If you want your visitors to linger on your site and reduce your blog bounce rate you need to help your readers navigate through your site with ease. You need to implement a navigational tool that allows the reader to discover the content of your blog at a glance. An HTML sitemap is the perfect tool for that. In addition, not only is it a perfect tool for your readers, it is also a perfect navigational tool for the search engines.
There are two popular versions of sitemaps, XML sitemap and HTML sitemap. Most WordPress blog owners are familiar with the XML sitemap(s), which we typically submit to Google and other major search engines so they know that a new page or a post was published on our blogs.
I will not be spending too much time on XML sitemaps because today I want to concentrate on its less well known cousin, the HTML sitemap. You can learn more about XML sitemaps and its benefits at Google Webmaster Tools.
What Is HTML Sitemap
Unlike XML sitemaps, HTML sitemap is an ordinary page with a multitude of links, easily understood by your visitors as well as the search engines. It is a navigational tool that allows the visitor to easily sort through all the post and page content of your blog.
There are many types of HTML sitemaps ranging from very simplistic to highly complex. The simplest version is a vertical sitemap. They can be generated with WordPress plugins.
Vertical HTML site map lists all the pages and the posts you publish. Typically the posts are grouped per categories and some of the plugins may also categorize your content by authors (this would only be a good feature if you had many different guest posts).
All the WordPress sitemap plugins I examined, generate vertical sitemaps. The problem with this is that if you have hundreds of posts they are all listed one below another and your list may get very long. I have not yet come across a plugin that allowed pagination of the HTML sitemap.
Blogging Spree HTML Sitemap
Below is an example of Blogging Spree’s sitemap. It looks pretty ordered and clear (sorry I had to shrink the image quite a bit to capture the overall feel of this map). If you want to see a “live example” click on the Sitemap tab on this blog.
Image 1. Blogging Spree HTML Sitemap
The WordPpress plugin I use is called Simple Sitemap. With this plugin, all you have to do is create a new page, call it Sitemap and add a shortcode, which you’ll get with the plugin, to the page. The plugin is extremely simple to install. It just takes a couple of minutes. You can find it in Search in your Plugin’s Dashboard.
Some of the themes have their own sitemaps. To see if your theme has one, open a new page (not a post) in the editor and under the list of templates see if Sitemap template is included. Just call your new page Sitemap and publish it. It should be coded such (by the theme developers) that it automatically generates an HTML sitemap without you doing anything.
Blogging Spree theme has a Sitemap template, but I don’t like the way it is done and for that reason I am also using the Simple Sitemap plugin.
Benefits Of An HTML Sitemap On Your Blog
► Visibility to search search engines. Often even when you submit and XML sitemaps to the search engines some of your posts and pages may be missed and never even be indexed. HTML sitemap structure affords the search engine bots an easy access, navigation and understanding of your site. The search engines will see and analyze every single page and post you want them to crawl. If you have both XML sitemaps and an HTML sitemap, the chances of any page or post to be overlooked by the bots is negligible.
► Easier navigation for your readers. Your visitors will also benefit, especially when your site becomes more robust. Since this sitemap almost works like a table of contents, with a single click on the Sitemap navigation link, your reader can have an overview and access to everything you ever published (if you want them to). If your Categories structure is well designed, your readers can just glance at the sitemap and easily orient themselves and choose any article that may interest them. HTML sitemap is a really important navigational tool if you want your readers engaged and stay longer on your site. This tremendously helps to reduce your blog’s bounce rate.
I watched a few of videos by Google’s Matt Cutts on the topic of HTML and XML sitemaps. Although the video that I am including is older, I prefer this version to the newer ones he released since. This is still relevant.
In summary, an HTML sitemap helps both, the visitors and search engines, to easily navigate your site. A combination of an XML and HTML sitemaps is the most effective way to ensure that all your pages and posts are indexed. Make sure to have a link to your sitemap on every page (include it in the footer or navigation bar).
If you are capable of creating your HTML sitemap yourself, more power to you, just make sure that you update it regularly. For this blog I have decided to go with a WordPress plugin, Simple Sitemap, that does the job. It is a very simple plugin but as every other plugin I explored it also does not have pagination. However, for now, it is sufficient.
You want your visitors to find your HTML Sitemap, so don’t bury it. Place a link to it either on your top navigation bar or the footer.
Do you have a HTML sitemap on your blog? Please make sure to leave a comment below.