As the name implies, a sitemap is basically a roadmap to your website which includes all of the subpages on the site. However, this road map consists of a series of links designed much like the index of a book. These links help to provide visitors to your website with an easy way to step through your site and determine the type of content and topics that are available to them.
There are a few ways to create a sitemap. Some website design software programs will automatically create a sitemap for you as the website is built. This is usually a quite simple process; however, care should be taken to avoid repeating terms throughout the sitemap. This can be difficult because there may be more than one page on a website which refers to a particular term. It may be tempting to repeat this term but doing so may cause your website to not be fully crawled by search engines.
Sitemaps can also be created manually. This process involves determining all of the subpages of the domain and ordering them in a logical sequence. Once this is done, you can use a text based software program or a spreadsheet program to compile this list. Active links to each of these subpages should also be included. Then this information can be copied and pasted into the code for the proper on-page sitemap.
This brings us to the subject of why sitemaps are beneficial in an SEO perspective. They are important because by compiling links to all of your subpages on one page, you provide the search engine with the opportunity to crawl through your entire website. For this reason it is extremely important to ensure your sitemap does not have any broken links. This is because when the search engine encounters a broken link it is likely to stop crawling the website. If the broken link is located high on your sitemap, it can result in the majority of your website not being crawled.
There are a few steps you can take to avoid broken links on your sitemap. One way to do this is to test the links regularly. Another way to avoid broken links is to take advantage of scripts which will automatically update your sitemap. This way you do not have to remember to make these changes manually each time you add or delete a page from your website.