What To Do If You See This Error - Google Search Console Couldn’t Fetch Sitemap

Mar 20, 2023

Ok, so we’re going techy today. But Google Search Console Couldn’t Fetch Sitemap is an error message I see come up a lot, both in the work I do for my private clients and a question I get a lot from my students.

So today, Im going to talk you through what this error means and how you can fix it.

Or, if you prefer, you can let me talk you through how to get things fixed on YouTube.

Prefer a Video?

First, What Does “Google Search Console Couldn’t Fetch Sitemap” Mean?

By now, you’ll know that Google Search Console is a free web service that allows you to monitor and improve your site's presence in Google search results. 

And that you can submit your sitemap to Google Search Console, which is essentially a list of all the pages on your website, you want Google to crawl and index. 

However, sometimes when submitting your site map, you get an error message that says, "Couldn't fetch sitemap”.  

What that means is that Google can’t access your site map, so it can’t read it.

But Why Can’t Google Fetch My Sitemap?

There can be several reasons why Google Search Console couldn't fetch your sitemap. 

One of the most common reasons is that the sitemap URL needs to be corrected or the sitemap file needs to be in the right format. It is important to ensure that the sitemap URL is accurate and that the sitemap is in the correct XML format. 

Here’s a great article on checking your sitemap’s format.

You also need to make sure that your sitemap is located in the root directory* of your website and that it’s accessible via a direct link.

Another reason Google Search Console couldn't fetch your sitemap could be server errors. 

If the server where the sitemap is located is experiencing issues or is down, Google may not be able to fetch the sitemap. 

It is also possible that the sitemap is too large for Google to fetch. While there is no official limit on the size of a sitemap, it is generally recommended not to exceed 50,000 URLs or 10 MB in size. 

If your sitemap is larger than this, you should split it into multiple smaller sitemaps.

*A Quick Word On Your Root Directory

When I say you need to make sure your sitemap is in your root directory, I mean it needs to be in the top-level folder of your website’s file structure.

It’s really important to put your sitemap in your root directory as this is where search engine crawlers will come to first find to try to find it. 

If you’ve put your site map somewhere else, like a subfolder, Google won’t be able to crawl or index your website very well.

You can put a file in the root directory using a file transfer protocol (FTP) or the file manager provided by your CMS to upload the file to the root directory.

Or It Could Be Your Robots.txt File.

If none of the above reasons applies, you might have an issue with your robots.txt file. 

Remember, the robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which pages on a website should NOT be crawled or indexed. 

If the robots.txt file is blocking Google from accessing the sitemap, you might need to update your robots.txt file to allow access.

Have You Verified Your Website With Google Search Console?

If you haven’t verified your website with Google Search Console, Google will not be able to fetch the sitemap.

Don’t worry; it’s a pretty simple process, but there are a few different ways to do it.

Verification Method One

You add an HTML tag to your website's homepage. To do this, log in to Google Search Console and find the "Verification" page. 

It’s in Settings - Owner Verification.

From there, select the "HTML tag" option and copy the provided tag.

The next step is to add the HTML tag to your website's homepage. This can be done by either directly editing the website's HTML code or by using a plugin or extension provided by your website's content management system (CMS). 

For example, if you’re using WordPress, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin to add the HTML tag.

Once you’ve added the HTML tag, you can go back to the Google Search Console "Verification" page and click the "Verify" button. 

Google will then check to make sure that the HTML tag is present on the homepage, and if so, the website will be verified.

Verification Method Two

Another verification method is to upload an HTML file to your website's root directory. 

This method involves downloading an HTML file provided by Google Search Console and uploading it to your website's server using FTP.

Once the file has been uploaded, you can go back to Google Search Console "Verification" page and click the "Verify" button to complete the process.

More Ways To Verify Your Website

Verification should be automatic if you’re already set up on Google Analytics. Here’s a great article on setting up Google Analytics quickly and painlessly!

You can also use Google Tag Manager or DNS verification, but DNS verification can be a bit tricky, so stick with setting up Google Analytics first or adding the code you’re given to your website’s root directory.

So now you know what to do when you see “Google Search Console Couldn’t Fetch Sitemap.”

It’s not a super tricky thing to fix. Make sure your sitemap is formatted properly, and that you’re using the right file format. 

Then make sure your site is verified with Google Search Console.

And, If there are any other techy things you want clarity on, just let me know in the comments; I’d be super happy to talk you through some of the geekier parts of SEO!

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