Home SEO 5 Sitemap Examples That Showcase Best Practices In Action

5 Sitemap Examples That Showcase Best Practices In Action

by Lottar

After downing 2 espressos, Frank sits down, ready to chisel away at his new site.

He opens Squarespace, flips to his spreadsheets, and is ready for action.

Quickly he hits a hook-

“How am I going to organize my pages?”

Then more questions start pouring in.

“What about SEO? How can I simplify my website pages so that they are easily traversable?”

And just like that he becomes paralyzed with worry.

You see, Frank may have left with a beautiful spreadsheet of plans, but he was missing a key ingredient:

Site maps.

But, what are sitemaps? And, why are sitemaps so important?

Just like in the old days when we used physical maps to navigate us to a certain location, sitemaps are no different for yourself and helping Google make sense of everything on your website.

In fact, they are critical when creating a website and when updating it.

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

So, let’s peel back the layers of a sitemap and discuss a few different types of actions so you can understand how to organize and use yours.

Different types of sitemaps

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

An HTML sitemap is a clickable link of pages on your site, which can be useful to users, while an XML sitemap is written for Google to easily find all your pages.

Now you might be scratching your head and muttering “HTM–what!?”

So, let’s get into the juicy details.

Plan site maps

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

This way it is easy for everyone to understand.

A visual sitemap (sometimes also referred to as a “site structure”) is the foundation for website management.

It ensures a clean website hierarchy and page taxonomy by making sure your content is properly organized and easily searchable. Think of it as the bare bones of your site.

To create your visual sitemap, use a free tool like PowerPoint, as they have a useful flowchart feature available.

Here’s what you’ll want to put in place:

  • Homepage – Usually shown at the top of a sitemap
  • Primary navigation – Also referred to as “parent pages,” are considered the main navigation of your website
  • Secondary navigation – Also referred to as “child pages” or “secondary pages”, most often seen in a drop-down menu
  • Tertiary pages – Located one level deeper than your secondary navigation pages. Often not visible in the site’s navigation (for example, product pages on e-commerce sites)
  • Special Buttons/CTAs (Call to Action) – Sometimes there are direct links to “book a demo” or “contact us” in the menu; make sure you include that as well.

HTML sitemaps

An HTML sitemap is an organized table of contents for your website, accessible to users. When building your audience, website credibility and SEO strategy, there is nothing worse than a poor user experience.

Although it has become a little old school (in my personal opinion), consider an HTML sitemap to ensure the best possible website interaction when growing your audience.

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 many product pages or blog posts.

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

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

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

XML sitemaps

An XML sitemap is a standardized format of URLs presented to search engines to facilitate easier crawling.

Basically, its main purpose is for Google to recognize and index your content. An XML sitemap is not typically visible to users.

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

This is because they:

  • Help search engines understand your site structure and index your web pages.
  • Signal to Google that you have new or updated content that needs to be indexed, which helps reduce the time it takes to index it.

There are many ways you can go about creating one that is pretty simple.

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

5 Sitemap Examples Demonstrating Best Practices in Action

By now you have the tools you need and some of the steps under your belt, but most of us learn better by example.

So, let’s put these sitemaps to work!

1. Yoast

There’s nothing worse than manually updating your sitemaps as your content or site plan changes, so save yourself time (and headaches) by incorporating automation.

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

Using the easy-to-understand sitemap from Yoast itself, below is a snapshot of what an XML sitemap looks like with Yoast:

Screenshot from Yoast, August 2022

On a quick note, if you’re not using a tool that automates sitemap submission, you can always submit your sitemap manually through Google Search Console or follow these directions on manually submitting sitemaps from Yoast.

2. LinkedIn’s People Directory

Most books have a table of contents right at the front, so readers know exactly what they are dealing with.

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

A strong website structure can increase accessibility and visibility.

And as for the length of your HTML sitemap – there really is no magic number. As long as the page taxonomy is clear and concise, you’ll be good to go!

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

They do an excellent job of displaying their HTML sitemap and linking to over a million user pages via their people directory.

LinkedIn people directoryScreenshot from LinkedIn, August 2022

3. Friendly

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

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

The best long-term scenario is to create your sitemap (site structure) based purely on SEO through the process of keyword mapping.

This process is what builds your “content verticals,” or in terms of sitemaps, the sections of your website that contain specific URL structures and have a home in your navigation menu.

Repeat this over time, and that’s how you can create a win-win by scaling SEO and having an easily searchable website.

You can review Kindly’s sitemap by looking directly through their navigation menu:

Please sitemapImage from Kindly, August 2022

4. The Good Guys

Here’s an example of an e-commerce HTML sitemap from The Good Guys, a retail chain in Australia:

The Good Guys sitemapImage from The Good Guys, August 2022

The handy thing here is that they have quite the massive website.

So this HTML sitemap helps users to manually look through the sections that are most relevant to them, rather than using search filters, which can end up sending you in the wrong direction.

5. Rock The Rankings

A B2B marketing agency, Rock the Rankings, has a fantastic XML sitemap that updates automatically with the Yoast plugin in WordPress.

A few things to point out that they have done correctly are:

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

Here you can see the URL structure and XML sitemap for their case studies:

Rock The Rankings sitemapImage from Rock The Rankings, August 2022

View the full XML sitemap file here.

Final Thoughts

Key points to always keep in mind:

  • Consider the three different types of sitemaps and which one is best for your situation.
  • Take some of the heavy lifting out of the picture with sitemap automation tools.
  • Think about all moving parts, such as content strategy and people involved in this process, before creating sitemap.
  • When in doubt, keep your internal sitemap clean and easy to work with.

If you forget everything else, remember this:

By automating with dynamic sitemap generators, you’ll shave off 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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