Recently, Google temporarily dropped my blog from its search results. Since over 75% of my traffic comes from first-time users who find the site through search results, this effectively caused a two-day “outage” for my site.
As I tried to understand why my blog was not findable in Google, I realized that it would have been helpful to have Google Webmaster Tools set up on my hosted web site.
This post describes how to set up Google Webmaster Tools for a blog hosted on a remote server managed by a service provider, such as bluehost.
In the examples below, I discuss using bluehost but I believe the procedure will work on any service provider.
Google drops my blog
At the end of February, my domain name registrar suspended my blog’s domain. I did not notice the problem until two days after it started. I figured out the problem and my registrar re-activated my domain.
After re-activating my site, everything appeared to be working normally for two days. Then, on the third day, my site disappeared from Google search results.
My blog returned to its former position in Google search results after two more days. I do not know why Google dropped my blog for two days but I suspect it was a delayed reaction to my site being down for two days.
Solving the technical issue with my domain name was relatively straightforward. But, I did not know how to determine why my site was erased from Google’s search results.
Why use Webmaster Tools?
Google Webmaster Tools can tell me if Google believes there is a problem with my site. Some issues, such as malware hosted on the site, may cause Google to drop the site from search results.
Also, Google Webmaster Tools provides useful information about the way users find my blog, the keywords they use to search, and the position in which my blog appears in Google when users search for keywords.
Google Webmaster Tools
To set up the webmaster tools, go to the Google Webmaster Tools website and log in with your Google ID (the same credentials you used for Gmail). If you do not have a Google ID, create one by creating a Gmail account.
Click on the Add a Site link.
Enter the URL of the site you’d like to manage.
Verify the website
Google Webmaster Tools required that I verify that the URL I entered is for my web site.
Webmaster tools will recommend a verification method. Depending on how your site is configured and what Google services you already use, it recommends what it determines is the most appropriate method. But, any of the supported methods will work.
In my case, I used the HTML file upload method. Google provided a customized HTML file that I loaded into the top-level directory on my site so that Google could fine the file at the URL it expects. This provided Google with verification that I own the site I registered.
To download the file, I clicked on the link shown in Step #1 of the instructions.
Google uses a filename made up of random numbers and letters. In this post, I will use the fake file name, googlefakeverifycode.html, in my examples.
Upload verification file to managed web site
Now the question is: how to load the file into my site’s top-level directory? I use bluehost to host my WordPress blog but have not, until now, needed to use FTP to upload a file to my hosted server.
Bluehost provides good support and instructions on their web site. I used Filezilla as my FTP client and found the instructions provided by bluehost at:
What is your FTP userID?
Log into your bluehost account and click on the “FTP” icon in the top menubar.
Scroll to the bottom of the page to see your default FTP account. This is your userid. Your password is the same as the password for your bluehost account.
In Filezilla, open the Site Manager and create a new site. In my case, I called the site “BlueHost”. Enter the userid and password into FileZilla and log in using the “Connect” button.
To place the file in your top-level directory so the URL of the file is, for example, www.brianlinkletter.com/googlefakeverifycode.html, navigate to the public_html file in your BlueHost account. In the local folder on your computer, select the HTML verification file you received from Google.
The file will be uploaded to the public_html directory on your web site.
Confirm the HTML verification file is uploaded
Confirm the download by clicking on the URL in the third step of the Google Webmaster Tools verification instructions.
The browser will display the text in the google verification file, which will look something like:
Then click on the red “VERIFY” button at the bottom of the google verification window.
You will see a notification that says you have successfully verified your ownership of your web site. Click on “Continue”.
Now you see the Google Webmaster Tools default page.
Using Google Webmaster Tools
I verified that Google has not identified any serious problems with my site. These tools provide a lot of functionality so I need to spend some more time investigating how Google Webmaster Tools can help me manage my blog.
One of the more interesting webmaster tools shows me the keywords that users type when they find my site in the Google search engine. On the Google Webmaster Tools home page, click on Search Traffic, then Search Queries to see the keywords that Google users search for when they see your site in Google.
Now my site is registered with Google Webmaster Tools. The next time I have a problem with the site, I will have another useful resource to help me debug the problem.