Hey Google: Not Having an XML Sitemap is Not an Error

Filed in Google, SEO by Matt McGee on January 27, 2009 9 Comments

This has been driving me crazy for a while now, and the only way to stop being driven crazy may be to write about it. Before I go further, you should know where I stand on XML Sitemaps: They’re not necessary for most web sites, especially for most simple, small business web sites. I wrote why at length in this popular post from last summer:

XML Sitemaps: The Most Overrated SEO Tactic Ever

Okay, so with that out of the way, this is what drives me crazy:

webmaster tools screenshot

You may recognize that as a screenshot from Google Webmaster Tools, which provides all kinds of good information about your web site and how Google sees it.

GWC is a Good Thing. It shows you URL errors, HTTP errors, “not found” errors, and much more. That yellow “alert” icon gets your attention — Hey! There’s something wrong! Gotta fix this!

But they show the same yellow alert icon if you haven’t submitted an XML sitemap. Not having an XML Sitemap is not an error. If Google wants to recommend sitemaps to GWC users, that’s cool. Just come up with some kind of “recommended” icon instead of the current “this is a mistake” icon.

There. I feel so much better already. Thanks. 🙂

Comments (9)

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  1. I don’t think of that icon as an error (red = error), I think of it as Needs Attention! (yellow = attention)

  2. Feydakin says:

    Hooray!! I just wrote a post about not needing an xml sitemap on Monday.. I’m glad to see I’m not the only person fed up with them being trotted out as the ultimate cure for all that ails SEO..

  3. JMorris says:

    Thank you for posting this!

    Having an HTML sitemap for humans can be useful when you want to reduce click count for finding info quickly, but with good navigation and internal linking, Google doesn’t need a sitemap.

    Yeah, huge sites with complex navigation, perhaps, but still, not having one isn’t necessarily an error.

  4. Matt McGee says:

    Fair enough, Chris — but if you look at the screenshot there, they show the yellow alert four times under the “Errors” heading. We may think of yellow as “attention,” but they clearly associate that specific icon with errors.

    Thx for the comments, everyone.

  5. tybi says:

    The same thing bothers me everytime I access the Webmaster Tools. XML sitemap doesn’t solve any of website’s problems, it just hides them. It is ridiculous how Google propagates such a 99% useless thing.

  6. Ilan Hertz says:

    Glad to read that post, it verifies what I always thought about Google XML sitemaps.
    I like using GWC and is shows many errors that should be fixed, but I never understood the use of the XML sitemap. If your site is built correctly Google get to all your pages with ot without the XML sitemap.

    I guess you can regard yourself as the kid who shouted that the king is naked 🙂

  7. Ricky C says:

    I’m having this problem too, when i submit it to Google sitemap, it asked me to verify it by putting the META tag, i did it but it keep saying that i was still unverified. But then again, i try to sort this problem out by installing wordpress plugin instead, then i got verified. Maybe you should try that one Matt

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