Sitemaps for Ministry Websites and Blogs

networkLet’s start at the beginning: What exactly is a Sitemap?

Here’s what Sitemaps.org says:

Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling.

In its simplest form, a Sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL (when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site) so that search engines can more intelligently crawl the site.

Web crawlers usually discover pages from links within the site and from other sites.

Sitemaps supplement this data to allow crawlers that support Sitemaps to pick up all URLs in the Sitemap and learn about those URLs using the associated metadata.

Using the Sitemap protocol does not guarantee that web pages are included in search engines, but provides hints for web crawlers to do a better job of crawling your site.

So, sounds good, right? For the most part, yes. But take careful note of the bottom few paragraphs which tells us more than what we probably understood first pass around:

Web crawlers usually discover pages from links within the site and from other sites.

Sitemaps supplement this data to allow crawlers that support Sitemaps to pick up all URLs in the Sitemap and learn about those URLs using the associated metadata.

Using the Sitemap protocol does not guarantee that web pages are included in search engines, but provides hints for web crawlers to do a better job of crawling your site.

I’ve bolded the key points to ponder here. So don’t be mislead. If your site’s built nicely you won’t need one. Sitemaps don’t replace anything or promise anything, they are just there to “help out.”

Need some more things to ponder? Let’s head over to Google and see what they say:

Sitemaps are particularly helpful if:

  • Your site has dynamic content.
  • Your site has pages that aren’t easily discovered by Googlebot during the crawl process – for example, pages featuring rich AJAX or Flash.
  • Your site is new and has few links to it. (Googlebot crawls the web by following links from one page to another, so if your site isn’t well linked, it may be hard for us to discover it.)
  • Your site has a large archive of content pages that are not well linked to each other, or are not linked at all.

So, unless your site falls into the above categories you probably don’t have to waste your time with it.

In fact, I just deleted all my sitemaps for both ChurchCrunch.com and Human3rror.com and a number of other sites that I own because the sitemaps were actually making the search results less effective! This has been reported among a number of other high traffic’d sites as well.

So, what does one do? Here are some reasons why I would go for a sitemap for your blog or ministry website:

  1. Your blog or site is new. It needs a little extra “oomph” for search engine results.
  2. Your site isn’t updated often. Get a sitemap.
  3. You’ve used a lot more media than the average bear. Get a sitemap.
  4. You’ve got multiple pages that do not have any “intrinsic” relationship to each other, or are hard to link together.
  5. You just want to feel “safe” and have one.

If you’ve got WordPress, here’s an amazing plugin that’ll do it all for you!

So, do you have one? Planning on having one?

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John Saddington

I am the CEO of 8BIT and a Full Time Entrepreneur/a>. I like what I do.

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  1. says

    cool … for church websites, i think sitemaps are very helpful. many people don't know what topic would fall under what category or what menu, so to have a sitemap with all links helps congregation members find what they are looking for without being frustrated and leave. we added this on our website and put a cool ajax/javascript pulldown effect. check it out:

    http://www.binnerriem.org“target=”_blank”>”” target=”_blank”>http://www.binnerriem.org/“target=”_blank”>http://www.binnerriem.org/

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