Google Alters Site Verification in Webmaster Tools

    October 2, 2009
    Chris Crum

Google has made some changes to the way Webmaster Tools users verify their websites.

Before, the user’s verification meta tag was based (partially) on the email address of their Google account, which meant that if they changed the email address in their account settings, their meta tags would also change, and they’d become unverified for any sites that used the old tag. Google has made a new version of the verification meta tag, which is unrelated to the email address to prevent this from happening.

Google has also changed the way it handles verification by HTML file. In the past, if a user’s site returned an HTTP status code besides 404 for URLs that didn’t exist, they wouldn’t be able to use the file verification method.

"A properly configured web server will return 404 for non-existent URLs, but it turns out that a lot of sites have problems with this requirement," explains Google software engineer, Sean Harding.

Google has simplified the file verification process, eliminating the checks for non-existent URLs. Now users can just download the HTML file Google provides and upload it to their site without modification. Google checks the contents of the file, and if they’re right, no further action is required.

Verification Method

"We hope these changes will make verification a little bit more pleasant," says Harding. "If you’ve already verified using the old methods, don’t worry! Your existing verifications will continue to work. These changes only affect new verifications."

Sites and software that have features, which help you verify ownership by adding the meta tag or file for you may need to be updated, Google says. The company also says it is working on further changes to the website verification process. In the future, they will begin showing the email address of all verified owners of a given site to the other verified owners of that site.