Sitemap Could Not Be Read (A SEO’s Guide)

I am pretty sure all of us have faced sitemap issues at least once in our lives.

And I personally know how annoying and frustrating it can be when your sitemap works just fine but Google keeps throwing up errors.

In this post, I’ll quickly go over why your sitemap could not be read and some of the other variations of Google Search Console sitemap errors.

Plus, I’ll show you how to troubleshoot this issue and some of the methods that worked for me 🚀.


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What Causes The Sitemap Could Not Be Read Error?

Let’s go over some of the variations of the Sitemap that could not be errors and see what they mean. You can read the entire list of sitemap errors here.

General HTTP Error

This error means the Google bot was not able to fetch or view the sitemap. So something is blocking it or the server was unable to fulfill the request for some reason.

403 is the most common error code, but it could also be 404 and other 4xxx errors.

Sitemap Can Be Read But Has Errors

This error means there’s something wrong with the code and format of your sitemap. Google was able to fetch the sitemap, but it contains issues that prevent Google from fully understanding.

Some common errors that fall under this category include

  • Missing XML tags
  • URL not allowed
  • Sitemap is in HTML
  • Invalid date, etc.

Couldn’t Fetch

This is the most common sitemap error and this means it’s still pending 99% of the time. Give it some time and it will show up as Successful.

How To Fix Sitemap Could Not Be Read Error

Now you know what the errors mean, let’s try to troubleshoot them.

I am going to give you a rundown of the usual troubleshooting process and a few rather controversial ways to fix the sitemap that could not be read error.

1 Check If The Sitemap Format Is Valid

First up, check if there are any errors in your sitemap XML code. You can use a tool like XML-sitemaps to get it validated.

If it shows any errors – fix them. If you get “Sitemap is valid” as the output you are good to go and there are no code issues.

2 Check If The Google Crawler Can Access The Sitemap

Next, you need to check if the bots can view your sitemap. You can check this on GSC.

  • Copy the sitemap URL and paste it on the URL inspection search bar and press enter.
  • It’s going to show “URL is not on Google” (Yes, you don’t want this indexed).
  • Click on “Test live URL” on the top.
  • This will return the test info. It’s going to show “URL is not available to Google” (again, we don’t want this indexed). Scroll down to the “Crawl” section.

Now, this is the important part – both the Crawl allowed and Page fetch should be “Yes” and “Successful”.

Check If The Google Crawler Can Access The Sitemap

If that’s not the case on your site, it means something is blocking the bot from viewing your sitemap – which is the reason why your sitemap cannot be read.

I saw that some people had robots.txt rules to block Google from crawling it, whereas some had Cloudflare and other third-party firewall blocking.

They didn’t do it on the purpose of course, but meddling with settings they don’t know probably caused the issue.

Google will show the error code if it’s something like the “General HTTP error” or else you have to use Chrome dev tools to view it as Google bot to find the status code.

After that start troubleshooting – or just message your host and ask them to fix it if it’s something that can be fixed on their end. Remember, it could be your CDN or firewall too.

3 Ditch Yoast

During my research, I saw that most of the people with sitemap errors seem to have Yoast as their SEO/sitemap plugin.

I don’t know if there is a connection for sure, but it wouldn’t hurt to try right? After all, Yoast is just bloatware without many features other SEO plugins offer.

I suggest switching to Rankmath. I never faced any sitemap issues in the 50+ sites I used it on.

4 Don’t Use Custom Sitemaps

Unless you know what you are doing, don’t use separate sitemap plugins or custom-generated sitemaps just because some ‘guru’ said that – especially if you are a beginner.

Also, read our Social Fortress SEO guide

There’s a higher chance of syntax errors which can lead to errors like the “sitemap can be read but has errors”.

Again, just use Rankmath if you are a beginner.

5 Submit Post / Page Sitemaps Individually

This is something that has actually worked for me a few times a few years back when I kept getting a “couldn’t fetch” error. But I didn’t know tech SEO back then and I never tried troubleshooting properly.

I read this somewhere on a forum and I tried it and it worked lol.

If you load up your sitemap URL, you’ll see that there are separate sitemaps for pages, products, categories, posts, etc..

Pro Tip 🔥 Copy the URLs of these and submit each sitemap individually into the GSC (only do the posts and pages if you have a content site). There’s a chance these will get fetched.

What If None Of These Work?

If by any chance all of these fail, don’t feel bad as you can still use the URL inspection tool to get your stuff indexed. Unless you post a ton of articles or products, you can use the inspection tool along with good internal linking to index new posts.

To be honest, I always use the URL inspection tool after I publish a new post (on sites that I care about), and most of the time when I inspect the URL later, I see it wasn’t even discovered in the sitemap yet.

It shows“indexed not submitted in sitemap”, so basically the sitemap did nothing.

Bottom Line

I hope that at least one of these works for you. Overall, just give it time and eventually, the sitemap will be read!

If not please leave a comment or send us a message with all the details of how the sitemap was generated if you had anything else, and the exact error GSC shows, and I’ll help you out.

About Author

Lito James is the founder of He is an entrepreneur and marketing specialist who helps businesses to get more leads, subscribers, and customers. Massive Peak has been featured on G2, Cloudways, Sujanpatel, GetResponse, Renderforest, and many more. Follow on LinkedIn | Twitter

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