Optimizing News Articles for Google Search: Utilizing Lastmod Tag and Separate Sitemaps

January 31, 2023

Google Search Advocate John Mueller and Analyst Gary Illyes recently discussed SEO tips for news publishers during a Q&A recording. Mueller addressed the proper use of the lastmod tag, while Illyes discussed the advantages of having separate sitemaps.

The lastmod tag is used in XML sitemaps to store information regarding the last time a page was modified. It is intended to help search engines identify significant changes on webpages. Google provides guidelines for using this tag which can be used to modify search snippets and make content appear more recent and more attractive to click on. However, it should not be used just for minor changes; its use should be reserved for significant updates only.

Meanwhile, having separate sitemaps can also benefit news publishers as it allows them to control when content appears in search results, helping them ensure that they are consistently providing up-to-date information.

Read more about SEO tips for news publishers here: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-seo-tips-news-articles-lastmod/377286/ John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, recently advised a news publisher who was wondering how to handle the lastmod tag. He suggested that the date in the lastmod field should reflect when the content on a page has significantly changed enough to require re-crawling, however using the last comment date is acceptable if comments are an essential part of the page. Additionally, he recommended that publishers use structured data and ensure that the page date is consistent with what's indicated in the lastmod tag. Mueller stated: “Since the site map file is all about finding the right moment to crawl a page based on its changes, the lastmod date should reflect the date when the content has significantly changed enough to merit being re-crawled. If comments are a critical part of your page then using that date is fine...In particular make sure that you use dates on a page consistently and that you use structured data including time zone within markup” (https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2021/03/using-lastmod-date-in-sitemap.html).

Google's John Mueller recently addressed the question regarding having both a news sitemap and a general sitemap on the same website. He suggested that it would be simpler to have separate sitemaps for news and general content, with URLs older than 30 days removed from the news sitemap. While not recommended, he noted that it would not cause any issues if there were duplicated URLs in both sitemaps. For more details, including his exact quote, visit this Search Engine Roundtable post.

Google Search Central recently featured John Mueller and Gary Illyes discussing ways that news publishers can improve their website visibility through search engine optimization. The video offers tips on how to optimize articles to increase engagement and better serve readers online.

Mueller suggests that news publishers should focus on creating content that is both interesting and relevant. Additionally, he reminds viewers to keep content up to date by regularly adding new material. Illyes adds that news organizations should also place emphasis on optimizing internal linking structure and improving page speed, as these are key factors for successful SEO performance.

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