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Sitemap Error - Google is rejecting my Sitemaps

 6:12 am on Dec 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi all.

Tonight I noticed that my site has fallen rather far from its #1 result in Google. So I went looking for the cause, and it seems to be my Sitemaps (both index and regular format) as they are returning:

Unsupported file format
Your Sitemap does not appear to be in a supported format. Please ensure it meets our Sitemap guidelines and resubmit.

For several years now my Sitemaps have been created automatically and submitted automatically to GWT. I have not modified my script in all that time. I looked at the Sitemaps themselves and the format is absolutely perfect Sitemap Protocol 0.9 format.

So I deleted them from GWT and resubmitted them. Same error as above.

Has something changed in the last few days with how GWT processes Sitemaps?

Here's an examplified Sitemap index:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<sitemapindex xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">

Thanks in advance for any advice you all can offer. I am in full-panic mode right now cause I've worked so hard to get my site to the #1 spot.



 7:49 am on Dec 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

Sitemap errors, on their own, do not cause ranking problems. Sitemaps are only an added help to Google's normal crawling, indexing and ranking - and not every site has them by a long shot.

I'd suspect something about your server config has changed - such as MIME types, possibly? At any rate, something is affecting the indexing of your regular pages as well as your Sitemaps.

[edited by: tedster at 8:18 pm (utc) on Dec. 4, 2008]


 3:36 pm on Dec 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

I figured since Googlebot is accustomed to getting Sitemap updates at least once an hour it might be "disappointed" it wasn't getting them anymore. I'll have my sysadmin look into the issue. I was hoping it was something I could resolve without him thinking I'd messed something up again. :)

ADDED: Ted, I just remembered to look at the Web crawl page of GWT. There are no crawl errors. All the ones I mentioned in the other thread you replied to are gone. So it would seem Google isn't having a problem crawling this site.

[edited by: GaryK at 4:03 pm (utc) on Dec. 4, 2008]


 5:48 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

Ted, I created a new account with GWT and my sitemaps are no longer throwing errors. Have you ever heard of an account being the cause of something like this? Any idea who I report this to at GWT?


 6:40 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'd start with the regular Reconsideration Request from within the WMT account. You can also start a thread at the Google Groups.


 6:51 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

I didn't see the Reconsideration Request at first. :o


 3:18 am on Dec 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

What turned up to be the reason? I am always interested in maintaining my FAQ about sitemaps and problems related to them.


 4:46 am on Dec 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

I haven't heard from Google yet.

My sitemaps are still working fine.

I'm not sure it's related, but my site has started its rise back to--hopefully--the number one spot it used to reside at. Rather quickly too. Almost too fast to be related to just the sitemap issue. However, I haven't made any changes that could account for the change. Neither has my sysadmin. It doesn't appear my competitors have either.

Site was at #4 when I checked yesterday. At one time it wasn't even on page one.

I don't think there's enough evidence to state definitively that my error-throwing sitemap negatively affected rank, but it does seem to suggest that might be the case.

Sitemap works fine, site is at #1. Sitemap goes wonky, site drops like a rock. Sitemap returns, site starts a dramatic rise in the results.

So perhaps a sitemap in and of itself doesn't affect rank, but having one and then losing it might affect rank.

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