Depending on the size of your site, you have probably been presented with whether you should split up sitemaps into sections – such as by category or page type – or leave it as one big one. In today’s hangout, John Mueller was asked if there are any advantages to splitting up sitemaps, and he makes a really good case about why you should consider using multiple sitemaps.
In practice, it’s really up to you and whatever works best for you.
I like to split up the sitemap file because in the Search Console you can look at the index stats by sitemap file and that sometimes makes it a little bit easier to understand what types of pages are currently being indexed and what pages aren’t being indexed. So you don’t see the specific URLs but you see “from the category pages I have 90% indexed, from the product detail pages I have 70% indexed, and that might be more useful information.
If you just see overall I have 72% of my pages indexed because that way you have a little bit more granular information so I kind of like splitting things up.
But in practice from a technical point of view, on our side, our systems handle both small sitemap files and big sitemap files in the same way, we can process them really quickly. So it’s not that you have any technical advantage by doing that.
Mueller makes a great point of being able to use it as a debugging tool. While it doesn’t give specific URL information, it would definitely help for sites that are seeing large chunks of pages not being indexed to be able to see if there are certain areas of a site, or certain types of pages, that aren’t being indexed as well as others.
However, if you have a small site, Google doesn’t want to see a large number of sitemaps with only a few URLs in each. From their Best Practices for Sitemaps:
A common mistake is to put only a handful of URLs into each XML sitemap file, which usually makes it harder for Google to download all of these XML sitemaps in a reasonable time.
But for smaller sites, it is easier to see which pages are and are not being indexed.
But for larger sites, the multiple sitemaps for troubleshooting does make sense.
So next time you make sitemap files for a site – or if you need to troubleshoot a current one – try splitting up the sitemap files by page type, section or in another way to see if there are issues going on with some pages being indexed.
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