn more about the steps involved.

Most commonly, the term site map refers to files that can be viewed by humans or web crawlers to determine what pages exist on a website. Not all websites need a site map, but it is a good idea to have one as your business grows and your website increases in size and content. You need to create two separate site maps; an XML file that is designed for the search engine spiders and an HTML file that is easy for humans to read.

Do You Need A Site Map?

You will not typically need site maps if all your web pages are linked to the main navigation. But if you have a sub-navigation menu, they are very helpful to visitors and spiders, facilitating quick retrieval of information. You definitely need a site map if:

  • You have a large website
  • Your large archive of content pages are not linked to one another
  • Your website is new and has few external links
  • Rich media content, such as Google News, is utilized on your site

Creating Site Maps

The dual purpose of site maps requires that you create two site maps. Site maps provide search engine spiders and human visitors convenient access to your web pages. The purpose is the same, but the method of access is different for spiders and visitors. There are different methods for this, and some facilitate maps that are both search engine- and user-friendly.

For Search Spiders

.xml File: An .xml document should be present in the root directory of your website containing links to all your web pages. 

Robots.txt File: After placing your .xml file, you should make it accessible to search spiders by referencing it in your robots.txt file and adding a line for your site map URL.

Alternatively, you can use Google Search Console to let Googlebot know that your website has a site map available.

For Visitors

Link your site map in your primary navigation tabs as well as your additional pages. Provide a short paragraph for overview at the top of your site map page. The layout should represent hierarchical divisions, and the site map should utilize textual links. Don’t clutter your site map page with irrelevant images that will distract your visitors.

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