Google’s John Mueller advises site owners that deleting a sitemap won’t prevent URLs from being crawled in the future.
This topic is discussed in the latest episode of the Ask Googlebot video series on YouTube.
Mueller addresses a question asking if it’s possible to turn off or delete a sitemap from Google Search Console.
Deleting a sitemap is possible, and it’s not hard to do either, but if the intention is to stop Googlebot from crawling the URLs then site owners will have to employ a different solution.
To delete a sitemap, start by logging into Google Search Console and selecting Sitemaps from the side navigation menu.
Then click on the three-dot menu at the top right-hand corner and select Remove sitemap.
That’s all there is to it. Sitemaps can also be removed from the website itself, which would cause it to return a 404 or 410 status code.
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Google will stop using the sitemap file, but it won’t stop crawling the site unless further action is taken.
Sitemaps assist Google with crawling a site faster and more efficiently, but it doesn’t act as a directive to crawl or not crawl URLs. In theory a site can be crawled without any sitemap at all.
Preventing Googlebot from crawling a site, or specific URLs within a site, requires the use of a noindex tag in the robots.txt file.
The site owner who submitted the question to Mueller didn’t mention what they hope to achieve from deleting…