We were recently beset by a sudden, MASSIVE drop in the number of search referrals from Google. We then discovered that Google was no longer able to access our sitemaps, and it was all because of one CloudFlare SSL setting.
It is critical that you check and make sure this CloudFlare SSL setting is not preventing Google from reading your sitemaps, and costing you valuable referrals.
In addition to its awesome free caching service, CloudFlare also offers a free SSL service. Just make sure you don’t make the same mistakes we did, and prevent Google from reading your sitemaps!
How Serious Are Sitemap Problems?
Sitemap problems are HUGE, because they greatly sap the number of people who visit your website from a Google search. When we started having sitemap problems, the number of unique visitors to Tech ARP was instantly halved.
How does that happen?
- Your website pages no longer appear in Google searches. If Google can’t see them, Google cannot display your pages in search results!
- Even if your website pages do appear in Google searches, the links may be corrupt or nonsensical. Look at this example of this search result which leads to a bad link.
- The description of your website page may also be nonsensical, as the example above also demonstrates.
This CloudFlare SSL Setting Blocks Access To Sitemaps!
The CloudFlare SSL setting that blocks access to our sitemaps was Always use HTTPS.
The second we enabled Always use HTTPS, Google reports that all of our sitemaps are inaccessible. Here is a view showing all five of our sitemaps were inaccessible.
If you click on the reported errors, they will all show HTTP 403 error (Forbidden).
The solution is simple.
- Log into your CloudFlare account, and select the affected website domain.
- Click on the Crypto icon at the top.
- Scroll down the Crypto page, and look for Always use HTTPS (usually the 5th option)
- Click on the slider to the Off position.
That’s it! Google Search will now be able to read your sitemaps!
Google will eventually read your sitemaps and reindex your website. But you can speed things along by :
Both guides were written with help from Kok Kee from Nasi Lemak Tech!
- How To Detect + Fix Sitemap Problems In Google Search Console
- How To Reindex Your Website Using Google Search Console