According to statistics, 48% of people say that web design is the #1 way they judge the credibility of a business.
Website mapping is one of the most important starting points for a well-designed website. It can also make your website more crawlable for search engines and easier to index.
If you don’t want to rise in the SERPs, have a well-organized site, or easy navigation, you can ignore website mapping.
But if any of the above is important to you (and it should be), keep reading for a definitive breakdown of sitemaps and their benefits.
Website Mapping Explained
The purpose of website mapping is to arrange all of a site’s pages into a logical list.
There are three main types of sitemaps. These are visual sitemaps, XML sitemaps, and HTML sitemaps.
Visual sitemaps are the starting point for any comprehensive website design. They’re used by designers, webmasters, and site owners to chart out the pages of a site.
Visual sitemaps can be as simple as a plain list of pages. If you want to get a stronger visual on the hierarchy of your site pages, you can create color-coordinated flow charts or diagrams.
This will give you a top-down view of how you’re going to organize the information on your website. Besides helping you structure your web pages, flow charts and diagrams can also reveal connections between web pages and website content.
If you have a large or complex site, you might also want to create an XML site map.
XML sitemaps help search engines understand the category structure of your site. They provide search engines with your URL and a complete map of all the pages on your site.
This allows search engines to prioritize which pages they want to crawl first.
Every site has a certain crawl budget allotted to it. Fortunately, most sites don’t have to worry too much about eating up their crawl budget.
But if you have a big site with lots of pages, you just added a bunch of new pages, or you have a lot of redirects—this could cause you to max out your crawl budget with Google.
Submitting an XML sitemap can help ensure that search engines crawl the most important pages first.
Why is this important? Because pages that haven’t been crawled don’t get indexed. And pages that don’t get indexed won’t show up in search results.
HTML sitemaps are a list of links to all your pages. They act as a directory that lives on your website. Their primary purpose is to serve website visitors.
You can also think of HMTL sitemaps as a table of contents for your site.
Besides listing each page, you should also structure your HTML sitemap so that the most important pages are in prime position. This helps visitors navigate their way through the sitemap to the pages they want.
It can also help search engine crawlers. Search crawlers don’t just utilize XML sitemaps, they also use HTML sitemaps to explore websites. If you want to help the search engine spiders, you can submit the text version of your sitemap directly to Google.
The Benefits of Website Mapping
Now that we’ve gone through the different types of sitemaps, let’s look at some of the benefits of website mapping.
Why should you (or your website design service) go through the effort of creating sitemaps?
More Intuitive Navigation
Sitemaps can help you create more intuitive navigation for visitors in a few key ways.
Firstly, a visual sitemap will help you organize your pages into a logical hierarchy and create the right site architecture.
If you have more than a handful of pages, you can’t squash them all into your navigation bar. If you do, this can make for a very poor mobile experience.
Dropdown menus can help expand navigation options, but this isn’t going to help visitors if the drop-down text is minute on mobile. The majority (83%) of customers expect a seamless experience across all devices.
There’s some debate about whether HTML sitemaps are still relevant to modern website design. Even if visitors don’t use them as much these days, they’re still a valuable part of any mapping strategy.
In the event that a visitor can’t find the page they’re looking for, an HTML sitemap can be the perfect navigational resource.
They’re also ideal to link to from your 404 page. HTML sitemap links stop your 404 page from being a dead end and help users navigate to the information they want.
HTML sitemaps can also be a great analytics resource. Are users visiting your HTML sitemap more than they’re using the navigation bars? If yes, this is a sign that your navigation isn’t hitting the mark.
A More “Crawlable” Website
As we said earlier, HTML and XML sitemaps can also make your site easier for search engine spiders to crawl.
The quicker your site can get crawled, the faster the pages will be indexed and show up in search results, and the sooner you’ll get traffic.
Sitemaps Make Website Overhauls Easier
Website mapping can inform a new website design, but it can also be used to make site overhauls easier.
If you already have a sitemap in place, you can leverage it to:
- Determine which pages need priority
- Re-organize content
- Tend to orphaned pages (pages that have no internal links pointing to them)
- Identify which pages need further SEO optimization
- Identify new linking opportunities
If you don’t have a site mapping strategy in place, a website redesign is the perfect time to create one.
Do You Need a Website Built, Managed, Updated, or Redesigned?
Website mapping is a relatively simple practice that can help you create a site that’s well-organized and easy to navigate. HTML and XML sitemaps can also make your site more crawlable, resulting in faster indexing for large sites.
Do you want to create a site mapping strategy for your website?
Whether you need to update a site, redesign it, or have one built from scratch, we’re the people to speak to.
We’ve been building and optimizing websites for our Rockwall, TX clients for over 20 years. Not only do we know exactly what it takes to create a smooth-running website, but we also personally undertake all of the work ourselves.
Great service and giving back to the community are the key tenants of our business.
Contact us today to discuss your website design or maintenance needs.