Sitemaps Series: Using a Sitemap Index

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Mar 16, 2010
More Articles by Janet


My recent posts have been about what Google Sitemaps are and how to create them. And in my last post, I mentioned that Google Sitemaps have certain limitations — they cannot be longer than 50,000 entries or 10MB in file size. If your website is a content-driven one, such as Discovery Channel, Wikipedia, and others, you likely have far more than 50,000 pages on your site that need to be indexed by the search engines. So what can you do?

Rather than registering many Google Sitemaps for different areas of the website, consider using a Sitemap Index file.

What Is a Sitemap Index File?

A Sitemap Index file acts as a “table of contents,” pointing the way to the many individual Google Sitemap files you create to cover all of your site’s content. However, like the regular Google Sitemap file, Sitemap Index files can only contain up to 50,000 entries or be 10MB in file size. While that may seem like a limitation, realize that means you can link up to 50,000 individual Google Sitemaps! In other words, a Sitemap Index file extends the ability of having just one Google Sitemap with 50,000 entries to up to 50,000 Google Sitemaps, each containing 50,000 entries, for a total of up to 2.5 billion entries!

Google Sitemap File Sitemap Index File
50,000 entries 50,000 Google Sitemaps listed (in index)
x 50,000 entries per Google Sitemap file

How to Create a Sitemap Index File

You will likely need to create a Sitemap Index file manually, rather than through a tool. Like the Google Sitemap, the Sitemap Index is created using XML and has a specific set of tags to use:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<sitemapindex xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″>
<sitemap>
<loc>http://www.example.com/sitemap1.xml.gz</loc>
<lastmod>2004-10-01T18:23:17+00:00</lastmod>
</sitemap>
</sitemapindex>

The beginning and end <sitemap> tags are used to denote the beginning and end of each entry. The <loc> tag indicates the location of the given Google Sitemap file, and <lastmod> indicates when that Google Sitemap was last updated.

Registering the Sitemap Index File with Google and Bing

Sitemap Index files can be submitted to both Google and Bing the same way that the regular Google Sitemap files are submitted and verified. If you missed yesterday’s post, refer to it here to see how to go through the registration and verification process with both Google and Bing.

My next post will discuss special types of Google Sitemaps, including video and news Sitemaps.

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