Re: Question about <changefreq> archive and link priority.
Perhaps it's not lowing enough hanging fruit.
Google employee, hello, hello, are you out there, can you here me Major Tom?
Ok, so "never" for the <changefreq>, hmmm, that worries me a bit. What if the page does change? (for example site navigation) Presumably googlebot will never pick up the changes since it has been told, this page is dusty old content, don't bother ever checking it again.
re: the <priority> flag not being taken into consideration for the 99%, I've heard that on GWT forums before, but have yet to hear any definitive word on the subject, particularly not from an authority on the subject like, say, Major Tom, our missing Google employee ;-)
One would assume that since the sitemaps protocol is an accepted standard, Google would actually follow the specification. <priority> definition clearly states that while it has no bearing whatsoever on one's PR, it does influence the site's internal PR of pages relative to each other. The obvious conclusion is that if you set a priority of 1.0 for your most important content, and a priority of 0.3 for older/non-relevant content, then Googlebot should take that into account in SERP results.
Ok, hmmm, that's unfortunate, I spent a _lot_ of time generating our sitemap accounting for <priority>, it was quite a PITA implementing it ;-)
Completely missed the importance of the last modified attribute; if that trumps everything else I'll get it in place.
As for "None of the settings in the Sitemap file affect ranking of the URLs once they're indexed", that brings me back to my original question, what then do we do about the archives? 90% or our indexed content is effectively old news as far as prep hockey is concerned; we want as much link juice as possible focused on the current season.
Thanks for any guidance, sitemaps or otherwise that can help us put the archives in their place; namely, low on the SERP priority stack.
A sitemap is really just for helping Google to find pages it wouldn't find otherwise. With a decent site navigation you don't actually need one at all.
Things have improved with the html and xml sitemaps in place, bringing some order to gd knows what priority googlebot was giving to pages before (we had stuff from 2001 coming up in SERPs for example).
Still not there yet though, archived data is truly of the lowest priority, 99% of site visitors are interested in current season content, of which we have plenty (in fact, we're the only site that has it). Case in point: still seeing season previous season's content coming up in SERPs; via Analytics can see users coming in via 2009, 2010, etc. archived pages and bouncing back to Google to continue the search for current season content o_O
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