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:
The children files were quickly taken count of:
The next day my pages started ranking in the SERPs again:
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).