Sitemaps on a website do not provide any ranking benefits. They however help the search engine robots to identify the pages on a website. Finding is not the same as indexing in the search engine results. A sitemap alone is therefore just a tiny part of an overall website and SEO strategy.
Essentially, the sitemap of a website is similar to the index or a table of contents on the first pages of a book. It helps the reader to navigate through what is coming in the book. Online there is an extra effect of a sitemap. Search engine crawlers use the sitemap to understand the structure of a website. Much understanding is needed to position a website in the search engine results. For search engines the position of the best answer and article to meet the search query of users is critical. Therefore the sitemap is one of the elements of the one page optimization strategy of a website.
The main difference between a sitemap tailored towards and the XML page sitemap lies in the structure and usability. The XML sitemap is not always user friendly while it helps search engine to determine for example the last time a website was crawled, the pages that are indexed, the pages on a website that are not indexed, and other index statistics. For most visitors this information is too random and unnecessary.
A sitemap on a website should not be confused with website navigation. Navigation simply means the user friendliness and easy access and availability of the best information on a website. The best information is for SEO purposes an exact answer to the question of the search engine user. Providing this right answer to the right search engine user is therefore more important than a sitemap because irrelevant content to the wrong audience will result in disappointment for all parties involved.
The best start for those who wish to begin with SEO, website building and online marketing and who seek opportunities to utilize the chances provided by organic traffic is an understanding of the objectives of a search engine. In fact, a search engine could also be named an encyclopaedia or find machine because of the service it provides to its audience. Search engines provide answers for search queries. When a search engine provides constantly wrong answers, users go elsewhere. Since using the search engine is cost-free, the operator of the search engine must provide the best information to be able to monetize its platform.
Commercial success for a search engine comes from advertisements. These advertisements often follow a ‘no click, no charge’ pattern. This means that the company behind the search engine must provide an algorithm to detect the best information possible. Trickery must be avoided because nobody wants to find an article on a kindergarten in the top results of the search engine when the seek the answer to stop a terrible nose bleed for example.
In the day and age where there is an information overload, the internet becomes more and more a place where everyone goes to hang out and share information. It makes search engine success still possible but one should not expect that a sitemap alone is sufficient to get online success. It takes much more but proper website architecture is at least a good start.