I'm not getting more content or recommendations for sitemap practice in SEO. Is submitting a sitemap an outdated practice in SEO or is it necessary to submit a sitemap for SERP?
- The Sitemap file isn't meant to "fix" crawlability issues. If your site can't be crawled, fix that first.
- We don't use Sitemap files for ranking.
- Using a Sitemap file won't reduce our normal crawling of your site. It's additional information, not a replacement for crawling. Similarly, not having a URL in a Sitemap file doesn't mean that it won't be indexed.
- Don't fuss over the meta-data. If you can't provide useful values (eg for priority), leave them out & don't worry about that.
He does say how sitemaps actually are useful to webmasters:
In addition to using Sitemaps extensively for "non-web-index" content (images, videos, News, etc.) we use information from URLs included in Sitemaps files for these main purposes:
- Discovering new and updated content (I guess this is the obvious one, and yes, we do pick up and index otherwise unlinked URLs from there too)
- Recognizing preferred URLs for canonicalization (there are other ways to handle canonicalization too)
- Providing a useful indexed URL count in Google Webmaster Tools (approximations from site:-queries are not usable as a metric)
- Providing a basis for useful crawl errors (if a URL included in a Sitemap file has a crawl error, that's usually a bigger issue & shown separately in Webmaster Tools)
On the webmaster-side, I've also found Sitemaps files extremely useful:
- If you use a crawler to create the Sitemaps file, then you can easily check that your site is crawlable and see first-hand what kind of URLs are found. Is the crawler finding your preferred URLs, or is something incorrectly configured? Is the crawler getting stuck in infinite spaces (eg endless calendar scripts) somewhere? Is your server able to handle the load?
- How many pages does your site really have? If your Sitemap file is "clean" (no duplicates, etc), then that's easy to check.
- Is your site really cleanly crawlable without running into duplicate content? Compare the server logs left behind by Googlebot with your Sitemaps file -- if Googlebot is crawling URLs that aren't in your Sitemap file, you might want to double-check your internal linking.
- Is your server running into problems with your preferred URLs? Cross-checking your server error log with the Sitemaps URLs can be quite useful.
- How many of your pages are really indexed? As mentioned above, this count is visible in Webmaster Tools.
Granted, for really small, static, easily crawlable sites, using Sitemaps may be unnecessary from Google's point of view once the site has been crawled and indexed. For anything else, I'd really recommend using them.
Sitemaps are neither necessary nor sufficient for SEO, but they can be useful.
Submitting a sitemap isn't really an SEO technique at all...
A search engine does not require a sitemap in order to crawl and index pages from a website unless it consists of an extremely complex architecture and deep hierarchical level of content.
It can be beneficial to submit sitemaps and for images/videos in the likes of Google Webmaster Tools just so you can monitor what content from your site is getting indexed.
There are far better practices to focus on than sitemaps.
For the record here if you have read any of my comments on this thread...
I'm not saying don't create/submit a sitemap, I'm just debunking the widely perceived impression on the web that sitemaps are important for SEO. That's just nonsense and has been for many years now.
In short sitemaps are still important and should be used.
In the eyes (and words) of Google:
Sitemaps are a way to tell Google about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover.
Bing views sitemaps in a similar way:
Sitemaps are an excellent way to tell Bing about URLs on your site that would be otherwise hard to discover by our web crawler.
The two largest (western) search engines both suggest that you provide sitemaps for your website.
If you follow the protocol set out by sitemaps.org then they will list both the pages(urls) and provide a hierarchy which the crawlers will drill through. This hierarchy will help the crawlers find new content more quickly.