While XML sitemaps are the gold standard for SEOs, since they can be submitted to Google for indexing purposes, what about using both XML and HTML sitemaps on a site together? Would there be any kind of ranking boost specific to the use of both? The question came up in today’s Google Webmaster Office Hours with John Mueller.
Can having an html Sitemap as well as a xml one give a ranking boost ? And should it only contain your most important sections /pages or everything in your website?
Here is Mueller’s response, but the answer was unsurprisingly no.
No, it doesn’t give a ranking boost. An HTML sitemap has essentially two purposes, on the one hand to let us know about the structure of your website, and on the other hand to let users find other parts on your website.
And if you have a website that is somewhat kind of cleanly created, especially if you are using a modern CMS, then you really don’t need to let us about the structure of your website separately, we can crawl those pages and find all of that. And in general, for the most part, users are able to navigate your website through the normal navigation as well.
So in many cases, I’ve seen people say we don’t really need to have an HTML sitemap, or if you feel you do need an HTML sitemap, it is almost a sign that maybe something else is suboptimal on your website.
An XML sitemap is a little bit different because it is solely for search engines about your pages. So that’s for example, the last modification date. That’s something that’s really valuable for us because based on that we can look at the sitemap file and see oh these five pages have been changed recently and we don’t know about that, so we can go off and crawl those pages and make sure we have the updated content in our index.
You could also use an RSS feed instead of a sitemap file, or an ATOM feed, all of those give us similar information.
So HTML sitemaps can have benefits beyond strictly from a Google ranking boost perspective. Sometimes they make it easier for a visitor to find something on your site, or if they just want to explore the sections of a site without having to wrangle with a fancy navigation system. And sometimes people on a mobile device find an HTML sitemap as an easier way to navigate, especially when using a hamburger menu that might not be obvious, or one that includes multiple flyouts that aren’t always easy depending on the device.
It also can help Google understand your site better if you are using flat navigation systems, something that some sites prefer to use for crawl reasons. But this would simply help with indexing not give higher rankings because it is used.
If you want an HTML sitemap, there are plugins to do it in with many CMS systems like WordPress.
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