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Sometimes we need to remove lots of content from our sites and our current method is to prefix (-) before URL in sitemap to indicate that URL no longer exists.

Is this is a correct method? If it's not, then how can we indicate removed content in a sitemap?

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    Where did you get the idea of prefixing the "deleted" URL with a hyphen? – DocRoot Aug 24 '17 at 10:38
  • Actually this is how this is done in our environments? Have you ever heard this thing? – Chintak Chhapia Sep 1 '17 at 8:20
  • No, never heard of that method. Unless you have a secondary process that then actually removes the URLs from the sitemap then I would think it's only likely to result in errors when a 3rd part tries to process it. Does GSC not complain or issue a 404 report or something? – DocRoot Sep 1 '17 at 21:45
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A sitemap is designed to be a static map of existing pages to direct a robot. It's not valuable for seeing things that aren't there in the way that it isn't going to call out something that doesn't exist and then say "Oh, don't look at that".

You don't need to specifically indicate that pages are gone, you just need to take 2 steps:

  1. Make sure that those removed URLs are not in the sitemap. This requires you to generate a new one after each round of deletions.
  2. Check that your 301 redirects are in place and correct. I use Screaming Frog to crawl the entire site and turn up any pages that are 404'd (this also calls out internal links pointing to them).

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