Saturday, 19 November 2005

Google Sitemaps: how to verify Blogspot or other blogs?

How can you verify a Blogspot (Blogger) blog, or some other blog, on Google Sitemaps, if you can't upload files to the blog server? You can't, yet. There's the rub. So, I think we should all hassle Google until we can. Read on...

I've provided a howto before (with a shorter step by step summary on Google Sitemaps) on getting some of the benefits of Google Sitemaps (like being able to ping Google to reindex your blog when you update it), even if you find it hard to create a sitemap or can't upload anything to your blog's server. You just submit the URL of your site feed to Sitemaps (and all blog platforms worth their salt should provide a newsfeed for your blog).

But there are two main gotchas to that, which I've explained in my previous posts:
  • Your feed - ideally your feed should be as full as possible, with all the links in your post visible in your feed, especially links to other parts of your blog - and not be just a summary feed or extracts (so you would be well advised to tweak your Blogger feed settings to make sure the Blogger Atom feed is a full feed (a step by step is in my previous post under "Checking your feed"); give the URL of that Atom feed to Sitemaps; but use Feedburner to provide a summary feed to your subscribers (login to Feedburner, click the Optimize tab, then Summary Burner, fill in what you want and Activate it)). Reason: as Google say, "Generally, a syndication feed does not include all URLs, so if you want to use the feed to let Google know about all URLs in your site, you may need to adjust your feed settings. If your feed includes only recent URLs, Google can still use that information to find out about other pages on your site during its normal crawling process by following links inside pages in the feed." (yes, Google can still find other pages, but it's quicker and more efficient if their links are in your feed).
  • Verification - to verify your blog on Sitemaps, you have to upload to your blog server a special file created by Sitemaps. But with Blogspot and many other blogging platforms, you're not allowed to upload files to your blog server. So you can't upload a verification file to verify your blog with Sitemaps.


What's the point of "verifying" your blog anyway? Well, verification is not essential if you just want to ping Google to get them to crawl your new posts, but it's A Good Thing if you can have it because it lets you see more detailed Google stats and other info about your site. As Google say:

If your site is not verified...

You can view:

  • Sitemap details and errors
  • Indexing information about your site

If your site is verified...

You can view:

  • Sitemap details and errors
  • Indexing information about your site
  • Query stats about your site
  • Crawl stats about your site
  • Page analysis of your site
  • URLs from your site we were unable to crawl, and why we couldn't crawl them
Now here's the daft thing. Blogger is owned by Google, yes? Everyone knows that. And the Google Sitemaps blog even has a plug for Blogger (right hand side of the page, scroll down), with a "Start your own weblog" link and that familiar orangey Blogger button. However, with Blogger, if you use their own Blogspot servers to host your blog, instead of your own (which I think the majority of us do), you're not allowed to upload anything to their servers (except images, and even then they're not uploaded to any URL that bears any resemblance to your blog URL, not even a sub-directory). But - BUT - do Google tweak Sitemaps so that Blogspot users can upload some special image (say), or tweak Blogger so that Blogspot users are allowed to upload a verification html file or some other special file (text?) to a particular location on Blogspot, that enables Blogspot users to verify their blogs and get access to all those tasty stats? You know the answer to that question, don't you… joined up thinking on Google's part, NOT!
Yes, you can still get limited stats for an unverified blog (but you could get that without submitting a sitemap, anyway - I may as well post about that, watch out for one shortly). Yes, you can get far more detailed stats now via the free Google Analytics, which I'm currently testing and will review (with translations into non-marketing jargon!) when I have enough reports for a proper look and comparison with Statcounter. But that's not the point.

Lobby Google, bend their ear!

John of Freshblog posted specifically about this problem recently. All Blogspot bloggers, and bloggers on other platforms which don't allow access to their servers other than to post text and images, will I am sure share this view. So, let's do something about it. Let's bend Google's ear until it - well, not breaks, we should after all be peaceful and non-violent, but at least until they listen! The more bloggers who hassle Google about it, the more likely they are to fix this so they can shut us up. If you think that might work, here's what you could do:
If you use a blogging platform other than Blogger where you can't upload files to your server either, then start a campaign to lobby Google about your particular platform!

And hopefully if enough of us do this, they'll be more likely to do something about the verification problem for bloggers.

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TheRaven said...

Hi, Great blog. I have been struggling with google for verification on my blogHome Business Money Making Answer and finally ended up here. Thank you for your info. I have exhausted my patience and have made this appartent to google. It has been a long process to come to find out about the idiocinqrecies caused by googles sitemap generation process. Thanks again, I shall return when my frustration subsides.

Improbulus said...

Thanks TheRaven, I'm glad it's helped a bit. As I said, the main thing seems to be to lobby Google/Blogger to change things, unless someone can think up some other way for us to verify our blogs! And look forward to your return. :)

david said...

Is there a way to get the Blogger feed to include links? Submitting the feed to Sitemaps doesn't do much good if there are no links on the feed leading to other parts of your blog.

Stuart Ressler, M.D. said...

Hi, Re verification, I just created a post with the verification code as the title. e.g. (imaginary code)

This way I got at least the subdirectory verified which is nice because I have a lot of posts there. I suppose you could do this for all your subdirectories, but not for the main directory. let's hope will provide a solution soon.

Dr. Joshua

Stuart Ressler, M.D. said...

Oh...It seems that it still demands verification at root level, but I'm getting some stats though.


Improbulus said...

Very cool Joshua. Are you getting more stats than before the verification, at least for those particular subdirectories?

I notice though that you don't have your archive pages online. For who do, unless they figure out a way to hide it, the blank post with the verification code as the title would be visible to anyone viewing the archive page. Which of course you don't want.

Also, even for those who don't display links to their archive pages, they're still automatically published by Blogger unless you've picked Never in your Dashboard Archiving Settings - and they follow a standard syntax so they could be viewed by someone who knows how (and therefore again they'd see your verification post and code).

Good on you for thinking of it though and I'm glad it works for you. Would still be interested in the detail of the extra stats you're getting for those subdirectories if you've time to share.

Improbulus said...

David, sorry, I completely missed your comment before. New posts get picked up because they'll be on the main page of your submitted feed, of course.

As for old posts, one way is to link in the body of your new posts to your other posts. Also, don't forget that Google's regular spider won't stop indexing your blog just because you've submitted a sitemap, so links to older posts can get picked up that way at least.

Stuart Ressler, M.D. said...

Hi, thanks for the response, I'm working on it and I'll be in touch if I get somewhere with it :)

Dr Joshua

Improbulus said...

Cheers and look forward to hearing more from you, Dr Joshua.

Saffa Dude said...

Sitemaps updated today and you can now verify via a meta tag...

Improbulus said...

Great Saffa Dude, thanks! I've posted about it now, here.