DIY SEO TIP #3 – Site Maps Obsolete

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From John Mueller; Google Webmaster Trends Analyst:

Is there any SEO value in HTML sitemaps? Sometimes. It can definitely make sense to have these kind of sitemaps, which are essentially a mapping of your category and your detail pages – especially if we can’t crawl a website normally otherwise.

“If you have a really complicated navigation structure, maybe if you have pages that are almost connected through search forms rather than a logical structure, then having at least one place where we can understand the structure of the site, based on links, that can really help us.

If you read between the lines in John’s comment, it rings true to me that in most cases HTML site maps and XML site maps aren’t necessary for most websites.

Once upon a time in the world of search engine optimization the gurus told webmasters they needed to have a site map (for newcomers; this is just a page on your website that contains links to all of your pages and/or posts).

2 Types of Site Maps

This accomplished two things: One, it gave visitors access to all URLs on your site from one location, and two, it provided a map for the search engines. Since the 1990s it was standard operating procedure, and it was a critical thing to have.

Then Google came up with XML site maps and the gurus told webmasters this was a crucial thing to have as well. An XML site map isn’t like a standard site map as described above – it’s a site map that’s built just for search engine bots to spider your website and index all of your URLs.

My Opinion

In my opinion, in the majority of cases, sites maps are no longer necessary – especially for a local business website. The search engines are sophisticated enough now (2019 and forward) to easily see all of your pages, post, images, etc.

Some gurus will claim you should still have an XML site map configured in your Google Webmaster console so that you can get a new website indexed faster. This isn’t true either. Simply linking to your website on your social media accounts ensures the search engines will find your website and start indexing your content.

So don’t sweat it. Just build content naturally. Create pages that are helpful to your visitors and customers. The search engines will naturally index all of your content and rank it according to their algorithm(s). Just MAKE sure you never publish “meh pages” – pages that don’t really help anyone, or add value. Quality over quantity is now KING.

There are search engine optimization folks who strongly disagree with me because they’ve been pushing the site map mantra their entire career, and I GET IT. All I can say is that in my personal experience promoting web properties, lack of an XML site map or visitor site map has been a factor in ranking.

Differing Opinions / Exceptions

So lets highlight some other opinions on site maps (shall we).

Like anything, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you have a very large website that’s in the technical realm, an HTML site map may be helpful to your visitors and users. It can be used like a glossary, or it can be used to study your website’s structure. The latter is arguably not much a of a benefit because webmasters would be the only ones interested in that application.

So let’s end with this opinion. This writer believes a site map is still a good thing to have, but mostly for 404 issues. The vast majority of companies I work for don’t require site maps. We’re talking local lawyers, plumbers, electricians. Even my e-commerce client who markets globally doesn’t require a site map.

I’ll leave you with a discussion on the importance of site maps in 2019 started on Quora.

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