Semalt: How Important Are XML & Images Sitemaps To Google?

Google is trying to make its contents as visual as possible. As more images feature on Google SERP, the need for XML and Image Sitemaps have grown, especially amongst travel, e-commerce, and other search queries where the searcher expects multiple views of the product they're researching. 

Moz reveals some figures from SERP Feature History, which showed that in the last 30 days from its publication, 40.7% of Google Search queries had images on them. This is no surprise. As we said, Google hopes to use images with every opportunity they get. 

But why is this so?  

Why Do You Need An XML Sitemap?

The XML site protocol was first launched in 2005 by search engines, and not long after, Image XML sitemaps were developed. In its early stages, XML sitemaps provided a great way for large sites with tons of pages or new site brands to help search engines discover and crawl these unindexed webpages more effectively. 

XML sitemaps have helped SEO professionals like Semalt with different sorts of extra data we could put in there for search engine crawlers to use. Data such as change frequency modified date, priority, and so much more can be stored in XML sitemaps. 

Sadly, many SEO professionals prefer to put the priority of every page for 'one' and daily changes. What gives us a reason to worry is that many SEO pros are really bad at updating the last updated date. Things got so bad that Google has started ignoring most of these fields. 

As a result, XML sitemap became a top priority for Semalt and other SEO professionals. The XML sitemap became one of their most pressing priorities on our audit template and SEO checklists. With such a rise in its relevance, special SEO tools were created to help create and analyze XML sitemaps. 

Are XML sitemaps in today's SEO universe? 

The answer is more complicated than it may seem, especially because the XML sitemap works with many other facets of SEO. Contrary to popular belief, your XML sitemaps do not directly influence your SEO ranking. 

If we lived in a perfect world, XML sitemaps might not have been needed for web pages or images. XML sitemaps are really just first aid we use to patch up websites with a myriad of all sorts of SEO issues common with bulky sites. However, doing SEO the right way means:
If your site meets both of these conditions, having an XML sitemap isn't essential. 

Do You Need To Submit An Image Sitemap To Google?

This all depends on how well your website has been optimized. If your images are coded in a crawler-friendly way, and if the web pages they are on can be easily indexed by search engines, an Image sitemap can be overlooked. 

While you may be tempted to stop reading this post at this point, there is a big, BUT to all, we've said thus far. 

The reality is many images have been lazily loaded onto websites which has made it difficult for search engines to see them. Now, this isn't something your SEO experts will want you to know, so they generalize and say your webpages and Images have been optimized. 

There are a number of fixes to this problem. We can use a Cumulative Layout Shift and other speed metrics to offload those images. In this instance, having an image sitemap is invaluable because it will get your images found and ranked in search results. Please note that an image sitemap can be used even if your images are hosted using a CDN or DAM. 

Hreflang is another reason white sitemaps are so important. There are several technical reasons why it is very difficult for some sites to implement hreflang at the code or HTTP header level. Luckily for us, search engines have provided us with the alternative of implementing hreflang at the XML sitemap level. Various websites found this alternative to be a lifesaver, and it has ultimately made XML sitemaps important to them. 

When using an XML sitemap, it is important that you never forget to update it. 

Things You Must Know When Using XML Sitemaps

Using XML sitemaps comes with its own unique set of problems, specifically because they are just like other regular SEO tools. As with tools, their benefits, as well as disadvantages, depending on how well we use them. 

Take a baseball bat, for example, we can use it to play with our dads or friends, or it can be used to assault someone. 

Unfortunately, so many SEO professionals end up hurting their clients with the XML sitemaps. Most of the clients who have walked through our doors have conflicting information in their XML sitemap versus what we see on the main site, which is confusing to search crawlers. 

Why Are Sitemaps Still Considered Pet Peeves?

With all that has been said, Sitemaps are still one of our greatest SEO annoyances. Almost every time we do an audit, we always prefer to start with XML sitemaps. If a website is ranking well, there is no need to have a sitemap, so we label it missing sitemap. For websites that are already ranking well for Google and Bing, adding a sitemap wouldn't improve their ranking because XML sitemaps are not a ranking signal. 

Will having XML sitemaps help you gain more traffic? No. Since all the sites are already indexed on Google and Bing, it simply doesn't make sense to prioritize the sitemap in an audit. In such cases, there is literally no benefit in creating an XML sitemap since there are no indexing issues with the pages. 


As SEO professionals, we are forced to think beyond the checklist to see if there are real-life benefits in what we recommend or do for our client's websites. XML sitemap puts us in such situations. For a large site with many web pages, it is common to experience crawl concerns, and in such situations, XML sitemaps can help manage the situation. 

For most other sites, though, we recommend another approach. Instead of having an XML sitemap, we will suggest that you will allow us to fix the crawl issue and not rely on XML sitemaps. 

XML sitemaps are there not the sole solution. It is, however, better to know you have sitemaps on your site if you need them. Remember that you can contact Semalt via any of the options listed below or chat with our customer care representative, and we will get back to you.