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Do I need a sitemap index file if I have multiple sitemaps?

At the moment I just specify multiple sitemaps in my robots.txt, is the equal to having the index file?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Technically yes, but it isn't the most efficient - for several reasons:

  1. Multiple instructions as opposed to one
  2. Inability to assign priority or freshness (using timestamps)
  3. Requires more manual maintenance when updating/changing both the robots.txt file and Google/Bing webmaster tools etc
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