How relevant is a sitemap today?
Is having a sitemap still relevant to users? I wonder if a sitemap for users is still needed at a website. Whats the benefit of having an HTML sitemap for users?
HTML and XML-Sitemap is still very important
Your users benefit a lot when you have an HTML sitemap for your users. A sitemap helps your users to find the information they are looking for faster. The sitemap helps in distributing the PageRank throughout the site and to ensure that all the pages can be accessed through Googlebot. Other than your XML sitemap, you should also create an HTML sitemap
It is important for search engines to crawl site efficiently
Many think that a Site Map makes a site more user-friendly. I doubt that. I heard many web developers say that if users require site map to find what they are looking for is a sign of bad design structure. You are surfing the web, not turning the pages of books. In case your home page is not instinctual or not natural enough, then site map may prove to helpful to the persons with little tech knowledge. Even this may initiate another debate. A non-tech-savvy person may not know where to look for the site map. for Web and books are two different things. Though, Matt Cutts said on the video, site maps help the user to find out their desired contents. I doubt that. But if you think of SEO perspective site map is really helpful for that. It can help search engine bots to crawl pages what is hard to access through general user flow. In a support article, Google said, site map helps them to crawl the site more intelligently. There Google encouraged using site maps for certain criterions as follows-
- In case you have a large site, search engines bots may oversee some contents. In such cases, a site map is really helpful for search engines to crawl and index.
- When there are no internal links to your site, the site map can prevent overlooking of contents by search engines.
- Google can get extra information from the site map to represent your site in the SERP.
- If you have no external links to your site, the site map may help you then.
So, site map helps search engines bot to get effective and efficient crawling. And HTML site maps is a great way to distribute page rank throughout your site. This is what Matt Cutts said. You should try using this for SEO
Stick with the HTML site map
If you are thinking whether you should use XML or HTML site map, you should go with the HTML. In a video hangout meeting, a question was asked about this. This is the video, I didn't integrate it here as it is a long one hour video. I quoted from the video bellow.
The question was
We know HTML sitemaps can be useful for users, but is there any added SEO value in them if we already use XML sitemaps that have been submitted to Search Console?
John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst said the following in response to that-
“Is there any SEO value in HTML sitemaps? Sometimes. It can definitely make sense to have these kind of sitemaps, which are essentially a mapping of your category and your detail pages – especially if we can’t crawl a website normally otherwise....“If you have a really complicated navigation structure, maybe if you have pages that are almost connected through search forms rather than a logical structure, then having at least one place where we can understand the structure of the site, based on links, that can really help us.”
And in the video of the very first response to your question, Matt Cutts also said that-
HTML site maps can also be a fantastic way to distribute page rank throughout your site. One of the best ways to test out how crawlable is your site is to click around within your site and see if you can reach every page.
So, in the case of a site map, you should try HTML.I hope this helps.