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Sitemap: What Is It? Do I Need It?

Steven 4 responses SEO

If you’ve taken one of those blogging courses for beginners then someone probably told you to install an XML sitemap on your blog – but they never told you what it is or why you should install it. They probably also forgot to tell you that you don’t always need one. So before you start panicking, let’s take a look at what a sitemap is and why you might want to use one on your blog for WordPress SEO.

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What is a Sitemap?

A sitemap is an XML file that that makes it easy for the search engine bots to crawl your site. It’s basically exactly what the name implies – it’s a map of your site, only it includes coding, or metadate, that the bots can read. This sitemap allows the search engines to see new content or updates that you’ve added to your blog and they scan that content so it can be added to the indexes.

Do you Need a Sitemap?

The search engines usually do a pretty good job of scanning your site on a regular basis, with or without a sitemap. The crawlers automatically follow links and identify keywords, and they do a good job of detecting new content or changes to your site.

You don’t necessarily need an XML sitemap on your blog. However, the crawlers don’t always pick up every single new blog post you publish and a sitemap does improve results.

On the other hand, if you start, right from the very beginning, setting up a strong internal linking structure that makes it even easier for crawlers to identify new content.

Use anchor text links within the body of your blog posts to link to relevant content deeper in your blog.
Use text links in your sidebars to highlight key, older posts that might be buried in the archives.
Use links to full titles inside of blog posts and at the end to lead your readers to more relevant information.

Every single post or page on your blog should be linked to more relevant content inside your blog and those links should all be identified with keywords. This not only makes it easier for your readers to navigate your blog but it makes it possible for the crawlers to quickly identify and index new content and update older content.

You Might Not Need a Sitemap

In some cases a sitemap can be a bad idea for your blog. Especially if you have a strong internal linking system already set up. Imagine if you plotted two separate courses to the same destination and overlaid one map on top of the other. You’d have a difficult time trying to follow either course with all of those confusing lines. The same thing happens on your blog. You’ve already laid out the perfect map with your internal linking structure and the addition of a second map – a sitemap – only confuses the crawlers and actually slows down the process.

With brand new blogs a sitemap is a good idea because it helps the search engines identify and index your content quicker. But once your blog is established, it’s better for SEO and for the visitor if you build a strong internal linking structure.

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4 Comments

  1. Julia Spencer

    To my mind, in the majority of cases blogs or websites do need a sitemap, cause it can help to simplify the process of pages browsing somehow and improve general orientation on websites

    1. The sitemap doesn’t really improve the browsing by regular users… I don’t go back to a xml sitemap inbetween articles… It helps mostly search engine’s spiders.

  2. Jason Shapiro

    Great article. I have always believed very strongly in the importance of sitemaps. You make a very strong point however regarding redundancy. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jason!