SEO Provide users a site map

map on web page

"Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site"

- from the Google webmaster guidelines

Site maps should be a useful way for your visitors to quickly and easily find the information they are seeking on your website.

Often site maps look like an outline. An effective site map typically has only text links and does not need to point to every page of your site but it can if you feel it is helpful for navigation. If your web site is small it is easy and fitting to have your site map point to each page, but if your website has dozens or hundreds of pages, consider listing in your site map only the "important" pages for navigation.

Site maps are made for visitors (people), but they also serve the secondary function of giving search engine crawlers an easy way to find the pages of your site. Sometimes a webmaster might make the mistake of putting each and every page on their site map just to "please" the search engine crawler.

It is always important to remember when you are making decisions about your site to make those decisions with your visitors in mind, not search engines.

Making a site map for your visitors

To illustrate I will use this website as an example. This website is around eighty pages, and my actual sitemap is here

Notice I do not link to every page on this website, but I point to the important categories. I made the decision not to include every page because if I had a link to every guideline (there are 31) it would just be a page full of links that would not clearly show the organization of my site and would not serve the purpose of a quick reference to help my visitors find what they want.

If my visitors want a list of all the guidelines they can choose "Google Guidelines"

I did list a few pages for each section. I did this because they are popular pages that I think people might find interesting. There is no search engine marketing in my decisions, I just did what I thought would be useful to a person.

As you surf around the web, start making a point of looking at the site maps of the websites you visit to see how others are creating their site maps.

Key concept

The site map of your website should link to the important parts of your site. It should make finding information on your site easier for your visitors. If there are too many links on your main site map, you should break it up into more than one page.

How to determine if your website is following this guideline

If your website does not have a site map for visitors you are not following this guideline.
Create one for your site to correct this. Look at your site map and determine if it accurately "outlines" your site. Does it make sense to you? Ask your friends if it make sense to them. Look at other websites that have clear site maps that have been useful to you or make sense to you. See what other webmasters are doing. This can provide guidance and ideas for your site map.

Count the links on your site map using our seo tool, if there are over a hundred links you are likely not following this guideline well.
To correct this, make additional pages for your sitemap. Ensure that no one page of your sitemap has more than 100 links on it. Even though 100 links is not a magic number, it is very unlikely that a clear, useful site map will have over 100 links unless you are a large corporation or a newspaper or something.

Patrick Sextonby Patrick Sexton

Site maps for users