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Creating a simple HTML sitemap

A sitemap - also written as "site map" - helps search engine spiders and crawlers find and index all the pages on a website more quickly than they might be able to do otherwise.

Indexing is important because if a page on a website hasn't been indexed by a search engine, it cannot show up for any search query in that search engine.

Want to know how many of your website's pages are currently indexed? Look at the "Web Presence" section of the Website Visibility Report on your site's page here on AboutUs.org.

A sitemap is particularly helpful to websites that have:

  • Pages that aren't linked from more prominent pages on the site
  • Lots of pages
  • Pages that aren't showing up in search engines -- but you want them to
  • Pages linked to from pages that search engines can't easily read or follow links on because they are rendered in Flash or another technology that effectively hides information from search engines

Types of Sitemaps

A simple HTML sitemap is just like any other web page. You have probably seen links to this type of sitemap at the bottom of the page on many websites, sometimes indicated as "Site Map" or "Site Index."

An HTML sitemap is a list of links to all the pages on your website that you want indexed. It is as simple to create as any other page on your website, so it doesn't require special tools or skills. Unlike other types of sitemaps, it doesn't require the additional step of submitting it to search engines.

HTML sitemaps work well for sites that have fewer than 100 pages. If your site has more than 100 pages, if you don't want a "sitemap" link, or if you'd like to try something more complicated, consider these other sitemap options that follow the Sitemap Protocol:

Read more about these sitemap options in our article on complex sitemaps. Note that if you use any of these options, you will need to explicitly tell the search engines about the sitemap in order for them to see it and use it to help index your pages.

Matt Cutts, who heads the webspam team at Google, discusses the importance of HTML and XML sitemaps in the above video. He advises that an HTML sitemap is best in most cases because it's the most helpful sitemap for both search engines and people.

How to Create an HTML Sitemap

You can use the same method to create your HTML sitemap that you would use to create any other page.

Here's how the HTML code for a simple sitemap could look:

   <li><a href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/">Home</a></li>
   <li><a href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/products">Products</a></li>
   <li><a href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/gizmos">Gizmos</a></li>
   <li><a href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/gadgets">Gadgets</a></li>
   <li><a href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/about">About Us</a></li>
   <li><a href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/contact">Contact</a></li>

If this isn't something that you can do yourself, you can use a sitemap generator to do the work for you.

Once you've created your HTML sitemap, you need to link to it on your website. It's best to do this in the normal navigation locations, such as the footer at the bottom of the page, or in the navigation links on your home page. If you don't provide this link, the sitemap won't help you get your pages indexed.

An HTML sitemap is for people, too

  • Unlike the more complex kinds of sitemaps, an HTML sitemap is a link that people can click. Make the sitemap useful for them by grouping pages together in logical categories. That will help some of your site visitors find what they're looking for on your websites.

What a sitemap does - and doesn't - do for your website

  • Sitemaps are purely supplementary. Web pages not listed in a sitemap can still be found and indexed other ways, such as through links. Nevertheless, a sitemap is a good tool for increasing the likelihood that pages will be indexed.
  • Creating and submitting a sitemap does not guarantee that search engines will choose to index all the pages in it. A sitemap can help them find the pages, but engines will index pages only if their algorithms determine the content is valuable for searchers.
  • A sitemap does not help you rank higher in search engine results. But it may help you get more pages on your site indexed and showing up faster in search results. For a new site, or one that doesn't yet have a lot of links pointing to it, that's a big benefit.

Sitemap Resources

For guidance on creating a sitemap for a large or complex site, read the AboutUs article, Creating an XML Sitemap.

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