Are there any specific advantages or disadvantages in generating an XML based sitemap in place of a simple txt based sitemap (list of URLs)?

I realize that in the XML format I can set priority and last-modified date, but it is not clear what benefit, if any, in terms of SEO, etc, this provides. (For instance, what benefit would there be to setting a low priority, other than possible reducing robot crawl load?) Explicitly stating this information also increases the probability of a mistake -- some modification date not getting updated correctly, etc.

  • See also: The Sitemap Paradox -- XML sitemaps are not great. They help much in getting pages indexed and ranked. It is much better just to link to the pages from somewhere. – Stephen Ostermiller Aug 20 '17 at 11:50

There is no fundamental disadvantage to text-only sitemaps aside from what you've touched on. Setting the priority and last-modified date can affect the crawl frequency and on a large site with both frequently and infrequently changing content that can be very important.

XML sitemaps can also carry media information (e.g. video sitemap) and if you have that kind of site that may be important to you.

But if you have a smaller site with mostly set/static content there is probably very little functional difference between text and XML sitemaps.

Explicitly stating this information also increases the probability of a mistake -- some modification date not getting updated correctly

No more of a risk that somehow outputting the wrong URLs in the text version

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This is not an answer, but a caveat for XML sitemap wizard users. I recently did a tech & SEO overview of a site rebuild where an XML sitemap was auto-generated by a wizard. She failed to review it and see that all the URL's were like **new.**site.com/page.asp - the dev server where the site was built!

Typing out a txt sitemap has the advantage of deliberate attention. In this age of auto-generated pages, there are many opportunities for auto-generated blunders. This site was only 40+ pages, but hitting links and copy/paste is a welcome break to debugging.

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  • This does seem to partially answer the question. It is also a good observation. I wonder how many people made the same mistake?? Auto-generated sitemaps can become a mess rather quickly if something goes awry. I manual sanity check is always advisable at least for a period. – closetnoc Feb 3 '16 at 5:13
  • Using an online wizard to create an XML sitemap means you, like myself, aren't fluent with XML syntax. That would also mean you may not recognize corrupt syntax. A UTF-8 .txt sitemap is perfectly sufficient for smaller sites that don't change content on a daily basis. Always better to stick with something you can create, and correct by yourself - just by eyeballing the code. – Michael Walls Dec 18 '18 at 0:40

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