Do XML Sitemaps Actually Help?

By Wesley LeFebvre
Posted on April 14, 2010
Site-Reference News

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? Leave a comment and let us know.

Wesley LeFebvre is the owner of Seattle Web Services, a Seattle-based search engine marketing company. For more of his great SEO tips, follow him on his popular SEO Rankings Blog.

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