A sitemap is a file used to list the web pages of a website. The purpose of a sitemap is to provide search engine web crawlers such as Googlebot with an overview of how the content of a website is organized. While sitemaps may not be necessary if a website’s pages are linked properly, they can be helpful to improve the web crawling of websites.
Sitemaps are particularly useful for large websites. Web crawlers are more likely to overlook new or recently updated pages on large websites. As a result, sitemaps can be an effective way to ensure that your large website is accurately crawled by the search engines.
If you have large archives of content pages that are either isolated or not linked to each other, a sitemap is helpful. Listing pages that are not naturally referenced to each other will help search engines to crawl them.
Sitemaps can be very helpful to web crawlers when they are crawling new websites with little to no external links. Without a sitemap, search engine web crawlers may not discover pages with no links to them.
Additionally, you can use sitemaps to provide search engine web crawlers with metadata for the pages that you list. You can include metadata such as when the page was updated, how often you change the page as well as the page’s importance in comparison to other pages on your website. You can also provide metadata in regard to specific content types such as videos, images and mobile content.
While sitemaps are a helpful tool in your toolbox, they are not the end all be all. Search engine web crawlers may not index all of the pages you’ve included in your sitemap. Remember, crawlers use complex algorithms to index pages, so a sitemap is not a foolproof means of ensuring that your site is indexed the way you want.
Should you use a sitemap? Sitemaps are useful and are often beneficial. They don’t come with any penalty, so it doesn’t hurt to use them for your websites.