How does Google use sitemap?

A Google employee answered this on Stack Exchange.

  • Find the number of indexed URLs for your website: These statistics are recalculated daily and very accurate. You can find these in the Sitemaps detail page.
  • Discover canonicalization issues: If the numbers there don’t match up, that’s frequently a sign that you’re specifying URLs in the Sitemap file that don’t match what we find during our crawling. That’s usually a sign that you need to work on canonicalization.
  • Help with canonicalization: When we find multiple URLs on your site that show identical content, we will give any URL that’s listed in a Sitemap an extra edge, even if you don’t use other canonicalization methods.
  • Find badly-indexed parts of your site: These counts are supplied per Sitemap file, so you can create separate Sitemap files for logical sections of your site, to discover areas where Google isn’t indexing as much as you’d like.
  • Prioritize crawl errors: In the crawl errors section, URLs that were specified in Sitemaps files are listed separately. Since you specifically supplied these URLs, we assume that you want them indexed, and that any crawl errors there are important.
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