I admit it, a few years ago I was of the mindset that sitemaps were for Web sites that weren’t well designed: after all, I reasoned, if the information layout made sense and the content was organized in a coherent and thoughtful way, you’d never need to visit a sitemap because you’d always be able to find what you were seeking directly through the site navigation.
And so, a sitemap is a winner. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it should point to each of the major sections and areas of your site, and any other pages you think are critically important. It should definitely be more than a bullet-list of href’s, though, so don’t succumb to the lazy sitemap design that some applications produce.
An example sitemap that’s search engine friendly is the sitemap for this very site: Free Web Money.
Notice on that page that it’s in the root directory (not a subdirectory), notice also that links to the sitemap appear on each and every page on this site, and just as importantly, notice that there’s a fair bit of verbiage on the sitemap page to add a context to the various links, and that I pay attention to the linked words too (as you should on all pages, as discussed in The right way to link to pages on your site).
Finally, don’t create site maps that are more than about 75K (which is pretty darn big) and an optimal number of links is 60-80. Many search engine optimization people believe that pages with more than 100 links can hurt, not help you.
So how’s your sitemap looking today?