Now that you’ve created a sitemap and submitted it to the Google search console, you got an error message saying:
Your Sitemap appears to be an HTML page. Please use a supported sitemap format instead.
From that message, you can see that your sitemap is just an HTML page in the eyes of Google crawlers. So, instead of finding an XML page, Googlebot finds the HTML page that’s different from the supported format he wants.
Now let’s fix the problem and see how it works.
First, make sure to test your blog or website sitemap with this online tool. All you need is to enter your exact sitemap URL and click the validate at the bottom of that page. In general, you’ll see an invalid XML format. These are the solutions to fix the problem with Google Search Console.
Disable caching your XML sitemap
WordPress caching plugins create a cached copy of your XML sitemap. So, with that cache, they add optimizations, and sometimes, they minify the XML and things like that. In other words, these tools can save the wrong file cache because of the optimization.
To solve that problem, you need to exclude the sitemap page from the cache option, and then, clear the WordPress cache completely. So, if you’re using a popular plugin, you’ll find options like filters, or exclude caching pages in their settings. That works for popular plugins like W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, WP Rocket, HyperCache, and others.
In W3 Total Cache, for example, you can exclude the sitemap cache by clicking on “Page Cache” under “Performance”. Then, scroll until you see the option “Never cache the following pages”. Next, add your sitemap to the list. If you’re using the Google XML sitemap plugin, add sitemap.xml and if you’re using the Yoast plugin for XML sitemap, add sitemap_index.xml and save the changes, then, clear the cache.
Please note, if you’re using Sitemaps for videos, images, or authors, add them to your main sitemap. You can also purge the CDN completely if you’re using one.
You can also create a user-agent group for Googlebot, but that’s not guaranteed to work. So, I prefer disabling the XML cache to avoid errors and warnings in your Google console account.
If you’re using the HyperCache WordPress plugin, you’ll find URL reject options.
For WP Rocket users, they can find the option under “Advanced Settings” in the WP Rocket menu in the WordPress dashboard. They can add their sitemap URL in the “Never cache the following pages” box.
Use the default style sheet option
By default, the Google XML sitemaps generator plugin uses its stylesheet file to make the page look good. But for many reasons, users can disable that option by mistake. So, the plugin will show a correct XML file, but without any formatting or styling option. That’s why, when you click your XML sitemap URL in the browser, you’ll see a page full of lines with a warning on the top like this message:
This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it
The XML will look like the following example:
Now, to fix the problem, use the WordPress admin area menu, and click on XML-Sitemaps under Settings. Next, scroll a little under Basic Options, and check the option “use default” as the following screenshot I’ve created.
Finally, click the “Update Options” button and everything will work again. Clear your browser cache, and do the same for your WordPress cache, and test the XML again.
If you’re using another plugin, contact their support and ask for their stylesheet option if needed.
The above solution will work for the majority of WordPress users. But with many complications in server settings and plugins, the problem can be caused by other things. So, add your own solution in the comment section below and let others solve their problem. The XML sitemap is one of the best ways to let Google, and other search engines crawl your site better. Without a valid sitemap format, Googlebot can’t find all your posts, and pages and crawl them.