SEO

The Importance of HTML Sitemaps

In my opinion an HTML sitemap is one of the most important tactics you can use to distribute your link juice efficiently within your site. Yet many bloggers and webmasters neglect it. In this article I will explain how the HTML sitemap works, and also give you a hot tip you can use to boost your search engine optimization.

First things first, what is an HTML sitemap? It is an actual page of your website that outlines the complete structure of your site, and that links to all the important pages on your site.

If you want to see an example, check the Archives section of my blog. I call it “Archives”, but that is nothing more than an HTML sitemap, because it outlines the structure of all the posts I have published  there month by month, and it also links to all of them.

html sitemap The Importance of HTML Sitemaps

Now it is important to not confuse an HTML sitemap with an XML one. An XML sitemap also outlines the structures of your site, but the  XML format is understood by search engine bots only. If you visit an XML sitemap you will just see a bunch of code.

XML sitemaps are useful if you are having crawling or indexation problems on your site. That is, if search engine bots are not visiting or indexing your pages correctly. If you are not having such problems, however, having an XML sitemap is not essential.

The HTML sitemap, on the other had, can be very useful no matter what. First of all because it is valuable for human visitors, as it allows them to find any page within your site quickly. Second, and most important, HTML sitemaps represent a very efficient way to distribute your link juice among the pages of your site.

Ideally you want to have all the pages linking to the HTML sitemap and the HTML sitemap linking back to all the pages (you can exclude non important pages like the privacy policy or contact page if you want). One way to accomplish this is to put a link to the HTML sitemap on the main navigation menu or on the footer of your site.

Finally, here is the hot tip that I promised: getting external backlinks pointing to your HTML sitemap can be very good to your search engine optimization. Why? Because that link juice will pass directly to all the pages on your site. If you get a backlink pointing to an internal page (e.g., a blog post) it will need to pass through at least one hop before it passes juice to other pages. Links to the HTML sitemap, on the other hand, pass juice directly to all other pages on your site.

The next time you do a guest post, therefore, consider pointing the byline link to your HTML sitemap instead of your homepage.

Daniel Scocco is the owner of Daily Blog Tips. Make sure to download his Make Money Blogging ebook if you are looking to take your blog to the next level.

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Daniel Scocco

Daniel started working on the Internet back in 2005. His latest project, HowToMakeAWebsite.net, is a step-by-step tutorial for those who want to make their first websites.
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19 thoughts on “The Importance of HTML Sitemaps

  1. Agreed. HTML sitemaps are very important. You should bold “actual page” in the second paragraph and mention footers don’t make the cut.

  2. Hi Daniel

    I Like the post. I guess it’s hardly suprising that with the focus on pleasing the search engines, XML sitemaps have become important. But if it’s all about providing a better user experience, then HTML sitemaps should not be forgotten.

    Rifki

  3. There was a question on one of the forums recently: is a sitemap really that important? What a question! Of course it is. Great article explaining why – thanks!

  4. I don’t agree with your point of view about getting external link to the sitemap.
    You said that a link from an external site to a single page of your site will give link juice mainly to that page, instead a link to the sitemap will give link juice to the sitemap and then to all the pages of the site.
    That’s the point I don’t agree: the sitemap is a page with a big amount of links, the juice your pages will get is so very very small, splitted to all pages linked in the sitemap. If you receive a link directly to a single post it’s probably that is a very good link: from a strictly related resource, so a very valuable link. A link to a sitemap is essentially a “strange” link, because indirectly links to a large amount of pages, so to a large amount of topics, so it can’t be strictly related.
    That’s my opinion, I’d prefer a strictly related external link to a single page.
    What do you think?

  5. @Danilo, having an HTML sitemap and getting some links to it is not a substitute for getting high quality and targeted links to your important pages (i.e. the ones you want ranking for). It is rather a complementary strategy.

    If you are aiming to raise the search rankings of your pages as a whole (as opposed to the search ranking of one specific page), then I still believe that getting backlinks pointing to the sitemap can help, exactly because it is the only page inside your blog that links to all other pages.

    I can do a mathematical example if you want.

    Let’s suppose you get a backlink with 100 points of link juice pointing your homepage (the 100 is just for the sake of simplicity). Before those 100 points spread to all the pages of your site they will need to pass to the HTML sitemap page. If you have 20 links on your homepage, this means that the link pointing to the HTML sitemap will only carry 5 points of link juice. So the HTML sitemap will end up with 5 points of link juice to distribute to all the pages of your site.

    If that backlink was pointing to the HTML sitemap on the first place, all the 100 points of link juice would have been distributed through the pages of your site.

    Obviously we would still need to consider where the other 80 points of link juice went, as they could have passed to other internal pages and well, but still the distribution would not be as efficient as with the direct link to the HTML sitemap.

  6. I don’t think sitemaps are as important as you say. If you have a solid internal linking structure, there is no need for a sitemap.
    I have several sites with sitemaps and have thought all along that they were needed. I’m starting a new site with no sitemap, just a strong linking structure, and so far all the pages I want indexed, are getting indexed.
    It’s just a test really, but I don’t think they are as “needed” as I use to think.

  7. @Damian, maybe that question was talking about XML sitemaps instead of HTML ones? Becuase if that is the case I would side with the folks who said XML sitemaps are not that important, unless you are having specific crawling or indexation problems on your site.

    But if the discussion was about HTML sitemaps than yeah, I believe they are still pretty useful.

  8. Thanks for the tip on how to pass the link juice to all of my important pages of my site. I do prefer to do both on all the sites that I handle, even if the site does not need any .xml sitemaps, I bought the sitemap generation tool of xml-sitemaps which helps me a lot (I’m not promoting the site).

  9. Hi,

    While i dig into some website i could see that the sitemap of the particular website being linked to the top banner. This link is not visible to the visitors until or otherwise they move the mouse over the image and click it.

    Can we implement this technique to our website? or will it affect my website rankings?

  10. Daniel,
    Very interesting article. There have also been instances where sites without sitemaps have also made it to the search engines without much difficulty. That’s fine, but if you have a website that is not well reputed yet on the search engines, and have fewer backlinks, then submitting a sitemap will help. And if you have a website with large amount of content, sitemaps gives you an opportunity to organize the content and get the best ones out there on the search engines.

    By creating and submitting XML sitemaps you are more likely to get better freshness and coverage in search engines.

    I still am not sure if I agree with you completely that HTML sitemaps are better than HTML in terms of Search Engine Coverage though.

  11. Could someone please answer Shekhar Sahu's question. I too have a blog on blogger.com. I bought a domain name for it and I was wondering how I can go about generating a Sitemap for this blog.

    Is this possible?

    Regards,
    Stephen

  12. It is funny how something so basic… seems missing from even SEO firms … many SEO firms sites don't have a proper HTML sitemap… we have to go back to the basics ;)

  13. It is funny how something so basic… seems missing from even SEO firms … many SEO firms sites don't have a proper HTML sitemap… we have to go back to the basics ;)

  14. Sitemaps are important as they assist user navigation and enhance SEO. This means that users are able to understand the purpose and theme of the site, while finding required content. On the other hand, a sitemap makes it easier for search engines to find and rank a site’s content. Thus, the site is more likely to be indexed and ranked in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This makes sitemaps very important for the optimisation of a site.