NOTE: In this opinion I am referring to the use of HTML and XML site maps on your local business website.
Once upon a time in the world of search engine optimization the gurus told webmasters they needed to have a site map. 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: 1 it gave visitors access to all URLs on the site from one location, and 2 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. And 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.
In my professional 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 your site 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.
There are search engine optimization folks who strongly disagree because they’ve been pushing the site map mantra their entire career, but I’m basing my opinion on real world examples. None of the websites I’ve build without site maps have been hurt in the search engine ranking – not a one.
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 visitors. It can be used almost like a glossary, or it can be used to study a website structure. The latter is arguably not much a of a benefit because webmasters would mostly be the only ones interested in that application.
So let’s start with this opinion. This writer believes a site map is still a good thing to have, but mostly for 404 issues. I the vast majority of companies I help with their SEO, this is not an issue. But the reason I chose this post is because it includes a quote from John Mueller who is a 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 above, it rings true to me that in most cases HTML site maps and XML site maps aren’t necessary for your local business website. I’ll leave you with a discussion on the importance of site maps in 2019 started on Quora.