Website usability is a key component to search engine optimization (SEO) as well as an aid to increasing your conversion rates. After all, the easier your site is to figure out, the longer people will stick around, and the more likely they’ll be to convert.
And an essential step in increasing that website usability is creating a XML or a HTML sitemap. Given the ease of use that WordPress is known for, creating a sitemap is really just a matter of getting the right plugin. Do that, and the hard work is pretty much taken care of for you.
But first, it’s helpful to understand what sitemaps are, and why you need one.
What’s a sitemap, and why do I need one?
A sitemap is a page that lists all of your website’s URLs in one location. As well as helping users find their way around your site, sitemaps more importantly help search engine bots do the same. And that’s a direct SEO benefit.
The difference between a sitemap geared towards search engines and one directed at users is reflected in XML and HTML. An HTML sitemap is designed for your visitors; its purpose is to act as a directory to help people find their way around than for SEO purposes.
An XML sitemap is for the search engines. It’s basically the same as an HTML sitemap, but it’s encoded in markup language that only search engines understand.
“The XML code carries indicators that will tell Google and other search engines about new URLs or fresh content to be indexed,” explains webmaster Antonio Altamirano. “The XML version needs to be maintained in order to be useful.”
Which one to choose?
Especially if you’re just starting out in the online business, HTML is probably the way to go, since it’s useful both to users and to search engine bots.
“As for XML sitemaps, I believe they are useful if you are having crawling or indexation problems,” says Daniel Scocco at DailyBlogTips. “Obviously adding an XML sitemap to a healthy site won’t do any harm, but I am not sure how much good it will do either.”
But you don’t have to choose. Start with HTML, and as your site develops, or if you feel you need additional SEO power, implement an XML sitemap, as well.
Here’s where to start.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here, and there’s no need to beat yourself up with technical details when there’s so many ready-made sitemap plugins for WordPress.
Google XML Sitemaps Generator for WordPress. An independent (but widely recommended) plugin designed to make your site more search engine friendly to Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com.
HTML Page Sitemap from WordPress. “Adds an HTML (Not XML) sitemap of your blog pages (not posts) by entering the shortcode [html-sitemap], perfect for those who use WordPress as a CMS.”
These are the most widely used sitemap plugins for WordPress, but quite a few others exist. It’s not a feature of your site that you want to do too much tampering with, though, so if you do go with a third-party sitemap plugin provider, make sure to read up on them first and make sure they’re trustworthy. After all, you’re staking much of your site’s SEO potential on it.
The last word is yours!
What’s your experience with building sitemaps via WordPress? Got any plugins to recommend or stories to share? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts.