For ecommerce stores owners, finding new angles to make improvements – no matter how small – is crucial. Small changes combine to make big differences. For example, you probably already knew that every website – whether it’s an ecommerce store or not – needs a sitemap, right? Well, in truth, it actually needs two sitemaps. If you’ve not got two sitemaps yet, read on for a quick and easy way to improve your store.

First of all, what is a sitemap?

A sitemap (sometimes referred to as a site index) is a navigational tool. It is a webpage on your site with a list of links to every accessible webpage on your site. The links are typically arranged according to the website’s pecking order.

Sitemaps should always be up to date. So, for example, if you add a new product or blog post, make sure you refresh your sitemap at the same time. This is essential if you want to ensure that anybody reviewing your sitemap – whether it’s a web crawler or a human – see the correct information. Some sitemaps update automatically, which is preferable if you want to automate as many processes as possible and save yourself some valuable time.

There are two different types of basic sitemaps:

  • HTML sitemaps

A HTML sitemap is for people. Simply put, it’s a table of contents and can be used to circumnavigate the site. If you’ve ever browsed as website’s sitemap in order to find the correct webpage, you were probably using a HTML sitemap. You probably found the link tucked away neatly in the website’s footer.

The layout of your ecommerce site will probably be determined by the products you stock and the scale of the site. For a particularly large site, you might choose to include the major shopping categories, which can then be drilled into to find sub-categories and then products.

  • XML sitemaps

Generally, your XML sitemaps will include the same amount of information as your HTML sitemap – but the way it looks will be very different. It’s not useful for people, which is why it’s generally not blessed with a link in the footer.

If you’re wondering why XML sitemaps are not given the same limelight as HTML sitemaps, it’s because they are for search engines. XML is a document structure and an encoding standard, and it’s the preferred option for web crawlers.

At this point you may be wondering what a web crawler is. A web crawler (also known as a spider) is an internet bot that will browse through the web, systematically reviewing and indexing sites one by one. These bots use your XML sitemap as exactly that – a map. They can find out when a new webpage is added or a pre-existing one is updated, and the hierarchy of each page.

For any ecommerce website that wants to attract traffic via search engines, you’ll need to get attract search engine bots too. Providing them with accurate and up-to-date information will ensure your site has the best chance to perform favourably in the SERPs (or search engine result pages). But you don’t have to just wait for them to find you, which can take anywhere from a week to a month or even longer. Instead, you can submit your sitemap to the major search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Tip: Adding new content regularly will keep the search engine bots coming back for more. Stagnant websites aren’t their cup of tea, so don’t rest on your laurels.

Do you need help with your ecommerce store?

Whether you need help setting up two sitemaps or even a whole ecommerce website, we can help at Fluid Digital. Our award-winning team of certified developers specialise in Magento ecommerce stores. Want to find out more? Take a look at some of our recent projects or get in touch.

Posted in Ecommerce on 31st May 2017