I’ve been using Google’s sitemaps tool for a few months now and built XML sitemaps for the websites I’ve launched (or relaunched) since summer. Today my SEO partner sent me an email and I got an education about why it might not be a good idea to do that anymore – mainly the argument is that getting a lot of pages indexed via a sitemap is not really helping the search engine viability of a site. It’s like if the site has 500 pages and only a hundred are indexed, adding a sitemap to get those other 400 in there isn’t really fixing the problem of non-indexing in a way that adds any value to the site. It’s masking the symptoms but not fixing the problem.
I can buy that. I read a number of blogs about this issue today and can definitely see the problem. For the sites I launched since summer, most of them have been very small and didn’t really need a sitemap at all; the only largish one was the relaunch of my business site and in that case I think the sitemap was a useful thing.
I’d changed a lot of URL’s when my business name changed, and I both used an XML sitemap and redirects for every changed page. I can say that although my current site and previous one were about the same size, I have about twice as many pages indexed for the new one and it happened very quickly, in about 3 weeks, which I don’t think could possibly have occurred without the sitemap.
It could be argued that those newly-indexed pages were ‘artificial’, but I do have a clear, consistent sitewide navigation scheme and a well-organized site. I think in this case I was speeding up what would happen naturally over a much longer time span.
So I’m convinced, in part – for the launch of a new site, a sitemap is a bad idea because with it it will be impossible to tell how a page got indexed and where the problems lie. But for relaunching an existing, well-established site with a lot of URL changes, that might be the place where they have the most value.