Google Search Console 'No Referring Sitemaps Detected' Issue - How to Fix

Written by Ryan Jones. Updated on 31, January 2024

When working on a website, whether it is your own site or a client site, you may come across the "No Referring Sitemaps Detected" issue within your Google Search Console 'Page Indexing' report.

This is a common error, but it can be very concerning for a first-time user or someone who has not come across the error before.

In this article, we will take you through what this issue is and how to fix it. We will also answer some of the web's most common questions on this issue. All to give you the information you need to tackle this issue, head on.


What is the 'No Referring Sitemaps Detected' Issue?

Essentially, Google will throw the "No Referring Sitemaps" error whenever they come across a page that is not actively shown in the sitemap that Google Search Console has on record for your website.

This can happen on pages that are non-indexed, shown here:

Example of a page not indexed that doesn't have a sitemap referencing it.

Image Credit: support.google.com

It can also happen on pages that are indexed and shown on Google SERPs, shown here:

Page that doesn't have a sitemap referencing it is still indexed by Google.

So, whilst forum discussions may lead you to believe that this is an error, your rankings are going to drop and you need to fix this right away.

This is the wrong way to think of this.

The "No Referring Sitemaps Detected" message is less of an error and more of a warning from Google, telling you that your page does not appear in your website's sitemap.

How to Fix the Issue

The simple answer to this questions is... Add the page to your sitemap. But the answer is a little more nuanced than that.

If your page is indexed in search results, ranking well and converting traffic into paid customers. Do you need to add this page to your sitemap just to stop this message from displaying? It is really down to your personal preference.

If your page is not indexed in search results, adding the page to your sitemap is one of the quickest and easiest ways to tell Google... "Hey, I think this page is high-quality and useful to the user, you should consider indexing it and ranking it so people can see it in the SERPs." So adding the page to your sitemap should, probably, be your top priority if you are seeing this message displayed and your page is not currently being indexed by Google.

Let's use the example from before:

Example of a page not indexed that doesn't have a sitemap referencing it.

Image Credit: support.google.com

We can see from the image that the page has thrown the "Crawled - currently not indexed" error. Because of this, we know that Google has crawled the page but decided not to index it.

Adding this page to our website's sitemap is a great way to show Google we think this page is important. And you may find that adding this page to your sitemap is enough to get Google to index the page.

If you add this page to your sitemap and you are still having trouble getting the page indexed, it may be time to consider a content refresh to make the page more useful to your website visitors.

'No Referring Sitemaps Detected' FAQs

What does 'No Referring Sitemaps Detected' mean?

Whenever you see the "No Referring Sitemaps Detected" error/message within Google Search Console, whether you are seeing it on an indexed page or a non-indexed page, it means Google cannot find this page on your sitemap.

Why can't Google fetch my sitemap?

If you are seeing an error in the 'Sitemaps' section of your Google Search Console letting you know that it cannot fetch your sitemap, it will look like this:

Google Search Console cannot fetch sitemap example.

Image Credit: support.wix.com

This means that Google has tried to crawl your sitemap but could not access it properly to read the content.

This may happen if your sitemap URL has been formatted incorrectly. If you look at the "Submitted sitemaps" sectgion, does the URL path for your sitemap say "/sitemap.xml" and not another URL like "/homepage" or "/index"? If so, fix the URL and try again.

It's also worth noting that, since sitemaps are formed from a .xml file and are not a HTML page on a website, these files can sometimes become corrupted. If you are trying to upload a broken/corrupted XML sitemap to Google Search Console, it is not going to be able to fetch it.

Sometimes Google has issues crawling your sitemap through no fault of your own. This is more common on larger websites with large sitemaps, or multiple sitemaps. If this happens and your sitemap URL is formatted correctly, give it some time and try again. You may find that Google can fetch your sitemap without issue on this occasion.

Should I delete old sitemaps from Google Search Console?

Whilst it is possible to delete old sitemaps from Google Search Console, and the process is quick and easy, it is worth noting that deleting old sitemaps from Google Search Console will not stop the process of Google crawling, indexing and ranking those URLs that were originally in the sitemap.

If you are thinking of deleting a sitemap from GSC in order to stop Google's process of crawling and ranking your URLs, you need to do this with noindex tags, either within your sitemap or on the pages themselves. This is a much more efficient way of getting Google to stop crawling your web pages.

The "No referring sitemaps detected" issue in Google Search Console may seem daunting at first, but with the right understanding and actions, it can be easily resolved. We have discussed what the issue is, why it actually might not be an issue at all and how you can stop the message appearing on your page indexing report.

If you are looking for a tool that will help you make more of your Google Search Console data, in order to improve organic traffic for your website, consider giving SEOTesting a try. We are currently offering a free, 14-day trial, with no credit card required.