Any reputed SEO agency would suggest many SEO tips and tricks to the website owners that help in getting better page ranking. But one of the underestimated aspects of a website is site maps. Site maps as is implied in the name are maps for your website. You can show the structure of the website, various sections within it, links in the site, etc. using the site maps. Site maps make navigation through any website easy. It is a vital component both for the visitors and search engines. Site maps are efficient ways to communicate with the search engines. With the help of robots.txt you can tell the search engines which parts of the website should not be indexed, while through site map you can instruct the search engines where to go.
Site maps have always been an integral part of web design practices but with search engines tracking for site maps they have become important parts of SEO too. However if you are interested in reaping best benefits from site maps from the SEO aspects then a conventional site map will not do. Google uses special formats (XML) to track the site maps which is different from the HTML site maps for human visitors. So, there is need for two site maps – one for the humans and the other for web spiders (or Google bots). It should be stated in this respect that two site maps are not seen as duplicate content by the search engines. In their terms and conditions Google has clearly stated that two site maps will not be penalised.
There are various benefits of site maps in the SEO campaigns. It makes a website easy to navigate and offers better visibility to the search engines. With the help of site maps you can inform the search engines about any changes to your site. This does not mean your new pages will be indexed right away, but the changes will be indexed faster than websites not having a site map. When you submit a site map to the search engines you will not have to rely on the external links to bring spiders to your website. If there are messy internal links at your website the site maps can help in this respect too. Site maps are of limited help in terms of broken internal links and orphaned pages which cannot be reached by other ways. With the help of site maps you can classify content of any website. Search engines do not classify information according to keywords and information unless they are told to do so by the site maps.
If you have a new website and there are large number of new pages, then site maps are a must have. Though in the present times websites can still exist without site maps but soon it will be compulsory to submit site maps of a site to search engines. Spiders have and will continue to crawl through the web looking for fresh pages, but the popularity of site maps is bound to increase in the future.