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HTML Sitemap – Why Do You Need One For Your Blog

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.

Note: If you have not submitted an XML sitemap to Google and the other major search engines, do it ASAP. The simplest way to generate one is with a  WordPress plugin. One of the best ones is a free plugin which is called Google XML Sitemaps. You can get it from your plugin dashboard after you input it’s name in the search box.

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

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.

 

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9 Responses to HTML Sitemap – Why Do You Need One For Your Blog

  1. Troy January 28, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    Good stuff. I never thought about the importance of an HTML sitemap. I guess I know what is on the To-Do List for tomorrow.

  2. Kaustav Banerjee January 16, 2014 at 1:17 am #

    Thanks for the awesome post. Especially for portraying the difference between the XML and HTML sitemaps

    • Dita January 21, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by Kaustav. Not too many people know the difference and I am always glad when I can help.

  3. Sergio Felix January 13, 2014 at 12:05 am #

    Hello Dita, pretty cool information on both XML and HTML generated sitemaps.

    I actually think that there are some really sophisticated wordpress themes out there that can generate sitemaps based on the blog archives which also includes every single page on the site of course.

    Some others go as far as to include categories, tags and a few other things but basically what you want in a sitemap is the general navigation structure of the site so you can find things without too much trouble.

    I normally don’t use a sitemap link on my websites but that’s only because I create really simple menus and complement that on the widgets or footer area if I need to expand the navigation a bit further.

    Great article nevertheless!

    Sergio Felix
    Sergio Felix recently posted…Infinite Marketing Advice For Free?My Profile

    • Dita January 14, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

      Hi Sergio,

      Many themes have their own sitemaps and some are pretty nifty. Unfortunately not all do, or as it is with my theme, some are not very user friendly.

  4. Keith Denman January 11, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    Hello Dita,

    thank you for this excellent post about sitemaps,i came to this post from you comment on Dan Sumner,s blog.

    Including the short Google video was also kind of you, i have also been reading your posts about images on blogs – i have actually been glued to your blog for over half an hour now, well done brilliant content,i will certainly be back looking for more tips,

    best wishes for 2014,

    Keith.

    • Dita January 12, 2014 at 3:23 am #

      Hi Keith,

      you are most welcome. You made my evening. Comments like yours remind me why I am blogging.

      Best wishes in 2014 to you too

  5. Glenn Shepherd January 10, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    Hi Dita,

    Thanks for this informative and useful post. I’m currently doing a few little tweaks to my blog and this is definitely one of the things on the agenda.

    It isn’t something that I’ve really thought about doing before but I realise that it will benefit not only visitors, but me too. Just yesterday when I was working on my latest blog post I was struggling to find relevant posts to internally link to. It used to be a lot easier but of course when time marches on and our blogs get larger, it’s going to become harder to remember where things are. I just hadn’t considered that sitemap could prove useful in that regard.

    I hope you’re keeping well, Dita. Have an awesome weekend and keep the fantastic content coming 🙂

    Regards,
    Glenn
    Glenn Shepherd recently posted…Seven Silly Mistakes That Could Be Killing Your BusinessMy Profile

    • Dita January 14, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

      Hi Glenn,

      I also use my sitemap to help me find relevant articles when I need to include a link or two in my articles. People also forget or don’t even think about the fact that an HTML sitemap is really important for search engines

      Take care