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Thursday, May 8, 2014

problems verifying your old blog in Google Webmaster Tools? Maybe you made the following mistake

Verifying one's new blog in Google Webmaster Tools an easy process, as it happens automatically (or at least is supposed to take place automatically. I've heard stories). But Doing this with an old blog is a simple process, and thus I was surprised to receive a phone call from an exhausted friend, complaining that he has been trying to verify his blog with Google Webmaster Tools for several hours, and whatever he did, the verification process failed. 

As we started the investigative process together, it turned out that the blog was already verified, under a domain name (he decided to give up, having seen that a "real" domain did not bring him any more traffic than "blogspot.com" domains. easier, as it happens automatically upon creation). Blogging being a hobby of his, he completely forgot about the issue of Google Webmaster Tools, and was reminded by it when he received automated email from the Google Webmaster Tools, informing him that Googlebot was unable to access his blog using the old domain. 

Being a very direct fellow, he deleted the old blog from the Webmaster Tools, and created the new one, only to be confronted with the issue of verification. 

  • He first tried the recommended option. He added a meta tag to hos home page, editing the HTML code (you go to template and press the "EDIT HTML" button). The verification failed.
  • Therefore, he tried one of the alternative verification options. He first tried uploading an HTML file with a specified name to blogger, and discovered the endless hassle that this method requires. This hassle is resulted first because of the techniques required if you need to proved access via an html address that is imposed by Google Webmaster Tools, under the root of the website. But it is also resulted by Blogger's automatic formatting of the code, making identification of the verification code rather difficult, as the code is encased with a plethora of unnecessary tags.  At the end of his efforts, the verification understandably failed.
  • Having spent significant time on this apparently simple technical issue, he decided to try a third method, hoping that this would be the lucky one. Sadly, Adding the Google Analytics code to the heading of the website did not help. (Yes, unlike Analytics regular code, which should be added to the bottom of a page due to performance considerations, for verification purposes Google requires this piece of code to be added at the head section. Go figure).  The verification failed. 
Frustrated, with none of the methods working, he called me, complaining about the horrible evening he was having. All he wanted was just to blog. Why is he hunted by technical issues? Is it bad Karma from previous life? Or maybe the vengeful actions of an angry deity he has insulted somehow? 

I started by trying to understand why the recommended option did not work. In my experience, getting back to the beginning is usually the fastest path to a happy end. 

It took me two minutes of viewing the code, scratching my head and experimenting to identify the problem. 

What I saw was that he entered the following code: 

Whereas he should have done the following: 

His failure to realize the importance of placing the meta code withing the "<head> </head>" section, and instead placing it above it, was the cause of the problem.

Now, if you are a person of a technical orientation, you have surely experienced this somewhat Super-Hero like intervention. You are called to assist in a problem, you come, immediately identify the error and voilĂ ! things work. 

After a grateful departure, I tried, as I usually do, to think about two aspects of the situation my friend got into: (1) How was the problem created? (2) Why was I able to solve it so quickly. 

The answer to both is extremely simple. (1) You need to understand what you are doing. (2) You need to be able to actually see things. 

Sometimes simplicity is not enough. When I write that you need to understand what you are doing, I mean that you have to be conscious of your actions. My friend has the technical know-how. 
He just happened to try and do things as quick as possible, and therefore did not concentrate enough to realize he was making a mistake. This is the root of all evil in any form of technical work. God is in the details. You must be concentrated. 

When I write that you need to be able to actually see things, I am talking of this form of technical blindness that sometimes attacks one, being to distracted by other things. You write code, or set things up in a certain way, and afterwards, are unable to actually see what is wrong. In such cases the best cure is one of the greatest advantages of team work: the fresh look.