“Provide a page with a human-readable list of links to these pages (sometimes called a site index or site map page)”
– from the Google webmaster guidelines 1
Site maps for users
- A site map is a page on your website that links to important areas and content
- Site maps help your visitors explore your website
- A site map for users is different than the XML Sitemap you may have for search engines.
Tips for effective site maps
Site maps should be a useful way for your visitors to quickly and easily find the information they are seeking on your website.
Often site maps look like an outline. An effective site map typically has only text links and does not need to point to every page of your site but it can if you feel it is helpful for navigation.
If your web site is small it is easy and fitting to have your site map point to each page, but if your website has dozens or hundreds of pages, consider listing in your site map only the “important” pages for navigation.
Site maps are made for visitors (people), but they also serve the secondary function of giving search engine crawlers an easy way to find the pages of your site. Sometimes a webmaster might make the mistake of putting each and every page on their site map just to “please” the search engine crawler.
Make sure your site map is clear to a person looking at it, don’t change it for search engines.
Making a site map for your visitors
My actual sitemap is here.
Notice I do link to almost every page on this website, but it is because there are not hundreds of pages. I made the decision to include most pages because it will still serve the purpose of a quick reference to help my visitors find what they want.
There is no search engine optimization in my decision, I just did what I thought would be useful to a person.
As you surf around the web, start making a point of looking at the site maps of the websites you visit to see how others are creating their site maps.
How to determine if your website is following this guideline
- If your website does not have a site map for visitors you are not following this guideline.
– Create one for your site to correct this.
- Look at your site map and determine if it accurately “outlines” your site.
– Does it make sense to you? Ask your friends if it make sense to them. Look at other websites that have clear site maps that have been useful to you or make sense to you. See what other webmasters are doing. This can provide guidance and ideas for your site map.
- Check for your site map page using our Google guidelines tool
– If there are over a hundred links you are likely not following this guideline well. To correct this, make additional pages for your sitemap.
Ensure that no one page of your sitemap has more than 100 links on it. It is very unlikely that a clear, useful site map will have over 100 links unless you are a large corporation or a newspaper.
- The site map of your website should link to the important parts of your site.
- It should make finding information on your site easier for your visitors.
- If there are too many links on your main site map, you should break it up into more than one page.