All website owners should register with Google Webmaster Tools. The benefits of registering your site(s) with Google’s webmaster console are simple but valuable to any site owner. You will receive information on Google’s view of your website — including configuration problems you may otherwise not know about, information on how your site is performing, set index and crawl settings and you will receive communication from Google on search quality issues. In addition, more features are added regularly. Google is the current leader in providing access to tools and information for site owners in this way, but any other search engine’s or aggregator’s tools (Bloglines offers Publisher Tools to manage your site’s feed characteristics as they appear on Bloglines) should be utilized as well.
To participate you require a Google account. If you already have a GMail account or an account with Google for one of their other services, simply sign on at the Google Webmaster tools page. If not, use the Create Google Account link on the page to setup a Google account.
Add a Site
Once you sign in, you need to add a site to your account. You can add more than one site, so if you have multiple sites you can manage them all under a single Google account.
Google does not allow anyone to add a site to his or her account. You must claim the site and prove ownership by being able to modify the site in a manner Google provides. To get started, enter the URL (http://www.mysite.com/) of your site in the text field and click the Add Site button. The site will be added but not verified, which means very limited information on the site will be provided until verification is complete. To verify the site, click the “Verify your site” link.
Verify a Site
On the verification page, you are presented with two choices to verify the site: Add a Meta tag or Upload a HTML file. I find for most users uploading a file is the easier method. After selecting an option, the steps required for verification are displayed. For the HTML file method, copy the filename and create a blank or dummy text file on your local PC. Then using your upload method, copy the file to the root of your web site so the file can be accessed with the URL found in the instructions. If you are using the Meta tag method, edit your site templates or files to insert the Meta tag required. Both the file and the Meta tag must stay in place to maintain verification. This allows a domain to change hands and the new owner to revoke verification from the old owner by removing the file or Meta tag.
To complete the verification process, click Verify. If successful, you will return to the site dashboard page with a successful verification message. If there is a problem, a message describing the problem will appear. It may ask that you wait for the verification process to complete due to connectivity problems with Google’s verification agent. Otherwise, check the file name and Meta tag are correct and accessible anonymously from your browser.
Once you have verified the site you can explore the tools and statistics available on your site. There is a lot of information that is very useful, including query stats that display your search query result position for recent search queries. I will post more on using the Google Webmaster console in a future post.