Google: Small Sites Don't Need XML Sitemaps

Dec 27, 2011 • 8:51 am | comments (14) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google SitemapIt is almost unheard of to build a new web site and not launch with a basic XML Sitemap for better search visibility.

But most experienced SEOs know that it is not really needed for all sites, especially smaller sites.

Today, we have Google backing that up in a Google Webmaster Help post.

Googler, John Mueller said:

With a site of that size, you don't really need a Sitemap file, we'll generally be able to crawl and index everything regardless.

Also, with such a small Sitemap file, you can just check the individual URLs to see if they're indexed like that.

John from Google is making two points here.

(1) Google should have no problem indexing a small web site without a sitemap, so it isn't necessary to spend the time making one.

(2) If you are using the Sitemap approach to check index count, that too is a bit worthless in that small sites are easy to check how many pages are indexed by just typing in the URL of the page into Google.

It doesn't mean a sitemap file for a small site is hurtful, it just means it is not required or necessary.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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12/27/2011 02:40 pm

Groundbreaking advice. Wow! Google is so open with webmasters.


12/27/2011 02:45 pm

I'm glad Google came out and confirmed this. For those of us in the SEO community, we always knew that it really didn't matter for small sites.  Focus on getting fresh content on the site and sharing it with the world through social media. 

Alfonso Sánchez

12/27/2011 02:45 pm

Interesting, but I still wonder what is a "small site" to Google's eyes, 5-20 pages? 21-50 pages? less than 100 pages? whats the definition of small site when we are talking about flash websites? and for ajax dependant websites? In that GWC post they talk about 21 pages and they are supposed to be connected with traditional navigation, but a domain with separate areas and independant navigation for each of those will still require to send an XML sitemap in order to make sure they get those indexed. I don't see Google making a guideline for this advise, there are many situations when a small website without xml sitemaps takes the risk of not having certain pages indexed unless Google finds some trustworthy links to those parts, what if the links are in registered board areas? or no-follow links from discounted websites? maybe the content on the page is still useful from a search engine perspective but without that xml sitemap it's not gonna be indexed...

Mitch Holt

12/27/2011 04:32 pm

Thanks, Barry. While this tidbit is true, I've decided to keep building XML sitemaps for my SEO clients. It's just a small task (super automated in Drupal & WP) that only takes a few minutes. Kind of one of those "why not?" things. Also, I enjoyed your contribution to the SEO Rockstars podcast this month. Good stuff. -Mitch Holt @mitchholt:twitter


12/27/2011 04:34 pm

What the hell is "small"? This word is expandable like chewing gum. What about a little number to specify small. In the eyes of Google is 100.000 maybe "small"?

Lauryn Doll

12/27/2011 05:08 pm

That may be true, but you never know how large of a site you may plan to have. Sometimes it's safer to just have a site map, especially if you're looking to possibly sell or flip your site down the line. 

Jayden Smith

12/28/2011 01:56 am

Installing a xml plugin takes 10 seconds, so yeah... just make one

SEO Consult

12/28/2011 09:49 am

Pretty obvious really if you understand the purpose of the sitemap. The sitemap is basically there to help robots find pages that might not be found any other way (due to a poor structure/internal linking). If a site has, say, 3 pages, the chances are that the internal linking is pretty good thus not needing the sitemap. Doesn't hurt to have one though, we'd always recommend doing it - as Lauryn said, the site may scale further down the line & it only takes a couple of minutes to set one up.

Lauryn Doll

12/28/2011 03:53 pm

I agree. When it's just easy to do a sitemap in WordPress, it's like an automatic bell & whistle to put in place just to add it to the list of things you've done, even if not necessary. 

Simon Phillips

12/29/2011 05:32 am

Install plugin, 'make sitemap'..I'm all done!  I vote for making one if your site is bigger than 3 pages!


12/31/2011 12:55 am

The back window of my car is not neccesary for the whole functioning of the car itself, but... well, you know what I mean. I would like you all to look at the wording used by John Mueller: With a site of that size, you DON'T REALLY NEED a Sitemap file, we'll GENERALLY be able to crawl and index everything regardless.  "Generally" doesn't mean always, and "don't really need" doesn't mean that you don't have to do it. The sitemap is necesary by all means as an extra tool to help the crawling. ;)


01/04/2012 01:04 am

We think validating in Webmaster Tools and addign a quick sitemap is still a best practice , not only for "finding" pages but for identifying other issues and getting WMT malware messages, etc. No reason not to do it...

Robert Cerff

01/04/2012 09:43 am

Well... not surprising really.  All those that are pointing to a sitemap being needed to find internal pages:  Um... if Google can't find the page you have other problems that can't be fixed with a sitemap file. Agreed, it won't hurt to include the file and I often do simply to track any possible crawl issues.  I'd agree with shendison on the grounds that there is no reason to not.  But I'll hardly use it as a marketing tactic. @Legado, but having a back window on a convertable with the roof down does seem pointless?  Context I tell you. ;) Just my $0.02

Jeff Downer Indianapolis IN

01/06/2012 02:21 am

I have small two sites (12 pages and less) that rank especially well and have never used a XML map for either. They are simple HTML based.  For my CMS based sited I use them for no other reasons than they are simple to generate and do no harm, but just might help a little.

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