Many people consider HTML sitemaps as only being valuable from a usability perspective, regarding them as simply a means of helping people navigate back from lost corners of websites and frustrating 404 pages. HTML sitemaps do of course have implications from a navigational perspective, but they also provide an option to search engine optimization experts looking to increase a websites ability to be crawled.
Why HTML Sitemaps Help SEO
It is always a best case scenario to have a flat navigational structure that is appropriately tiered from the home page. This will enable an interlinking relationship which maximizes the authority of the home page; allowing the homepages link-weight to be distributed optimally throughout the site. Most people understand this concept but you would be surprised how often we run into websites that could be better utilizing their home page authority. While an SEO company will always look to correct this, it is not always a quick fix to reconstruct navigation.
By adding a link to an HTML sitemap on the home page or simply globally in the footer, you can ensure that search engines have the ability to crawl every page on your website. Search engines will appreciate being able to skip from page to page through this means. Furthermore, if the sitemap is configured appropriately, it will direct the search engines throughout the site with the correct anchor text which you would like to optimize the destination URL for. Therefore, make sure you take a good look at your keyword assignment when creating link anchor text and titles.
How to Address Bigger Sites
Now we do have to keep in mind the number of on page links when creating an HTML sitemap. First, remember that Google recommends no more than 100 links per page. We can of course go slightly over this number if need be, but if you start hitting the 150 or 200 link range it is time to consider breaking up the sitemap into multiple pages. This is a fairly simple task actually. When creating your sitemap break it up into a top level sitemap and then a category sitemap. If needed, you can even create a subcategory sitemap. On each sitemap, make sure to have a section titled sitemap which links to the next level of sitemaps.
Adding an HTML sitemap can, in many cases, improve a websites performance in the search engines. If you are having problems getting all of your pages crawled by Google consider adding a link to your HTML sitemap on the home page or globally to your website. If you would like to learn more about this subject contact us or you can read an indepth post on SEOmoz.
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