How Does Google Define and Use URL Priority in Sitemaps?

By Alan Gray, NewsBlaze

After getting comfortable with creating a Google sitemap and seeing Google
gradually begin to index the URLs it contains, I moved on to do something else,
hoping the other 250,000 pages would be indexed soon.

Today, I logged in to Webmaster Tools and there was a stream of red
WARNING tags all over my sitemap report page.

The detailed message said:

All the URLs in your Sitemap have the same priority.


All the URLs in your Sitemap are set to the same priority (not the
default priority). Priority indicates the importance of a particular URL
relative to other URLs on your site, and doesn’t impact your site’s
performance in search results. If all URLs have the same priority, Google
can’t tell which are more important.



I have 480,000 pages. Priority is a little difficult to assign automatically.
With generic sitemap tools, that is probably impossible to change.

I wrote my own sitemap tool, so I have an advantage; I can just change it,
its easy, its just code. The hard part is determining how to change it.

One way would be to use my "most read" listings and make the most read
stories more important. But would that be the right thing to do? Or perhaps it
would have been better to leave all pages at the default priority.

As I’m not seeing other people reporting this, perhaps I’ve generated my own
problem. Hey, I’m a programmer – it’s my job to break things.

Before I make any other change, it would be good to completely understand how
Google defines "priority."

For example,
is an important page to someone
browsing NewsBlaze because it leads to the most recent top stories. (We have
about 50 per day) But as far as searchers are concerned, it’s not a very
important page at all, unless they want to know how to get to stories.
Obviously, the story pages themselves are very important.

Google Webmaster Tools tell me Google has a "Links Block" that shows what it
thinks are the most important top-level links and topstories.html is one of
them. That is a good feature. Will the sitemap priority have any effect on that?

Having the top stories page in a results list is actually completely useless
because by the time a searcher finds it in the results, that page doesn’t
contain the same list of stories it did when Google indexed it and therefore the
searcher doesn’t get what they thought they were going to see.

So that top stories page has different levels of importance, depending on
what you want.

So now I have a conundrum. If I downgrade the importance of that page in my
sitemap, say make it 0.5, then will Google ignore it and not crawl it to find
the most recent stories. Or will the priority have no effect on crawling and
just mean it won’t appear in search results. Should I just leave all stories set
at default priority?

I would like to see it crawled by Google every few minutes – as googlebot
does now, and have the story pages get high priority in search.

It’s all very well for Google to tell me all my priorities are the same, but
what do they mean and what so they want?

I understand that my TOS and Privacy might not be important in searches, so I
can downgrade them to .4 or .3, but how can I choose between 480,000 news

Three Unanswered Questions:

  • What effect does priority have on indexing
  • What effect does priority have on search results
  • If I had the answers above, how would I grade 480,000 pages
  • Is it OK to leave all pages at default priority
  • If default is OK, should I set the number to default or just delete the
  • Does priority affect the site links block?


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