Submitting Sitemaps to Google Search Console: Submit Children or Not?

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Submitting Sitemaps to Google Search Console: Submit Children or Not?

I’m currently exploring if it’s a better best practice to submit sitemap children (that is, items that are nested under the main sitemap) to the Google Search Console rather than a sitemap index.

After changing my website’s information architecture and URL structure, I waited too long to implement 301 redirects and remedy 404ing pages. As a result, I lost all my search traffic.

Now here’s why I’m thinking it’s a better idea to submit sitemap children than a full-on sitemap_index.xml file.

I submitted my sitemap_index.xml file several days ago (after implementing all necessary 301 redirects) and found Google Search Console wasn’t recognizing the amount of pages submitted. Last night I noticed this, removed the sitemap_index.xml file and submitted only the sitemap children: XML sitemap index file generated by Yoast

The children files were quickly taken count of:

Google Search Console sitemap children submitted on 3.19.17 are having their pages recognized and indexed

The next day my pages started ranking in the SERPs again:

Google Search traffic returning to on 3.20.17 - as taken from the Jetpack WordPress Plugin

I’m using Yoast SEO to generate my sitemap, and am wondering if there’s an issue with the URL structure of the sitemap index – would a plain sitemap.xml be more effective? Does it make no difference?

The reality is it’s difficult to tell whether or not my rankings returned as a result of submitting the sitemap children or because the necessary amount of time had elapsed for Google to begin ranking my pages again.

Importantly, I published a lot of new content to my website both yesterday and today. This also could have made a large difference in Google’s crawl and index frequency.

My general conclusion about this is that without more tests, it’s impossible to know, but as a best practice, if I don’t see a sitemap_index.xml file (or just a sitemap.xml for that matter) having its pages indexed, I’m going to remove the sitemap from Google Search Console and only submit its children (only the first nested items).

Edward Sturm

Edward Sturm is an SEO and video and image producer.

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