How Many Sitemaps Is OK for Google Search?

November 11, 2013 in SEO by Viktor Kovalenko

Kovalenko Marketing Blog ImageRecently I was asked about how many sitemaps we should submit to Google to stop worrying about proper search indexing. I answered: “At least one sitemap”. Later I thought about his question again, and decided to check related information and explore this topic more deeply, just to be sure. Really, how many sitemaps would be OK to submit to Google Webmasters tool?

First of all, I’d like to admit that I’m talking about XML sitemaps, and not about HTML ones. XML sitemaps allow webmasters to notify search engines about all the website pages, posts and other content elements. They also allow to include extra information about each URL: when it was last updated, how often it changes, and how important it is in relation to other URLs in the site.

Let’s read the most common definition:

“The Sitemaps protocol allows a webmaster to inform search engines about URLs on a website that are available for crawling.” – Wikipedia.

Search engines like Google, Microsoft’s Bing, and Yahoo have their own crawl-based mechanisms to discover your website URLs, and they will find and index your content anyways. But sitemap allows you to include extra information about each URL: when it was last updated, how often it changes, and how important it is in relation to other URLs in the site. Therefore sitemap is a supplement, an additional guidance for search engines to make crawling of your website more intelligent and correct. You can find more information about topic on Sitemaps.org.

You can say: “Great! I’ll generate sitemaps and Google will index my site and show my URLs as I want!” It’s not so easy yet in SEO.

“Google doesn’t guarantee that we’ll crawl or index all of your URLs. However, we use the data in your Sitemap to learn about your site’s structure, which will allow us to improve our crawler schedule and do a better job crawling your site in the future. In most cases, webmasters will benefit from Sitemap submission, and in no case will you be penalized for it.” - “About Google Sitemaps” on Google.com (June 2013).

General sitemap “/sitemap.xml” can be easily and automatically generated using such online tools like XML-Sitemaps.com. Build-in WordPress plugin like Yoast‘s WordPress SEO plugin allows generating multiple sitemaps. For example, there’re at least 9 types of multiple sitemaps:

  1. /post-sitemap
  2. /page-sitemap
  3. /image-sitemap
  4. /video-sitemap
  5. /mobile-sitemap
  6. /attachment-sitemap
  7. /category-sitemap
  8. /post_tag-sitemap
  9. /author-sitemap

As you see, each sitemap is designated to a particular type of website content (except of general sitemap which covers everything). Proper indexing of images is important for photography websites, and video indexing – for those who publish a lot of videos. The rest of tailored sitemaps are helpful for bloggers who want to be sure that search engines will crawl their posts, categories and tags. Author sitemap can help if you own a blogging platform with many contributors. All of them can be easily submitted to Google Webmasters and Bing Webmaster Tools.

But what is better – one general sitemap or multiple sitemaps? It depends on each website and on many other factors like quality of pages. However,  from Distilled, Seattle published an exceptional article Multiple XML Sitemaps: Increased Indexation and Traffic on The Moz blog where she said that tactic of having multiple sitemaps is not just for large sites, but for any site which is constantly updating and growing (in fact, any blog).

“And it is a tactic that should be employed from the beginning if possible, the earlier the better. The more data you have on indexation the better. But more than just data, the earlier you give the search engines a clear path to your content the better.” – Kate Morris.

Therefore, the tactic of having multiple sitemaps instead of one can be more beneficial.