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Is there any way to use a sitemap to indicate which part of a site represents current content and which part the 'archived' content?

Details on the issue I am trying to deal with, in case this is not the right approach:

I am helping a small non-profit convention optimise their site in the context of SEO. One of the things I am looking at is adopting a sitemap (sitemap.xml).

The way they organise their website is by having each convention year be a separate folder, rather than reusing the same paths:

  • http://example.com/2014/
  • http://example.com/2015/
  • http://example.com/2016/

So when a new year happens they simply clone the previous year and then update the assets and content for the current year. This means we end up with:

  • http://example.com/2014/registration/
  • http://example.com/2015/registration/
  • http://example.com/2016/registration/

The challenge is that this leaves Google pointing to the previous year's path for a while, even after the content for the new year is live. I have suggested we break away from the year folder structure, but there is push back, since some are concerned that this would break old off site links.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  • Search engines don't need sitemaps and will have no baring on search rankings. Also those archived pages should be accessible by other means of which Google will crawl in any-case. Another thing, sitemaps have no baring on re-indexing faster when changing URL format. The reason I mention this is you tagged the question SEO when its not really SEO since if your site is crawlable (which it should be) then your SEO will not be improved. – Simon Hayter Mar 21 '17 at 21:14
  • Sitemaps only list the pages of a site. There is no opportunity to communicate much of anything else. Even then a sitemap is largely ignored if a search engine can properly crawl the site. It is primarily used to audit the crawl. Sitemaps generally are only really useful when the site is HUGE or content exists behind a login or paywall. Structure or the purpose of the page will have nothing to do with the sitemap. – closetnoc Mar 21 '17 at 21:18
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    Possible duplicate: Best way of showing updated/new year related content – MrWhite Mar 21 '17 at 21:32
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    Sitemaps, sitemaps, sitemaps... – wogsland Mar 22 '17 at 1:04
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    Keep in mind that almost all SEO advice is parroted by non-technical people from non-technical people who have no idea how search works or what technologies and methodologies are used or can offer any detail on the subject despite all that has been written. Bleak huh? Most all advice is purely a guess. Some rare advice is based upon black-box evidence based testing which can be seriously misleading because correlation is often taken by many as causation. Seriously flawed. Marketing people are at the center of this. They are marketers and not data scientists and statistical analysis types. – closetnoc Mar 22 '17 at 17:29
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The Sitemaps.org protocol defines three optional elements that could be useful in your case:

  • lastmod - "The date of last modification of the file."
  • changefreq - "How frequently the page is likely to change."

    The value "never" should be used to describe archived URLs.

  • priority - "The priority of this URL relative to other URLs on your site."

    Search engines may use this information when selecting between URLs on the same site, so you can use this tag to increase the likelihood that your most important pages are present in a search index.

So you could use:

<url>
  <loc>http://example.com/2014/registration</loc>
  <lastmod>2014</lastmod>
  <changefreq>never</changefreq>
  <priority>0.1</priority>
</url>

<url>
  <loc>http://example.com/2017/registration</loc>
  <lastmod>2017-03-20</lastmod>
  <changefreq>weekly</changefreq>
  <priority>0.9</priority>
</url>

However, don’t expect consumers (like search engines) to make use of these hints; most consumers ignore these, probably.


Other things you could do to give search engines hints which convention URLs to prefer (and to help visitors, too):

  • Make sure that the date of the event is published in an accessible and machine-readable way, e.g., with HTML’s time element and possibly Schema.org’s startDate property.
  • Link from all old event pages to the next (or current) event, e.g., with a banner in the header:

    This is an archived page of …. The [next event takes place from …].

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