Is A Google XML Sitemap Necessary?

by John Hoff on August 6, 2008

Is it necessary to have one? Will it affect my search engine rankings if I don’t have one? Will Google visit my website less because I don’t have one?

Let me see if I can clarify some of the questions people have when it comes to the widely known, but little understood, xml Sitemaps.

A xml Sitemap is a sitemap generated for your website that you have created for our buddy Googlebot to read and get to know your website.

There are some arguments out there as to whether or not a Sitemap is really beneficial to your website. The obvious advantage of having a Sitemap is to help Google index your site better, but does that really have any say in search engine optimization or PageRank?

Does Having A Sitemap Help My Search Engine Rankings?

It’s a crappy answer, but the answer is yes and no.

Having Googlebot crawl your website – and – getting ranked near the top of searches are two different things.

This means having a xml Sitemap does not necessarily affect your search engine rankings. If your website is well laid out through links, Google (and other search engines) will spider your website just fine; so in this case, the answer is no.

However, if your site is not well laid out for search crawlers to index your site, some of your web pages might not get indexed at all. In this case, if you had a xml Sitemap which filled in that missing page, it would now be indexed and thus have a search ranking.

Does Having A Sitemap Get Google To Spider My Site More Often?

Not as a standard setting, no, but . . .

By submitting a Sitemap and using Google’s Webmaster Tools, you can see how Googlebot is indexing your site, how many pages, any problems that might be occurring, and tell it to visit and spider your site more or less often. Keep in mind that with each visit by Googlebot, some of your bandwidth will be used. This could be an issue if your site is already getting a lot of traffic.

Where Can I Get A XML Sitemap?

There are a number of free Sitemap generators out there, just go to your favorite search engine and type “free xml sitemap” and you’ll be taken to a few sites where you can generate one for free.

Note though that if you have a large website with over 500+ pages, you may have to purchase a generator to index your entire site. If you’re using WordPress, you can download an easy plugin to generate your Sitemap automatically.

Once you have a xml Sitemap generated, upload it to your root directory and then head over to Google’s Webmaster Tools (accounts are free, but you need a username and password) and tell Google where your Sitemap is.

Do you use a Sitemap? Do you think it has added any value to your website?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Swafford August 6, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Hi John,

I think sitemaps are pretty important. I remember reading so much about them, I finally added one. I’m hoping it helps.

Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Interview With Lorelle VanFossen – Part 8 – The Future of Blogging

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John Hoff August 6, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Hello Barbara, thanks for stopping by.

I’m curious, how are you hoping it helps?

If you really think about it, are they really all that important? Your website will be spidered by web crawlers whether you have one or not. Also, a sitemap doesn’t do too much for you SEO-wise unless it catches a page that’s not being crawled for some reason (like a nofollow, problem in the robots.txt file, or broken link).

As an example, our landscape website, Modern Landscape, has no xml sitemap and yet it ranks #1 on Yahoo, Google, Ask, MSN and others when people search for landscape companies in las vegas.

I do believe it’s good to have one still – I mean, Google went to all the trouble of dealing with Sitemaps for a reason. I’m currently writing my next post which is about SEO techniques I use and I do mention not to forget the Sitemap, even if it has limited SEO value.

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Nick Savage October 5, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Yes I do believe a sitemap is very beneficial even if I am dissagreed with for the most part.
Why do I believe this?
Answer = You get top search queries which help you to modify the site to better suit google, as well you get crawl stats to help you update your site more often, the more you update the more it will be crawled. You get to see errors on your site and fix them.

This is not all but is enough to spend a minute making a sitemap.

Yes i agree with John Hoff also, a google sitemap is important and not important. If you site is well laid out and you are a pro you have nothing to worry about but is you make mistakes and like stats then get a sitemap added, Takes about one minute for a small site and will make most happier.

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John Hoff October 5, 2008 at 7:12 pm

Hello Nick, thanks for the comment.

Those are good points. The short answer really is, no, you don’t need a sitemap. However, there are benefits they give you. And those sitemap generators are great for finding errors and broken links you might have on your site, like you mentioned.

If someone is on the fence on whether to have one or not, I’d say go for it.

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keo October 21, 2008 at 9:55 pm

Great post m8, looking forward to more posts like this, so i bookmarked you ;)

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John Hoff October 22, 2008 at 7:17 am

Thanks keo. I try to keep a good mix between web development and entrepreneurial articles because I think both aspects are important to being a successful web entrepreneur.

See you around.

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Charlie February 17, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Hi Guys

Good article John. In my opinion, the very obvious answer to the topic is YES an XML sitemap is very much Necessary. Here are some advantages

1. One of the major advantages is that owners of websites find errors they never knew existed on their sites! These errors can prevent sites from being indexed by Google, Yahoo MSN and others!

2. Another advantage is that you are telling Google when your site is updated. (you should re-submit your site map and upload it into the Google webmasters area when you add new pages to your site by the way). I cannot prove this theory but I feel strongly that the more pages you build and the more you re-submit an updated site map – It’s like feeding the spiders food! They love this. They want to know that you update your site often and have fresh content and new pages.

3. Sitemaps begins collecting information about that site and there are great reports and stats that are in the webmasters area and are very helpful and inciteful.

4. It definitely speeds up the process where Google finds new web pages and lists them in the serps quicker!

5. It helps tremondously to drop dead pages that you don’t want in the serps like when you change a page URL for example

6. As you mentioned John, Google went through the trouble to offer this free service and it was surely only to help their bots crawl pages (among other possible various reasons). So what the man wants… the man should get! (the man being Google of course!)

Lastly, I should note that I was tentative myself initially because hey, lets be realistic, you never really know whats going on in the big picture sometimes, but I feel it has helped Google find my pages quicker and I feel it has helped me in the serps as well and have not had any negative repercussions that I can see from using the tool.

Keep up the good work John!

Charlie

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John Hoff February 17, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Hi Charlie, all excellent points!

There are many benefits to having a sitemap. Is having one absolutely necessary? Well, no, but it should be used for many of the reasons you mentioned.

Thanks for your comment and adding to the discussion.

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Career Outlook August 17, 2010 at 11:20 pm

If you were take my opinion then I must say that sitemap is important for any blog or site, it helps search engines to crawl a site easily.

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dan October 26, 2010 at 7:40 am

Frankly I can’t see why you wouldn’t have a sitemap. There are so many readily available free tools and scripts to produce a sitemap there aren’t any compelling reasons or even excuses to not have one. To coin a phrase every litte helps!

I agree that no matter how small the search ranking advantages the webmaster tools and feedback you get as a result make it well worth it.

We create them for all our websites as a matter of course.

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John Hoff October 26, 2010 at 8:25 am

Hi Dan. Yup I agree. Although technically speaking you really don’t need a sitemap, the free tools out there make it so simple to set one up, so why not. Thanks for your comment.

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