What is a HTML sitemap?

A HTML sitemap is a table of content that describes every page of the site. It is a well-organized and logically ordered list of web pages, each with an internal link pointing to a specific location that can be accessed by clicking on an internal link, usually named ‘sitemap’, which can often be found in the footer of a website.

If a HTML sitemap isn’t available within the footer, you may be able to locate it by adding /sitemap to the end of their domain. 

How does a HTML sitemap differ from an XML sitemap?

Typically, a HTML sitemap is primarily written for users, whereas an XML sitemap is created for search engines. 

 A search engine’s bots usually use XML sitemaps for URL discovery and internal links discovered through the crawling process with the intention of indexing pages. 

An XML sitemap contains a variety of valuable information to search engines, such as crawl priorities and last modified tags. This can help search engines understand how important a particular page is, how frequently changes occur, and the average frequency of these changes.

In comparison, the main purpose of a HTML sitemap is to provide a general overview of a site’s pages, from the pages included in a website’s primary navigation to each commercial page or supporting content pages. If you can not find the specific page, such as the contact us page, then you could locate it if it’s declared in the HTML sitemap. 

Who should have a HTML sitemap?

A HTML sitemap is specifically designed for larger websites with thousands of pages or with complex site architecture, making it increasingly difficult for users to find what they’re looking for. It can assist users by providing an easily readable list of all the pages in one place. 

Small to medium sized website’s don’t need to create and display a HTML sitemap, as users can normally discover web pages with ease. Customers are usually within a closer click depth and wouldn’t have to go down a rabbit hole to find a page they’re looking for. 

Why should a large website use a HTML sitemap?

While every website should be utilizing a dynamic XML sitemap to help search engines, we recommend large websites create a HTML sitemap too for the following three reasons: 

1. Assists users with discovering URLs 

It’s very normal for websites to grow and evolve over time. You may initially create an eCommerce with a reasonable number of categories and products, but these numbers will likely increase over time as you introduce new ones. This can l confuse users and likely frustrate them when they find it difficult to navigate your website.

A HTML sitemap can help users quickly and easily find what they are looking for, which can help provide a better user experience to potential customers, keeping them engaged. 

2. Helps internal linking

It becomes increasingly difficult for pages across large websites to be well connected, resulting in pages being orphaned because they have no internal linking pointing to them. This is why internal linking is a commonly performed exercise in an organic strategy. 

A great way to help prevent any large website from having orphaned pages is by creating a HTML sitemap or including breadcrumbs across each web page.  

3. Aids Crawling 

With any website, it can be difficult to get pages crawled and then indexed by search engine crawlers. However, this becomes increasingly harder for large websites where pages can be siloed or lost due to the mass number of URLs on a site. 

A HTML sitemap can be beneficial for large websites because it consists of a long list of internal links to each page, which are usually grouped by categories or collections. A HTML sitemap can help direct search engine bots similar to an XML sitemap by making the crawlers aware of other pages when they are crawling across a website. It also helps to ensure the site is easily crawlable, making it easier for search engines bots to discover all of the pages by helping search engine bots understand a website’s architecture. 

How to create a HTML sitemap

Anyone can create a HTML sitemap. However, a manual write-up would take much planning and time, especially for large websites. The time and focus required also increases the risk of human error. 

We recommend using a HTML sitemap generator to automate the process. Once the HTML sitemap has been generated and uploaded to a new page on your website, it’s then best practice for a link to be added to the site’s footer so that it is easy to discover. This is usually done with the name ‘sitemap’ too. 

It doesn’t need to be one long list of pages. Instead, a HTML sitemap can be designed to be in keeping with a website brand, logically grouping pages similar to when you’d physically visit a department store. This makes the HTML sitemap much easier to navigate. 

In short, a HTML sitemap is primarily created for users instead of search engines, and usually isn’t a requirement for any website. But it can be particularly beneficial for larger websites. 

A logically ordered HTML sitemap that reflects the site’s taxonomy can help large websites provide a seamless experience to potential customers by allowing them to find all live pages a website has from one page usually located within a site’s footer.