Sitemaps are a great way to tell search engines and your website visitors the most important sections or pages of a website or blog. If you have a website or blog and have many pages or posts in it, it is a good idea to create both HTML and XML sitemaps for the following reasons
- An XML sitemap will help search engines find new content on your site easily, the moment it is published. If you add the XML sitemap in your Google search console account, Google will use it as a reference to find new content on your website when it is available.
- An XML sitemap is useful to search engines to find out which page’s content has changed.
- An HTML sitemap is useful to visitors who can use it as an index page to find different sections of your website or blog. An HTML sitemap is essentially the index page of a dictionary, you use the index page to find a specific word or topic without having to find it manually in a dictionary.
Now the question is should you create an XML sitemap and an HTML sitemap for your blog or website?
I would suggest you to at least create the XML sitemap for search engines. You may ignore the HTML sitemap but it is still considered a good practice to have an HTML sitemap which lists the most important pages of your site at one place. For best results, it is recommended to create both XML sitemap and HTML sitemap.
Not having a Sitemap will surely not hurt your website but having a Sitemap is considered an added advantage in SEO. It’s like helping search engines and human visitors discover more content on your website and giving them a “guided” path. See the XML Sitemap and the HTML sitemap of this website as an example.
What is an XML Sitemap and What is an HTML Sitemap?
An XML Sitemap is an XML file placed in the root directory of your website which contains the list of all the pages of your site. It may contain additional information such as when that page was published, when was it last updated, who is the author of that page and so on and so forth. In short, it is a special page which contains the link of all the recently published and updated pages on your site.
An XML sitemap is meant only for search engines and not human eyes.
An HTML sitemap is a page on your site which contains links to important pages, sections, tags and categories of your site, presented in a way so that people can easily navigate to any page on your site from that page. Depending on how your site pages are organized, you will need to ensure that visitors are able to find content on your site in the easiest possible way.
An HTML sitemap is meant for real users and not search engines. However, search engines may use the HTML sitemap for crawling and discovering new content.
Creating an XML and HTML Sitemap in WordPress
If your website or blog is powered by WordPress content management system, you will need to install just a couple of plugins to toll our HTML and XML sitemaps. The best part is that these plugins will automatically re-generate the sitemaps whenever your site’s content is changed, new content is added, old content is changed or deleted.
- XML Sitemaps plugin: The XML Sitemaps plugin for WordPress will automatically generate XML Sitemaps for your site and notify search engines when they’re updated. But after you have created the XML sitemap, you need to add the Sitemap to your Google Search console account.
- Google Sitemap generator: This Plugin also gets the job done.
- Better WordPress Sitemaps plugin: If you want advanced customizations in your XML Sitemap, then this plugin should be ideal. Personally, I prefer the classic XML Sitemaps plugin but I have used other plugins in some of the other smaller websites I have and each one is fine according to the specific requirements you have.
For creating an HTML sitemap, I use the Simple Sitemap plugin to automatically generate an HTML Sitemap for my WordPress websites(s). For fairly large sites, it is really hard to maintain and update the sitemap whenever there is new content available on the blog or other landing pages, so I prefer using the automatic way of generating sitemaps. However, there are scenarios when updating the sitemap manually may be considered. For example, if your website has a customized Sitemap which has been designed depending on how users interact with your website’s navigation and other important pages, it makes sense to have a manual edit of the sitemap once in every 3 – 4 months, incorporating the changes you have made recently.
Creating an XML and HTML sitemap for any Website or Blog
If your website or blog is not hosted with WordPress and you want a custom solution to generate the XML and HTML sitemaps for you, you have to do it manually each time you want to generate the sitemaps. It can be slightly painful when you create lots of content on a regular basis and need to generate the sitemaps again and again, so it would be better if you switch to a content management system so that the content management system can do the hard work for you.
Here is a very useful video where ex-Google employee Matt Cutts explains the importance of XML and HTML sitemaps for SEO.
HTML Sitemaps are not only useful to users but it is sometimes used by search engines to find content which they otherwise cannot find. Both Users and Googlebot can find individual posts, pages and everything else that is available on your website. It is very handy, good usability and it is one of the most efficient ways to distribute PageRank across your website. You want the PageRank to flow across all the pages of your website and a Sitemap is a real anchor page which distributes PageRank to deep corners of your page. Any website owner who is serious about website rankings should definitely go for both XML sitemap and HTML Sitemap.
Be Sure to read our SEO Guide which contains useful information about SEO and we have discussed in detail key SEO Concepts with exampl