Why Having a Sitemap is an Important SEO Tool
A Sitemap is a snapshot of all the pages on your website. It's a file or page on the site that compiles a list of URLs of every page, post or blog on your website.
Why is this important? Several reasons actually. Human-wise it's a helpful page for readers to go to if they want to find a particular page without searching through other blogs, posts or your menu. This is especially helpful for sites with blogs since the archives only give you dates, not articles or posts.
This is especially helpful for search engines to crawl your entire site quickly and efficiently. It's basically showing a list of all the pages the search engines should crawl in a standard format that's easy to read.
Sitemaps are one of the only pages in which having over 100 links on the page is a good idea.(Typically this is not a good idea and it's always smart to check the number of links you have per page - Google stops looking at the links at around 100)
An XML Sitemap is even better if you can add it. WordPress sites have plug-ins that allow for an automatic XML Sitemap and will add your posts every time you publish them without you manually adding them. This is also a great way to submit a sitemap to search engines for easy crawling. This is just the type of format that the Sitemap is written in and it is best done through Google's Webmaster Tools.
Do I need a Sitemap?
In most cases search engines learn about the pages of your site by following links that lead from one page to another. This may be enough but if your site contains many pages and those that lead from one link to another and another, search engines may not be able to find them all quickly. Sitemap files enable you to resolve these problems.
How do I create a Sitemap?
You can create a page on your site and simply paste in every URL of your site in list type format. If you don't have an XML capability you can do a Sitemap like I have done here - Better Homes and Gardens Las Vegas Sitemap. Or you can create the XML Sitemap by putting the file in the root catalog of the HTML server of your website with this type of URL structure: http://yourwebsite/sitemap.xml. There are many online resources available that will help you to create a sitemap file automatically.
Having a Sitemap is a good idea for search engines and for eaiser crawling. Yes, letting your pages be found naturally is better but this is not a manipulative tactic but one that Google and others appreciate and find useful. If you're interested in creating one, take a look at the link above for more specifics on how to create one on your specific platform and the rules behind a good one.