It seems to me that the most common SEO misconception that occurs is the one regarding the sitemap. I often see discussions on business forums about SEO and a very common advice people get when they ask what to do to improve their website’s SEO is to submit a sitemap to Google.
First of all, you need to understand that the term sitemap usually refers to two very different things:
- XML Sitemap
- HTML Sitemap
In their essence, they are basically the same thing. They contain the same data structured for different purposes. XML Sitemap is the one you submit to Google through the Google Webmaster Tools. HTML sitemap is supposed to be used by actual users, not just bots.
Now that we got this covered, I can tell you that submitting an XML sitemap to Google is almost completely useless. Why? Because, if you need to tell Google where your pages are in order for Google to index them, then you did something terribly wrong with your internal linking structure and it’s most certainly not the best user experience.
If Google’s bot can’t find your content, how do you think a user will? Google is not stupid. Their engineers are very smart people that spend the vast majority of their time trying to improve the search results. If a certain URL couldn’t be indexed when the bot tried to index your website because it didn’t find an internal link it could follow to that URL, what do you thing Google will think about that URL now that they have it in your XML Sitemap? Do you think they would assign any ranking value to something even the site owner obviously thinks is so unimportant that you can’t find an internal link to it?
Here is a small Q&A about XML Sitemaps:
Q: Does submitting an XML sitemap makes Google index my website?
A: It might, but it doesn’t guarantee you that it will be indexed; Google’s words, not mine.
Q: Should I submit an XML sitemap to Google?
A: You can if you want, but if some pages of your website are only indexed because of the sitemap, your site has serious problems. Basically, if you did your internal linking structure properly, there is no need to submit an XML sitemap to Google.
Q: I submitted a sitemap but Google still doesn’t want to index majority of my URLs, why?
A: Because, XML sitemap has nothing to do with the number of pages Google can index on a certain website. The number of pages that can be indexed is largely determined by your PageRank, which is largely determined by the number and strength of your backlinks. So if you want your website to be indexed and have a proper internal linking structure, getting relevant, quality backlinks is a much better and useful approach that actually solves your problem.
Q: Will submitting an XML sitemap improve my search result ranking positions?
A: No. Sitemap is not a ranking factor.
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