One outdated component of our clients’ old websites is the sitemap page. Not the sitemap, mind you, just the sitemap page. Sometimes clients come to us with ideas about their websites that are a little… outdated.
For example, here are three old myths we can bust immediately:
- Pop-up ads are not a surefire way to build your brand — in fact, it’s the opposite.
- No one likes it when music auto-plays on your site. No One.
- If your business only receives a few emails a week, you don’t need a 24-hour AI chatbot, no matter how cool it sounds.
Before we explain why you don’t need the latter, we should explain the difference between the two.
What’s the Difference between a Sitemap and a Sitemap Page?
A “sitemap” is any central list of the pages on your website. Sitemaps in the back end of your website, for example, are necessary for search engine indexing purposes. Sitemaps can also be page links that give your users access to different parts of your website.
The back-end sitemap that tells search engine algorithms what pages are on your site, usually created in XML format, is crucial. These sitemaps make it easier for Google to crawl and index your site, which makes it more likely that you’ll appear higher in organic search results. (Which is a good thing.)
Sitemaps for Google are one thing, but sitemap pages for your website’s visitors are something else.
We used to see — and create — sitemap pages for our clients’ websites as a part of their projects. The assumption was that Google and humans both needed a central place to find all of the pages on your site. And a few years ago, that might have been true.
The focus for business websites today, however, is less abstract. You’re not trying to give visitors a bird’s-eye view of your website. You’re trying to engage their interest, provide valuable information, and persuade them to take action.
This type of message requires removing pages from your site that don’t advance your narrative. Since the “sitemap page” is a link collection without a message or an action item, it doesn’t serve your purpose.
Sitemap Best Practices
For the reasons above, we don’t recommend including the “old school” sitemap page on your new website. To ensure a quality user experience, focus on:
- an easy-to-use site menu structure,
- clear, intuitive navigation, and
- compelling conversion paths for your users.
That being said, a sitemap formatted for Google is still vital for your site to thrive. To check that box, we install the Yoast SEO plugin on every website we create. Yoast helps with the optimization of our sites and automatically generates XML sitemaps. We send those sitemaps to Google as part of our launch process. (Submitting the sitemap helps the new sites get indexed by Google as quickly as possible.)
Pro Tip: It’s important to specify whether you want newly created posts or pages to be on your existing sitemap. Your WordPress website will add it to the sitemap automatically with some help from Yoast. So if you don’t want your new content indexed, remember to turn that feature off.