Fixing an invalid sitemap.xml formatting

Building a sitemap in XML or HTML is a fairly simple process now that there are numerous sitemap generators and plugins. However, if your sitemap submission isn’t correctly prepared and uploaded, you may face a lot of issues. Let’s go over some of the most common mistakes and how to fix them so that sitemap submissions to Google webmaster tools are successful.

How to fix invalid sitemap.xml format

Sitemap issues are frequently brought on by the mistaken submission of an HTML page rather than an XML file that has been correctly prepared. However, if your XML sitemap continues to assert that it is an HTML page, you may face a more serious issue. Don’t worry, the problem is typically caused by a conflict with WordPress plugins that can be quickly resolved. 

Here’s how you can get your sitemap back to functioning correctly. 

Examine the page for errors or redirects

If you already know the specific error code you’re looking for, diagnosing the issue will be much simpler. Your initial step should be navigating to the website for your sitemap and checking to see if there are any unique error codes there.

If you visit your sitemap and find an error, Google will interpret this as the presence of an HTML page. But it’s an error that can be used as a tool to assist you in finding a solution to the problem. Checking out the list of HTTP status codes will help you track down the problem so you can choose the best solution.

Disable caching

Caching plugins are a common source of problems. It’s not recommended to save cached copies of XML files in HTML format, which is why Google may experience difficulties when trying to read a sitemap that has been cached.

This is why most caching plugins will not cache your sitemap, but some may do so by accident if you use a custom URL. You can avoid the problem all together by disabling the whole caching plugin. If you add an exception, the problem should go away on its own. You can find instructions on how to do this in your plugin’s documentation.

Get rid of extra sitemaps

In most cases, having multiple active sitemaps isn’t a problem if you’re linking to the right place. However, doing so can occasionally lead to issues or misunderstandings. In addition, your server is using valuable resources by updating multiple unused sitemaps.

Sitemaps can be altered by installing additional plugins, and you might not even realize that WordPress creates one automatically. You need to ensure that none of them are there and then get rid of them until you’re left with the one you want. Try out these URLs on your site to see what works best:

  1. /sitemap.xml — Most sitemap generators use this format, and it’s widely supported.
  2. /wp-sitemap.xml — WordPress automatically generates version 5.5 sitemap.
  3. /sitemap_index.xml — Yoast’s sitemap can be accessed at this URL.

Also, the URL may differ for any SEO or sitemap plugins you’ve installed. Make sure you read the instructions and turn off any sitemap features you don’t need to avoid formatting issues.

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