In this piece, we explore the differences between HTML and XML Sitemaps. Specifically, we look at what we know about these in context with SEO and what we advise our clients. You will discover the many benefits of adding this feature to move your business forward.
HTML Sitemap: What is it?
An HTML sitemap or directory is a place where all your most important web pages are listed and often categorised. In contrast, XML informs search bots about the structure and the content.
For a cohesive way to inform users about the contents and structure of your website, an HTML directory is the best choice because when consumers visit this page, they will get a clear understanding of how your pages are structured.
It will also enable:
- Users to understand hierarchy and categorisation of your content
- Easy navigation
- Ability to find content quickly
This is especially essential for large websites, primarily due to a theory that Google indexes new pages faster when adding a new one as it’s listed in a centralised place. While yet to be substantiated, it’s highly recommended that every page has one for the ease of the user.
These are relatively easy to create, and ongoing maintenance is simple and with lasting benefits; it’s a reasonable and a smart business choice.
What Are the Downsides?
While most of the reasons for using this method are positive, there is one downside that is still workable. Without using a plugin or script to update your page, you will be required to manually manage your HTML Sitemap. For this reason, it is more beneficial to have everything semi-completed before building the sitemap.
What is better: HTML or XML sitemap?
These are the two main types of directories used that are navigated by users and search bots. Each presents itself in different coding formats – XML for search bots and HTML for humans as a general rule; however, the latter is also known for helping crawl for bots, making this the better choice. After all, it is the user experience we want to enhance.
Benefits onto SEO with Sitemaps
Having a visual representation of your content that is easy to read ensures that even the least confident user can find the information they require. Apart from this benefit, there are also SEO advantages as you easily track the growth of your website:
- Improved navigation for search bots
- Structuring and sorting of categories
- Improved index rating
- Identification of internal linking
- Search engines can identify new pages
- No orphaned pages
Google, HTML Sitemaps and SEO
So, what does Google have to say about HTML Sitemaps and SEO? While Google recognises that an adequately linked site is effective on its own, it also places great value on sitemaps, particularly for:
- Large and complex websites where the extras help new or recently added pages more visible
- Websites that have an extensive archive of content to ensure that pages aren’t overlooked
- A new site that is yet to have many external links
- You use a lot of videos and images
In contrast, it may not be as essential to have one if:
- You have a small website
- You’re using a simple hosting service such as blogger or Wix that has easy to set up, pre-formatted pages and navigation. Also, some of these set up one automatically, which requires no input for you.
- A comprehensively internally linked pages mean that Google can find everything easily
- You don’t have or plan on using news pages or medial files that need to appear in the index.
The one profound takeaway from all of this is that creating and maintaining HTML sitemaps is relatively simple and requires minimal additional effort. While it may seem too good to be true, it really is this easy. Although it may not be what you’re looking for to improve SEO success, it is without a doubt the best method to enhance your consumer’s onsite experience that will, in turn, encourage them to repeat their visits and convert others as well.
It doesn’t matter if you manage a large e-commerce website or a relatively small business website or charity page; we highly recommend creating a sitemap using HTML because the benefits are far more beneficial than not adding and has both user and SEO benefits.
Not sure where to start? Ask our experienced team of SEO professionals in Sydney. We can give you a user-friendly sitemap that will have consumers navigating your site with ease.