Sitemap could not be read (Couldn’t fetch) in Google Search Console

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This article is part of the Complete Guide on Google Search Console (GSC)

The sitemap that you submitted in Google Search Console has the status “Couldn’t fetch”, what does it mean? The “Sitemap could not be read” error usually means one of 3 things:

  • Pending to be fetched;
  • Not accessible at the given URL;
  • Has an error in the file

Status is Pending

“Sitemap could not be read” often mean that Google just hasn’t fetched the file.

You can reload the page, or try to check the sitemap in the URL Inspection Tool.


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It should say “URL is not on Google”, which means that the sitemap is not indexed.

Do NOT use the “Request Indexing” button.

It is a sitemap and not a page, it shouldn’t be indexed!

Instead, use the Live Test to check if Googlebot can fetch it!

If Google returns “URL is available to Google”, that means Google can fetch your sitemap.

Then, it is likely that the status should be interpreted as Pending. All you have to do is wait.

Sitemap Is not Accessible (General HTTP error)

If the sitemap error tells you that there is a “General HTTP error”, then you need to look into the status code.

You can view the status code easily using chrome devtools, or by downloading the Ayima Page Insights chrome extension.

Go to the Sitemap URL on chrome and see the resulting status code.

For example, HTTP Error: 404 means that the sitemap is not accessible at the provided URL.

Alternatively, in Google Search Console, you have more details on the status code returned when Google fetched the Sitemap.

Sitemap has an Error

Your sitemap may not be properly formatted.

Check your sitemap file and see if it is following Google’s sitemap guidelines.

Sitemap can be read, but has errors

Sometimes, the sitemap can be read but has errors.

URL not allowed

One of such case is when the mention “URL not allowed”.

This may have happened if URLs in your sitemap were pointing to a separate domain that the one where it is hosted.

For example, the sitemap example.com/sitemap.xml contains a URL from another domain like this: https://other-domain.com/path.

This may happen if developers implement cross domain redirections on sitemaps.

example.com/sitemap.xml -> 301 -> https://other-domain.com/sitemap.xml

Sitemap is HTML

You can have a sitemap that is HTMl, but you can’t declare it as an XML sitemap. I have seen this case when a whole folder was redirected to another subfolder during a site migration.

The /blog/sitemap.xml was redirected to /news, thus causing this error.

Missing XML Tag

This may happen when required tags are missing.

The case that I have seen was for a sitemap index, where the index was empty.

The usual structure of a sitemap index is something like:

<sitemapindex ...> 
<sitemap>
<loc>https://www.example.com/sitemap.xml</loc>
<lastmod>...</lastmod>
</sitemap>
</sitemapindex>

The errored sitemap looked like:

<sitemapindex ...></sitemapindex>

Simply, fixed the sitemap and done.

Conclusion

Now, we know what can cause a “Couldn’t fetch – Sitemap could not be read” status on your sitemap. Please share additional cases if you face anything. I’ll be happy to update this post.

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