Should you use Multiple XML Sitemaps to Increase Search Engine Optimization?

I recently read a great case study on how multiple XML sitemaps significantly increase search engine optimization traffic. And then I thought, well, of course they do. We should cover this topic in a blog.

How do you Know if your Site Needs Multiple XML Sitemaps?

That’s the million dollar question, right? There are two elements that play a role in this decision.

  • Do you have well themed sections of your site that make sense for an individual sitemap? Of course if you don’t then that may be another problem.
  • How many pages do you have in each of these sections that you would like to rank in the search engines?
  • What is the size of those pages when they are represented in a sitemap?

So what is the magic number(s)? You know you need to create a new sitemap if the amount of URLs in the sitemap exceeds 50,000 and /or the file size of the sitemap exceeds 10MB after you have taken it out of gzip form. Let’s call this the 50,000 pages and/or 10MB rule, for fun.

For those of you who don’t know what gzip is, according to Wikipedia: “Gzip is any of several software applications used for file compression and decompression. The term usually refers to the GNU Project’s implementation, “gzip” standing for GNU zip. It is based on the DEFLATE algorithm, which is a combination of Lempel-Ziv (LZ77) and Huffman coding.”

So basically, gzip is a way to compress files. We use it in site speed as well.

Different Types of Sitemaps to Consider for SEO

There are a few different types of sitemaps out there. Sitemaps in the form of news sitemaps, video sitemaps, photo sitemaps, mobile sitemaps, software source code sitemaps and geographical sitemaps (also HTML but that is a little different). That is a lot of sitemap types, right?!

We, of course, want to start with our basic XML sitemaps. These will allow our basic text content to be presented to Google. XML sitemaps should be aggregate or organized by theme. If you are going to organize XML sitemaps by theme, feel free to use your basic directory structure as a guide. Again, make sure to adhere to the 50,000 pages and/or 10MB rule above.

There’s a growing interest in Google news and many people want to have a news sitemap. They think, “Google News can bring me traffic. I want to get in there!” Little do they know there are some pretty stringent specifics to be included in this search engine. Things like frequency of posting, formatting of the page, URL structure, only including posts from the last 48 hours, etc. That being said, if you are a dedicated publisher this is a move that makes sense. Same goes for video and photo sitemaps, you only need to create these if you have the content. If you have a mobile site, you need a mobile sitemap. This will help Google determine the difference between your main site and your mobile site. This can be critical to your search engine optimization.

Summary of Sitemaps and Search Engine Optimization

Just like in real life, if you want something to be found, it helps if it is listed on a map. Multiple sitemaps for search engine optimization can help more of your site be found, but if a map is too big things get lost and certain areas are glazed over. Make sure to strategically implement sitemaps for all of the areas on your website you want visible for SEO.

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