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My company owns several domain names. We also host websites for our users at their custom domains.

Our domains:

  • company.com
  • product1.com
  • product2.com

Users's domains:

  • user1.com
  • user2.com

Currently, we host XML Sitemap files at the root of all of our users' websites (e.g. http://www.user1.com/sitemap.xml). These sitemap files contain all the URLs of that user's website.

To possibly improve the search engine indexing of our users' websites, we would like to start hosting a high-level, sitemap index file at the root of company.com which lists all of our users' (and preferably our products') websites' sitemap.xml files.

So something like this:

http://www.company.com/sitemap-index.xml

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<sitemapindex xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
   <sitemap>
      <loc>http://www.company.com/sitemap.xml</loc>
   </sitemap>
   <sitemap>
      <loc>http://www.product1.com/sitemap.xml</loc>
   </sitemap>
   <sitemap>
      <loc>http://www.product2.com/sitemap.xml</loc>
   </sitemap>
   <sitemap>
      <loc>http://www.user1.com/sitemap.xml</loc>
   </sitemap>
   <sitemap>
      <loc>http://www.user2.com/sitemap.xml</loc>
   </sitemap>
</sitemapindex>

According to the Sitemaps documentation on index files, it isn't possible to have a sitemap index file references sitemaps files outside of it's own domain.

Note: A Sitemap index file can only specify Sitemaps that are found on the same site as the Sitemap index file. For example, http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap_index.xml can include Sitemaps on http://www.yoursite.com but not on http://www.example.com or http://yourhost.yoursite.com.

In a different section of the same documentation, it says that it is possible to have regular sitemap files (not sitemap index files) reference URLs outside of the domain which hosts the sitemap file.

Sitemaps & Cross Submits
To submit Sitemaps for multiple hosts from a single host, you need to "prove" ownership of the host(s) for which URLs are being submitted in a Sitemap.
...
By default, this will result in a "cross submission" error since you are trying to submit URLs for www.host1.com through a Sitemap that is hosted on www.sitemaphost.com (and same for the other two hosts). One way to avoid the error is to prove that you own (i.e. have the authority to modify files) www.host1.com. You can do this by modifying the robots.txt file on www.host1.com to point to the Sitemap on www.sitemaphost.com.

My question(s):

  • First of all, Can this 'workaround' for cross-submits work with sitemap index files as it does with normal sitemap files? I don't want to go through the effort to implement it without knowing it is even possible. Unfortunately, the documentation doesn't say either way.
  • Second, is what I am attempting even a good idea? We want to boost SEO for all of the websites we manage. We think linking the sitemaps together will help but we are not sure. Does anyone have any experience with complicated sitemaps and index files who are willing to share their experience?
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migrated from stackoverflow.com May 6 '13 at 20:23

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

2  
Although old (from 2008), this Google Webmasters FAQ about Sitemaps may anwser my second question about boosting SEO. It claims that using sitemaps file not improve SEO rankings, they simply help SEs discover pages which might not be normally crawled (e.g. because they are behind a form or for whatever reason). –  Jesse Webb May 6 '13 at 20:58

2 Answers 2

As you already aware of google sitemap guidelines, i won't dig more into it. Based on my experience, i don't think you can keep other domain's sitemap at your main domain.

I am completely agree with your above comment. it is not necessary to have sitemap file for improving search engine rankings. It just help search engine crawlers to find pages on your website easily.

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To answer a couple questions, I would have to believe it would treat sitemap index files the same way, the whole point of adding the line: "Sitemap: http: //www.sitemaphost.com/sitemap-host1.xml" to the robots.txt of the website that is not hosting it's own sitemap is just to show that you have control over the website. I wouldn't think the spiders would behave differently.

The answer to your second question is mostly an opinion. If your set up requires you to be that complex, it may be a good idea. If not, it's typically easier to have each of the domains host their own sitemaps. I have spent some time reading through SEO articles, and I haven't read anywhere about hosting your sitemaps off-site for a better rank.

The sitemap doesn't inherently boost your SEO, it ensures that the search engine spiders reach your pages faster. It's ultimately your page content (and external links in) that get the rankings.

So, if this will help you manage your sites easier, try it out.

References:
Sitemaps.org Proticol - http://www.sitemaps.org/protocol.html
Sitemaps.org Home - http://www.sitemaps.org/index.html

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