Google SEO Tips For News Articles: Lastmod Tag, Separate Sitemaps

Google search attorney John Mueller and analyst Gary Illyes shares SEO tips for news publishers while recording a last-hour Q&A.

Taking turns answering questions, Mueller addresses the correct use of the lastmod tag, while Illyes discusses the benefits of separate sitemaps.

When do you use Lastmod tag?

In an XML sitemap file, lastmod is a tag that stores information about when a webpage was last modified.

Its purpose is to help search engines track and index important changes to web pages.

Google provides instructions for using the lastmod tag, which can be used to change search snippets.

The presence of the lastmod tag can cause Googlebot to change the publication date in search results, making the content appear more recent and more attractive to click on.

As a result, there may be a tendency to use the lastmod tag even with minor changes to the article so that it appears as if it was recently published.

The news publisher asks if it should use the lastmod tag to indicate the date the article was last updated or the date it was last commented.

Mueller says that the date in the lastmod field should reflect the date the page’s content changed significantly enough to require a re-crawl.

However, using the last comment date is acceptable if the comments are a significant part of the page.

The publisher also mentions to use structured data and make sure the page date matches the lastmod tag.

Since a sitemap is about finding the right moment to crawl a page based on its changes, the Lastmod date should reflect the date the content changed significantly enough to merit a re-crawl.

If comments are an important part of your page, it’s okay to use this date. Ultimately, this is a decision you can make. For the date of the article itself, I’d recommend seeing our guidelines for using dates on the page.

In particular, make sure that dates on the page are used consistently and that structured data, including the time zone, is within the “” markup.

Separate sitemap for news?

A publisher inquires about Google’s position on having both a news sitemap and a public sitemap on the same website.

They also ask if it is okay for both sitemaps to include duplicate URLs.

Ellis explained that it’s possible to have just one sitemap with the news extension added to the URLs you need, but it’s easier to have separate sitemaps for news and general content. URLs older than 30 days should be removed from the news sitemap.

Regarding sitemaps sharing duplicate URLs, it’s not recommended, but it won’t cause any problems.

Ellis says:

You can only have one sitemap, which is a traditional website map as defined by, then add the news extension to the URLs you need. Just keep in mind that you will need to remove the news extension from URLs more than 30 days old. For this reason, it is usually easiest to have a separate sitemap for news and web.

Simply remove URLs completely from the news sitemap when they become too out of date for the news. Including URLs in both sitemaps, while not very nice, won’t cause you any problems.”

These tips from Mueller and Illyes can help news publishers optimize their websites for search engines and improve the visibility and engagement of their articles.

source: Google search center

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