A site map is a highly useful tool. In short, it allows you to tell search engine spiders/crawlers which pages it should index and in which priority.

While it is not compulsory to have a sitemap, it is recommended – even if you have an established site already.

Sitemaps can be particularly valuable if your site uses complex technology, has poor internal navigation or delivers dynamic content and you are having problems in getting your content successfully spidered (indexed/crawled).

On bigger and more complex sites, using a site map could help encourage a deeper crawl and ensure those constantly changing URLs are indexed.

Adding a sitemap is also a useful exercise when you launch a new website. Most webmaster tools (like Google’s Search Console), let’s you plug the URL to your sitemap into its system, effectively alerting the search engine’s spiders to its existence.

But sitemaps may be addressed to users. Many sites have user-visible sitemaps which present a systematic view, typically hierarchical, of the site. Essentially, a navigation menu. These are intended to help visitors find specific pages, and can also be used by crawlers.

Alphabetically organized site maps, sometimes called site indexes, are a different approach.

For use by search engines and other crawlers, there is a structured format, the XML sitemap, which lists the pages in a site, their relative importance, and how often they are updated.

This is pointed to from the robots.txt file and is typically called sitemap.xml .

They also act as a navigation aid by providing an overview of a site's content at a single glance.

It was Google that first introduced the Sitemaps protocol so web developers can publish lists of links from across their sites.

The basic premise is that some sites have many dynamic pages that are only available through the use of forms and user entries. The Sitemap files contains URLs to these pages so that web crawlers can find them. Bing, Google, Yahoo and Ask now all support the Sitemaps protocol.

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