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Recently experienced a 50% drop in traffic and one of the only things I changed is the sitemaps.xml

We have 9 sitemaps with 50k URL each, I added the following formatting

<URL>http://url.com</URL>
<lastmod>2016-04-29T01:55:23-04:00</lastmod> 
<priority>1.0</priority>

Before it only contained the URL.

I read here that adding a timestamp may have negative impact, but the author was talking about the post itself, not the sitemap. http://www.shoutmeloud.com/effect-of-showing-date-stamp-on-blog-traffic-case-study.html

I know it's counterintuitive, like why would it have a negative impact? But that's the only thing that was recently changed.

Also the amount of indexed pages jumped from 500k to 2 million during the same period, so may be the 2 are related? Some kind of a temporary Google dance?

  • Your linked ShoutMeLoud case study has nothing to do with dates found within sitemaps. The dates within the sitemap are not used by search engines within it's index at all. Sitemaps are only used to communicate back to a search engine. Anything you put in a sitemap will not be used as is per se' but rather as a starting point. So there is no SEO impact of the lastmod date used within a sitemap. – closetnoc Jun 8 '16 at 20:41
  • yes, i know it's not the same thing, i just put it there to show that i researched the subject prior to posting. – Robert Sinclair Jun 8 '16 at 22:48
  • Have you tried the obvious?? Removing the lastmod dates? ;-) I doubt if the sitemap has anything to do with the drop. When did the traffic drop begin? Can you pin-point a date? Cheers!! – closetnoc Jun 9 '16 at 2:42
  • it happened the following day after adding the timestamps. The interesting thing is that amount of indexed pages jumped from 500k to 2 million pages... So may be it's some kind of a temporary Google dance and traffic will come back, yesterday I saw it starting to climb back up. I haven't removed them yet, but will wait a couple of weeks and will probably do that. Very strange – Robert Sinclair Jun 9 '16 at 16:52
  • Whenever there is a huge jump in pages, Google gets a bit cautious - so there is nothing unusual about what you are seeing. Cheers!! – closetnoc Jun 9 '16 at 22:31

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