Do XML Sitemaps Actually Help?

I don’t know about you, but I stopped worrying about using XML sitemaps on most of the websites I manage a long time ago. Frankly, I felt It was a complete waste of my time trying to keep them updated regularly. There was no noticeably difference in the way Google crawled each website, or indexed the updated pages. So I DON’T agonize over them anymore.

I think site-maps are a great idea, and maybe they’ll be better in the future, but I honestly feel like site-maps have been more of a nuisance than anything. They give a false sense of security that a page will be indexed or updated in a timely manor. And from my experience, an XML sitemap submission does not guarantee much of anything.

If you have a website or pages you want to get crawled frequently, here are a few things you might want to put your focus on before you worry too much about your XML sitemap.

  • Add a blog to your website! I can’t emphasize this enough. If you have a website, you need a self-hosted blog. Twitter is great, and so is facebook, but a blog brings people and the search robots to your website. Update it weekly, and you’ll establish yourself as an authority, attract readers and links, plus Google will crawl your website for updated content more frequently.
  • Link to your important pages! Do you have several “important” pages many clicks into your website? If so, you need to bring them closer to your home page. If you have several links on your home page to the less important pages, you may want to rethink your navigation structure.
  • Get more links! If your website isn’t being crawled very frequently, maybe you need more links. Link-building is still as important as ever. Don’t ever underestimate the power of link-building.
  • Create a static HTML sitemap. A static sitemap is great because it helps users find the most important content on your website. Obviously, it will do the same for the search engine robots too.

Even if an XML sitemap helps get your pages indexed, it’s not going to help much with your rankings. An important page that wouldn’t have been indexed otherwise, isn’t going to show up in the top of the search results if it isn’t getting any PageRank. Don’t get too excited about getting your pages indexed. Indexation doesn’t equal ranking.

If you use a content management system like wordpress, you can try a sitemap generator. I haven’t used it myself, but this one has over a thousand reviews, most of which are very positive.

In conclusion: If rankings are important to you, then finish optimizing your website before you worry too much about your XML sitemap.

What has your experience been like using an XML sitemap? Has your experience been different than mine, or about the same?

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  • March 29th, 2010 at 1:36 am Dmitry Gushchin said:

    Very good tip!

    I completely removed sitemap.xml today from the site, because for some reason Google didn’t index the pages that were there:

    Yesterday my sitemap had 9 pages and 9 pages were indexed.
    Today it has the same 9 pages but only 7 of them are indexed.

    It gives me an idea that supporting the sitemap – is a waste of time.

    Additionally, one can consider removing the sitemap because of issues with priorities: once you set the sitemap without priorities for the site – you tells crawler ‘Hey! Here are my pages and all of them have the same priority for you.’. Obviously it’s not true, because it is rare situation. So you need you need to carefully reconsider the priorities each time a new page is created.

    Why bother – if the crawler can officially do this part of job instead of you?

  • March 29th, 2010 at 9:13 am Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Dmitry!
    Yeah, the crawler usually does just fine. I feel it’s a better use of my time further optimizing each website, creating content, etc. Those things will help increase my rankings as well as entice the crawler to return more frequently. Maintaining the Sitemap only accomplishes one of those two, even if it is working as expected.

  • September 21st, 2010 at 6:52 am Ruth said:

    Thanks for this valuable information. We are going to be developing a web site for our church in the near future and we need to put a blog on the site. Thanks. Ruth

  • September 22nd, 2010 at 10:01 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    You’re Welcome, Ruth!

  • March 20th, 2011 at 9:43 pm Tony said:

    Thanks for the article post, learn a thing or two from it.

    Thanks for share,
    Tony

  • November 9th, 2011 at 8:26 pm eranga said:

    Something new to me :)

    Thanks For Sharing….
    era

  • March 19th, 2012 at 4:09 pm Elle said:

    Thanks Wesley. I just found this post when I searched about XML sitemap. I found a SEO guy writing about its importance and I was like, really. I don’t remember I spent any of my time on it. Most content management softwares have the sitemap generator feature so why do we have to worry about the complicated XML one anymore!

    Elle
    Spicy Spirit

  • March 19th, 2012 at 6:04 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Elle,
    Yeah, I don’t think most properly optimized websites need to worry about it. There may be some advantages for large enterprises, but it definitely isn’t going to improve a site’s rankings.

  • October 9th, 2012 at 12:56 pm Winston said:

    I don’t agree. I asked some other experts and they said that sitemaps were important and lets Google know that you are serious, which may earn you higher SEO.

    Think about it. If sitemaps weren’t important, why would Google Webmaster Tools emphasize them? Why do they let you submit and test a sitemap? Because their programmers have nothing better to do? Everything Google does has a reason. You should not ignore Google’s recommendations, if you want your site to be successful.

  • October 9th, 2012 at 8:49 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Winston,
    I think sitemaps have their place. Especially for large shopping websites with thousands of products that are updated regularly. But for smaller websites with mostly static content, and blogs, they aren’t really necessary. That is, as long as the pages you want indexed are easy for the search engine spiders to crawl, and you’re using a blogging platform that pings them when there’s a new blog post.

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