Google has been working on updates to how it uses sitemaps. Considering research highlighted in this study (pdf), which showed how search engines find new and changed content faster with sitemaps, webmasters should take note.
For one, Google and the other search engines that make up sitemaps.org are now supporting as many as 50,000 "child sitemaps" of sitemaps index files. In the past, they only supported 1,000. With this increased limit, webmasters can submit up to 2.5 billion URLs with one sitemap index.
Google's Webmaster Tools design update shows users all sitemap files that were submitted for a verified site. By the way, here's a brief look at the update:
"This is particularly useful if you have multiple owners verified in Webmaster Tools or if you are submitting some Sitemap files via HTTP ping or through your robots.txt file," notes John Müller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google Switzerland. In addition, the indexed URL count for sitemap files in Webmaster Tools is "more precise" according to Müller.
XSD schemas have been updated to allow sitemap extensions. This allows for the creation of better sitemaps through the verification of more features. Müller says that sitemap file processing is also much faster than before, meaning the time it takes to submit a sitemap file, process it and see initial data, is much shorter.
The question is, are you taking advantage of all of this? If you don't use sitemaps or aren't sure if you're doing it the right way, I would suggest perusing the following resources:
- Google's Sitemaps FAQs
- Google's Sitemaps Help Center
- Googles Forum Search