Most small business websites do not need a sitemap.
As the name suggests, a sitemap (or site map) lists all the pages on your website, but there are two different kinds:
- XML Sitemaps
These are specially-structured files used by search engines and other robots to better understand the content of and the relationship between pages on your site.
- HTML Sitemaps
These are web pages designed for visitors to provide a complete overview of a large website.
Here’s a simple test: if all the pages on your website are listed on your main navigation menu, then it isn’t necessary to provide a sitemap of either type.
Another way to think of it is this: visitors and search engines discover pages on your site by following links. If every page on your site contains a link to every other page (like on a navigation menu), then no additional map is required.
Now you may not have every article or post on your main navigation, but if your menu links to a blog page or to categories of blog posts, those in turn link to all individual articles, so the trail is unbroken. And if, within your content, you’re doing internal linking to relevant material elsewhere on your site, then you’re helping visitors and search engines even more.
Small business website owners often hear that they must have an XML sitemap in order for their entire site get indexed and ranked by Google, but Google itself says this type of sitemap is useful only under the following circumstances:
- Your site is really large. As a result, it’s more likely Google web crawlers might overlook crawling some of your new or recently updated pages.
- Your site has a large archive of content pages that are isolated or well not linked to each other. If you site pages do not naturally reference each other, you can list them in a sitemap to ensure that Google does not overlook some of your pages.
- Your site is new and has few external links to it. Googlebot and other web crawlers crawl the web by following links from one page to another. As a result, Google might not discover your pages if no other sites link to them.
- Your site uses rich media content, is shown in Google News, or uses other sitemaps-compatible annotations. Google can take additional information from sitemaps into account for search, where appropriate.
Even point number three – the case of new sites – is rarely applicable to small business websites, if:
- you register your site with Google Search Console or submit your home page to search engines, and
- all your pages are linked from your main menu.
The fourth point, about sitemaps providing additional information to search engines, could possibly apply to a small website if, for example, you needed certain pages to be indexed more frequently because their content changes all the time or you wanted to provide details like the running time of a video or the license for an image (details which are not in the HTML).
Google also points out that, in terms of site ranking, you will not be penalized for NOT having either kind of sitemap. Nor will your ranking be improved simply by having a sitemap.