Are you confused about the difference between an “XML sitemap” and a “visual sitemap”? Keep reading to discover the differences between these important website components.
XML Sitemap vs Visual Sitemap
The two main types of sitemaps are:
- XML Sitemap – a list of the URLs on your website used by search engines, normally put in a file named “sitemap.xml” or “sitemap_index.xml”.
- Visual Sitemap – a diagram of the pages on your website used to communicate the overall site structure.
Let’s look at both of those in more detail…
Basically, an XML sitemap is a file that provides information about your site’s pages to search engines. XML sitemaps are used by search engines to crawl your site. Web crawlers discover pages by reading links within your site and from external sites. By having an XML sitemap you are allowing crawlers to pick up all your URLs and learn about the additional metadata associated with them (i.e., when pages were last updated, alternate languages, which pages are more important than others, etc.).
Think of a visual sitemap like your site’s table of contents. A visual sitemap shows the relationship between pages and can be used to navigate your entire site. Visual sitemaps are aimed at helping users find pages without having to remember certain pathways or search terms to get there. Not every page will be in your main top navigation (ideally!), so by offering users a sitemap they can see every page at a glance and choose where to go from there.
When considering the difference between an XML sitemap vs visual sitemap, an XML sitemap is for Google and other search engines, and it can help you organize your URLs by “importance” so they can be included in search results more easily. A visual sitemap is for users and can also help you organize all your content.
At AndiSites, we use XML sitemaps and visual sitemaps to help search engine optimization (SEO) and User Experience (UX). You can read more about SEO here. When we design or redesign a website, these sitemaps help us work more efficiently on your main navigation and site architecture. These in turn help direct people through your site, making them less stressed and your site more successful.