XML sitemap with yoast

5 Sitemap Examples Showing Best Practices

After two shots of espresso, Frank sat down and was ready to hit the ground running on his new website.

He opens Squarespace, flips to his spreadsheet, and prepares for action.

Soon, he ran into an obstacle—

“How will I organize my pages?”

Then more questions started pouring in.

“What about SEO? How can I simplify my website pages so they’re easy to crawl?”

And just like that, he was paralyzed by worry.

You see, Frank may have put together a nice planning spreadsheet, but he’s missing a core element:

Sitemap.

but, What is a sitemap? and, Why sitemaps are so important?

Just like the good old days when we used physical maps to navigate us somewhere, sitemaps are no different for yourself and for helping Google understand everything on your site.

In fact, they are crucial when setting out to create and update a website.

Without a sitemap, finding your website is like looking for a needle in a haystack in Google and other search engines.

So let’s strip away the layers of your sitemap and discuss some of the different types of actions so you can understand how to organize and use your actions.

Different types of sitemaps

Most people are visual by nature, so if that sounds like you, a visual sitemap might be your cup of tea.

HTML sitemaps are clickable links to pages on your website, which are helpful for users, while XML sitemaps are written for Google to easily find all your pages.

Right now, you’re probably still scratching your head and muttering “HTM – what!?”

So, let’s get into the juicy details.

Planning a sitemap

Just as we might use Airtable or Asana as visual project management software, we can use visual flowcharts to organize website navigation.

In this way, it is easy for everyone to understand.

A visual sitemap (sometimes called a “site structure”) is the foundation of website management.

It ensures a clean site hierarchy and page categorization by ensuring your content is organized properly and easily searchable. Think of it as the skeleton of your website.

To create a visual sitemap, use a free tool like PowerPoint because they have useful flowchart features.

Here’s what you want to implement:

  • Home – Usually displayed at the top of the sitemap
  • main navigation – Also known as the “parent page”, considered the main navigation of your site
  • Secondary Navigation – Also known as “subpages” or “secondary pages”, most commonly found in drop-down menus
  • page three – One level deeper than your secondary navigation pages. Usually not visible in the navigation of a website (for example, a product page on an e-commerce site)
  • Special Button/CTA (Call to Action) – Sometimes there are direct links to “Book a Demo” or “Contact Us” in the menu; make sure to include those too.

HTML sitemap

An HTML sitemap is an organized directory of your website that users can access. There is nothing worse than a poor user experience when it comes to building your audience, website credibility and SEO strategy.

While this is a bit old-fashioned (in my opinion), to ensure the best possible site interaction when growing your audience, consider using an HTML sitemap.

HTML sitemaps make it effortless to interact with your site and find exactly what they’re looking for. This is especially useful for e-commerce brands with lots of product pages or blog posts.

To start creating one, check to see if your CMS (content management system) has a plugin, such as WordPress, that can automate this process for you.

Check out the list of different HTML site plugins for WordPress you can use!

For a small fee, you can also use software like Slickplan or Dymapper for easy-to-use drag-and-drop options.

XML sitemap

An XML sitemap is a standardized format of URLs submitted to search engines for easy crawling.

Basically, its main goal is to get Google to recognize and index your content. XML sitemaps are usually invisible to users.

If you care about search engines finding your website and showing it to your customers, then this is the type of sitemap you need to pay attention to.

This is because they:

  • Help search engines understand your website structure and index your pages.
  • Signaling to Google that you have new or updated content that should be indexed can help reduce the time it takes for this to happen.

There are many ways to create a very simple method.

Start with Google Sitemap Generator – this free tool is very useful and simple for beginners. However, if you want something custom, Screaming Frog is a great option.

5 Sitemap Examples Showing Best Practices

By now, you’ve got the tools you need, and you’ve got a few steps in place, but most of us can learn better with examples.

So, let’s put these sitemaps into practice!

1. Yogurt

There’s nothing worse than manually updating your sitemap as your content or website schedule changes, so save yourself some time (and headache) by incorporating automation.

If your website is on WordPress, Yoast is the best way to automate sitemap updates.

Using Yoast’s own easy-to-understand sitemap, here’s a snapshot of an XML sitemap with Yoast:

Screenshot of Yoast, August 2022XML sitemap with yoast

As a quick note, if you don’t use tools that automatically submit sitemaps, you can always submit your sitemap manually through Google Search Console, or follow these instructions for Yoast manual sitemap submission.

2. LinkedIn People Directory

Most books have a table of contents on the front so readers know exactly what they are reading.

Just like a table of contents, your HTML sitemap should be conveniently placed where your audience doesn’t have to click around.

A strong website structure improves accessibility and visibility.

And, as for the length of an HTML sitemap – there really isn’t a magic number. As long as your page categories are clear and concise, you’re good to go!

Let’s take a look at LinkedIn, the social networking site we all love.

They do a great job of displaying HTML sitemaps and linking to over a million user pages through a people directory.

LinkedIn People DirectoryLinkedIn screenshot, August 2022LinkedIn People Directory

3. Please

When developing a sitemap for Kindly, we focused on balancing website user experience and SEO scalability.

These elements go hand in hand, as SEO brings users from the SERPs to your site, and site experience is what keeps them coming back for more.

In the long run, the best case scenario is to create your sitemap (site structure) purely based on SEO through a keyword mapping process.

This process is the process of building your “vertical content” or sitemap term, the part of your website that contains a specific URL structure and has a home page in the navigation menu.

Repeat this over time, and this is how you can create a win-win by scaling SEO and having an easy-to-search website.

You can view Kindly’s sitemap by reading Kindly’s navigation menu directly:

Please sitemapImage via Kindly, August 2022Please sitemap

4. Good people

Here’s an example of an e-commerce HTML sitemap from Australian retail chain The Good Guys:

Good People SitemapImage via The Good Guys, August 2022Good People Sitemap

The handy thing here is that they have a pretty massive website.

As such, this HTML sitemap helps users manually see the parts that are most relevant to them, rather than using search filters, which can ultimately lead you astray.

5. Rock Rankings

B2B marketing agency Rock the Rankings has a great XML sitemap that updates automatically using the Yoast plugin in WordPress.

A few things that need to be pointed out that they are doing it right are:

  • Separate sections for blog posts, pages and case studies.
  • Recently Modified (This shows search engines that the site is up-to-date and therefore still authoritative).
  • correct URL structure with rocktherankings.com/parent-page/child-page.

Here you can see the URL structure and XML sitemap of their case study:

Rock The Rankings SitemapImage via Rock The Rankings, August 2022Rock The Rankings Sitemap

View the full XML sitemap file here.

final thoughts

Key points to always keep in mind:

  • Consider three different types of sitemaps, which one is best for your situation.
  • Do the heavy lifting with sitemap automation tools.
  • Before creating a sitemap, consider all the moving parts, such as content strategy and the people involved in the process.
  • When in doubt, keep your internal sitemap clean and easy to use.

If you forgot everything else, remember:

By automating it with a dynamic sitemap generator, you’ll save a lot of time tinkering with development and maintenance.

Software and systems are our friends!

More resources:


Featured Image: fourSage/Shutterstock

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