We talk about XML sitemaps on here fairly often, and they’re a good thing to have, but they have no direct impact on your search rankings.
Read more about this over on this post at Search Engine Roundtable.
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This comes up from time to time, and Google’s Gary Illyes just gave a very specific answer to it. A user named Paulo asked “Is there a problem/ranking disadvantage not using a sitemap.xml at all?”
Gary’s response was simply: “No, not direct anyway”.
To be clear, you should certainly keep using sitemaps. They help inform Google about your site and can give it some direction on where to crawl. Back in episode 33, we talked about how Google finds new sites first through links, but then through sitemaps. It’s good to have them on your site.
As the post on Search Engine Roundtable (linked in our show notes) reiterated, crawling, indexing and ranking are three very different things. Having a sitemap will give you content a better chance of being crawled, which is a necessity if you want any chance of it being indexed and ranked. Indexing and ranking come from other factors, but give yourself every chance you can find.
If you add an XML sitemap to your site, don’t expect to see major changes to your rankings, but it’s a good best practice that we should all continue to follow.