Google Search Advocate John Mueller and Analyst Gary Illyes share SEO tips for news publishers during a recent office-hours Q&A recording.
Taking turns answering questions, Mueller addresses the correct use of the lastmod tag, while Illyes discusses the benefits of separate sitemaps.
When To Use The Lastmod Tag?
In an XML sitemap file, lastmod is a tag that stores information about the last time a webpage was modified.
Its intended use is to help search engines track and index significant changes to webpages.
Google provides guidelines for using the lastmod tag, which could be used to alter search snippets.
The presence of the lastmod tag may prompt Googlebot to change the publication date in search results, making the content appear more recent and more attractive to click on.
As a result, there may be an inclination to use the lastmod tag even for minor changes to an article so that it appears as if it was recently published.
A news publisher asks whether they should use the lastmod tag to indicate the date of the latest article update or the date of the most recent comment.
Mueller says the date in the lastmod field should reflect the date when the page’s content has changed significantly enough to require re-crawling.
However, using the last comment date is acceptable if comments are a critical part of the page.
He also reminds the publisher to use structured data and ensure the page date is consistent with the lastmod tag.
“Since the site map file is all about finding the right moment to crawl a page based on its changes, the lastmod date should reflect the date when the content has significantly changed enough to merit being re-crawled.
If comments are a critical part of your page, then using that date is fine. Ultimately, this is a decision that you can make. For the date of the article itself, I’d recommend looking at our guidelines on using dates on a page.
In particular, make sure that you use the dates on a page consistently and that you structured data, including the time zone, within the markup.”
Separate Sitemap For News?
A publisher inquires about Google’s stance on having both a news sitemap and a general sitemap on the same website.
They also ask if it’s acceptable for both sitemaps to include duplicate URLs.
Illyes explained that it’s possible to have just one sitemap with the news extension added to the URLs that need it, but it’s simpler to have separate sitemaps for news and general content. URLs older than 30 days should be removed from the news sitemap.
Regarding sitemaps sharing the duplicate URLs, it’s not recommended, but it won’t cause any problems.
“You can have just one site map, a traditional web sitemap as defined by sitemaps.org, and then add the news extension to the URLs that need it. Just keep in mind that, you’ll need to remove the news extension from URLs that are older than 30 days. For this reason it’s usually simpler to have separate site map for news and for web.
Just remove the URLs altogether from the news site map when they become too old for news. Including the URLs in both site maps, while not very nice, but it will not cause any issues for you.”
These tips from Mueller and Illyes can help news publishers optimize their websites for search engines and improve the visibility and engagement of their articles.
Source: Google Search Central
Featured Image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock