Google Webmaster Tools Sitemaps Changes on Jan 26 2012

January 26, 2012 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: SEO.

This post updated on 20120127 @ 10:3120120127 @ 14:36 and 20120130 @17:38

I don’t often post about search-related issues on my blog because I’m usually so “up to my neck in it” I spend more time rolling my sleeves up and doing SEO than writing about it. But this morning a lack of information regarding the latest updates to Google’s Webmaster Tools has prompted me to write.

People are talking a lot about the obvious and well-publicised updates to Google’s Definition of Average Search Rank Positioning and the New Improved Download Options but not the changes to the Sitemaps page…

I opened GWTs this AM as I do every morning and went straight to the Sitemaps page to check their status. Instantly I saw a new bar chart showing the submitted URLs and the indexed URLs. Straight away there was a noticable change in yesterday’s figures – GWTs is showing that far fewer URLs appear to be indexed than yesterday. Strange.

Additionally I don’t seem to be able to find the button to submit each of my sitemaps individually once I’ve update them manually, as I have to do with some of my sites. Again, strange.

GWTs Sitemaps page is also showing a number of errors in each of my sitemaps that weren’t there yesterday. I’ve gon in to check the errors and, where apparently Google indicates there are 6 erros, it is only showing me 3. Where there are 11 errors, again, it is only showing me 3.

So…

  • Can we not manually submit our XML sitemaps to Google anymore?
  • Does Google now automatically crawl the XML sitemaps regardless of when they’re updated (as it does if you leave it) and, if so, how often is it doing so, and on what is it basing its return/revisit and crawl?
  • Is there any other method of pinging Google to inform it of XML sitemap updates when I don’t currently have an automated method of doing this?
  • Will I have to go back to the old method of using G’s submit url tool?

If anyone’s got any answers or pointers then please let me know, I’m a little surprised that nobody’s publicly spotted or is talking or writing about this so the quicker I can get some updates and answers the better.

Cheers 🙂

UPDATE: 20120127 10:31

OK, after no responses and no word on the changes I sorted it out myself. Isn’t that so often the case? If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing yourself!

So, what to do about pinging Google with a sitemap update? Well, it appears to be buried in this Google help page here.

The easiest way for most people will probably be to make an http request directly through the address bar of your web browser – So, if the address of your XML sitemap is

http://www.yourdomain.co.uk/sitemap.xml

then you can ping Google with

http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ping?sitemap=http://www.yourdomain.co.uk/sitemap.xml

You can also use wget and curl, but I’ll look into that a bit later 😉

UPDATE: 20120127 14:36

I pinged Google with the updated sitemap URL four hours ago.

I visited the Google forums to see if there were any positive details on the latest changes. It was suggested, by on e forum user, that “if you insist” you can click “ADD/TEST SITEMAP” within which is buried the options to either “Test Sitemap”, as it “says on the tin”, or to “Submit Sitemap” but the boxout means you have to type or cut & paste the sitemap’s filename.

This in itself is both 1) Unclear because it is not marked up very well and 2) Inefficient because webmasters are unable to just tick the box next to the relevant sitemap and hit “Resubmit” and 3) After 4 hours is it actually doing anything?

I’ve still got a “Pending” message next to my most important sitemaps and Google is not acknowledging that I’ve fixed the errors on on some of my sitemaps. Worse still, one of the sitemap’s errors have increased and the error reporting still only shows 3 of my supposedly 41 errors!

Google is leading us on a right merry dance (again!)

UPDATE: 20120130 17:38

I came back to the office this morning and found no answers for the sitemaps issues I’ve been having but it does appear that Google have tweaked the layout/design to makes this less confusing – Still no explanation though.

What I’ve found works is to view the individual sitemaps, look at the limited 3 errors showing, correct them, click the red  “RESUBMIT” button, REFRESH the page and then work on the errors until they’re all gone. I cleared the issues up in a few hours today and there are ZERO errors with the sitemaps. They were mainly duplicate entry issues but all have been corrected now.

What I have found, though, is that, even a few hours after making the corrections, Google Webmaster Tools is still reporting that my sitemaps are “Pending”.

This still isn’t as responsive as it used to be but at least Big G seem to be “working on it”. An update to let us know what’s going on would be nice but hey, it’s better than leaving it broken.

Talking of which, are Bing Webmaster Tools still using Silverlight? (I had to look that name up, I couldn’t remember what they called it)


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