Should I build HTML and XML sitemaps?

Posted by Fernando Chavez on December 23rd, 2009

You might notice that we don’t have a site map link in our footer. We don’t have an XML sitemap either. We have chosen not to create these because we know it will not help our site’s search engine rankings. The truth is that if either type of site map would potentially help your site’s rankings, then you have much bigger issues to solve.

Historically, HTML site maps were created for users to find certain pages on sites more easily. This made sense because usability was not great and most sites had a relatively small number of pages. Over the years sites have grown in size and site navigation has improved significantly. For that reason, they have become relatively obsolete from a human visitor standpoint. However, they have also become unimportant to search engines for the same reasons. Improved navigation means that search engine robots will be able to find your pages, so a site map won’t be needed for that reason. If search engines can’t find your pages without a site map, then you need to improve your internal linking structure. Besides, the search engine optimization benefit of a text link from a site map page, even if it’s linked globally, will be minimal since the page will typically contain nothing but links.

As for XML sitemaps, we simply don’t see any significant benefit from having them. The only benefit we can imagine for SEO would be if your pages weren’t indexed before you created the sitemap. But since the XML file does not really pass much PR (if any), the page is most likely going to be supplemental even it gets indexed. A supplemental page won’t rank for anything and any outbound links it has won’t have much SEO value, so in the end you haven’t really gained anything.

If you don’t have anything better to do, feel free to build an HTML site map and/or XML sitemap. It’s obviously not going to hurt anything. However, you should try to find something to do that would potentially be more beneficial. Brainstorming ideas for new content or doing some link building research would be a better use of your time no matter where you stand on those two SEO fronts.

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