Building Better Sitemaps for a Gatsby Site

July 17, 2023 - 5 min read (888 words)

Gatsby offers a sitemap plugin to generate sitemap XML documents for the sites it generates. However, in its default configuration, it needs customization to be useful to most search engines. Luckily, it is possible to change the default configuration and supplement its logic with both other plugins and custom logic. In this post, I cover how to leverage Git commits to update the sitemap and introduce last modification dates to each URL entry.

The evolving GitHub repository storing this blog and its implementation can be found here.

Table of Contents

The Default Sitemap Plugin Output

Using the default configuration of the gatsby-plugin-sitemap plugin, the following output can be expected. The changefreq and priority tags will contain the same value for all URLs and no lastmod tag is generated.

Per the Google documentation:

Google ignores <priority> and <changefreq> values.

Google uses the <lastmod> value if it’s consistently and verifiably accurate

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="">
    <changefreq>daily</changefreq>    <priority>0.7</priority>  </url>
    <changefreq>daily</changefreq>    <priority>0.7</priority>  </url>

The Desired Sitemap Output

In a desired state, the changefreq and priority tags would be omitted and a lastmod tag would contain a timestamp that accurately reflected the last change in content that was made to that page.

<urlset xmlns="" xmlns:news="" xmlns:xhtml="" xmlns:image="" xmlns:video="">
    <loc></loc>    <lastmod>2023-07-10T02:48:04.000Z</lastmod>
    <loc></loc>    <lastmod>2023-07-17T01:25:59.000Z</lastmod>

The Plugins

To accomplish our goals of removing the unneeded tags and introducing a last modification timestamp that is based on the Git commit that last changed the content of a page we need two plugins: the official gatsby-plugin-sitemap plugin and a plugin from the community gatsby-plugin-git-lastmod.

Configuring the Plugins

The gatsby-plugin-git-lastmod may be used without additional configuration values. It is MDX compatible and will introduce a new node to the pageContext object to carry the last timestamp of the Git modification to the source file generating a page or blog post using its gatsby-node.js file.

In the listing below, the query options parameter is configured to return the pageContext object and a custom serialize function is provided that both omits the unneeded tags and introduces the desired lastmod tag. This configuration will generate correct entries for all blog postings.

plugins: [
    resolve: `gatsby-plugin-sitemap`,
    options: {
      query: `
        site {
          siteMetadata {
        allSitePage {
          nodes {
      serialize: ({ path, pageContext }) => {
        return {
          url: path,
          lastmod: pageContext?.lastMod,

Handling Last Modification Date for the Index Page

The outlier case is that of the index page. Using only the configuration from above, the lastmod timestamp of the index page would only update when code changes were made to alter its structure. However, the index page actually changes upon alteration to any of the blog pages that it links.

To address this case, we need to introduce some custom code to our own gatsby-node.js file with logic similar to the logic contained in the gatsby-plugin-git-lastmod plugin. Note that in earlier commits, this implementation converted the gatsby-node.js file to use ES module syntax for better compatibility with the MDX plugin in Gatsby v5+.

The code below keep track of the latest timestamp on which a blog entry was modified then uses that value to set an override to the index page’s last modification timestamp.

const simpleGit = require(`simple-git`);
let latestBlogModification = new Date(1900, 1, 1);

export const onCreatePage = async ({ page, actions }) => {
  if (page.component.includes("blog-post.js")) {
    // looking for mdx blog posts
    const filePath = page.component.split("?__contentFilePath=").pop();
    const fileLog = await simpleGit().log({
      file: filePath,
      maxCount: 1,
      strictDate: true,

    // update latestBlogModification date
    const gitLogDate = new Date(fileLog?.latest?.date);
    if (latestBlogModification < gitLogDate) {
      latestBlogModification = gitLogDate;


  // blogs are processed first, elements under src/pages/ second
  // allows the accurate setting of the lastBlogModification module
  // variable
  if (page.path === "/") {
    // looking only for the root index page
    const { createPage } = actions;
    return createPage({,
      context: {,

        // set the lastMod key to override the value that would
        // have been set in the gatsby-plugin-git-lastmod plugin
        // for use in sitemap generation
        lastMod: latestBlogModification.toISOString(),

The complete version of this file for this site implementation can be found here.

Updating Robots.txt

In a final step, to ease the crawling of the site by search engines, the robots.txt file may be modified to include a fully qualified URL to the sitemap output. This file will be hosted on the root of the site and is placed in the /static/ folder in the source tree.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /8846484b349642449a66629f496422f8.txt
Disallow: /rss.xml


Submitting Sitemaps

While search engine crawlers will look for sitemaps on the root of your site, directly submitting your sitemap to each search engine can accelerate the process of crawling.

Submitting a Sitemap to Google

Using the Google Search Console, navigate on the right-hand navigation menu to Sitemaps and add a new sitemap.

Google Search Console Screenshot

Submitting a Sitemap to Bing

Using the Bing Webmaster Tools, navigate to Sitemaps > Submit sitemap to add a sitemap URL.

Bing Webmaster Tools Screenshot
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Written by J. Patrick Fulton.

gatsbyjs blog seo sitemap git