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Do XML Sitemaps Really Matter?

April 22nd, 2010 | | Crawlability

I was a copywriter before SEO found me. And when I say, “It found me.” I mean,  “the boss pulled me into a room and said he found out I do SEO copywriting,” – keywords, theme writing…In his mind I was the SEO expertmetaphysics help us.

And there were a lot of issues to sort out. Duplicate content, 100s of links indexing the same content (in the days before canonicals), stuff that wouldn’t index at all…

And let’s not mention the lack of on-site SEO.

In the end, I was lucky to have worked at a place that dealt with commerce sites that were all in https because I had a baptismal by fire.

Anyway, we ran the textbook process for site submission. Many of the commerce sites had but few pages, but XML sitemaps were a great way to get the search engines to find the site right away.

But after Google indexes your site, do you still need the XML Sitemap?

It’s a great question.

And here’s the thing:  when you’re starting out, sitemaps are great. Submit your site, verify them in search engines, add an XML sitemap, run some promotion and a few links, and your site is up and running.

But whether or not you need it again is another story. I used to run sites where I’d take off the XML sitemap just to see what it would do. I’d pick sites with similar traffic, similar competition, and similar promotion. My results were negligible.

Why?

Because if you’ve built your site with and real forethought regarding SEO. If there’s internal linking, bread crumbs, canonicals, proper naming, decent traffic, and – am oldie but a goodie – a sitemap, then Google’s not going to forget about the site. Google monitors traffic through the search engines.

Google’s large and has an elephant’s memory.

Even with blog sites. Because typically with blogs, the fresh content comes from the index page, and if the site’s verified in search engines, Google will find it. Yes – or from .com/blog or blog.url.com…the point is that the fresh content is coming from the same spot. Google’s learning to drink from that watering whole. And it’ll crawl the tags. Take it from someone who took the XML sitemap off blogs just to check. The fresh content was still found rather quickly – WordPress is voodoo like that.

Where XML Sitemaps are most important

Where XML Sitemaps are important throughout the life of the site is in shopping cart sites and sites where the content could be added anywhere. With shopping cart sites, products could go in under the manufacturer category, the product category, the specials, the features, any one of a few places – pending on how the site is laid out.

And at that point, you should be using a dynamic XML sitemap. If you’re using static XML Sitemaps,you’re wasting time because you’ll have to make a new one every time you add products. And metaphysics forgive the days you forget to recreate them.

But that’s my experience on XML sitemaps.

If you have another, I’d be glad to hear it.

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  • http://Www.tbdltd.com RG

    This is really interesting and frustrating because I wish I understood it enough to incorporate it.

  • jonesy

    Good point, Ive often wondered whether the xml sitemap was actually needed. Do you have a good link to writing a dynamic sitemap (preferably php)? Ive looked round the net, and just found complicated tutorials on generating xml documents with php. Im OK at php, but not a php developer, so a tutorial article in laymens terms would be idea.
    ps
    Keep up the good work! Ive signed up to both PPCHero and SEOBoy newsletters!

    • Finn

      Hi, Jonesy,

      Ummm…I’ve always been blessed in having a talented group of PHP programmers who took two hours to make one.

      And sites like WordPress, Zencart….have them as plugins.

      Are you using a custom site or a CMS?