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Looking at GSC, many URLs on my site are listed as "URL is on Google" and "Page is indexed." However, traffic has TANKED and I just noticed that the URLs that are not doing well are all listed as having been discovered in my image sitemap.

The URLs in question are all properly listed on sitemap.xml and on sitemap-image.xml with all the images broken out. The files are both well formatted, no errors are shown, and there are no issues with robots.txt. There are no stray noindex directives lurking, either.

Do folks think this might explain traffic issues on the affected URLs? And if so, are there any tips for how to correct it, other than removing sitemap-image.xml?

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  • Why do you ever separate site map file with images in it anyway? Dec 3, 2023 at 7:47

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Google doesn't use sitemap for ranking. You need internal or external links to all your pages. A good start is to have one (or more) sitemap pages (an html page that is visible to users) and make it link to all your pages.

From Learn about sitemaps

A sitemap is a file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site, and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to crawl your site more efficiently. A sitemap tells Google which pages and files you think are important in your site, and also provides valuable information about these files. For example, when the page was last updated and any alternate language versions of the page.

Its only a suggestion to Google about what you think about your site.

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