Yes, don’t ask me how this happened, but I had a customer operating and measuring their SEO effort using multiple Google Webmaster Accounts.
How and when this happened no one truly knows. But today I’ll share with you my best guess at how this confusion took place.
For the last 11 months, I’ve consulted and performed various SEO tasks for a customer. We’ve both used heavily used Google Webmaster Tools to gauge SEO progress as it relates to their efforts and my SEO Audit efforts.
Imagine the shock when I found out that we were not looking at the same webmaster accounts, yet we were viewing 3 separate accounts for their domain.
Yes, it happened and my hope is that this post can prevent it from happening to your website.
It goes without saying that anytime you have a professional or agency of any sort dealing with your website, it’s best to bring all parties to the table for a meeting of the minds.
Everyone needs to be on the same page and have the same expectations when it comes to performing various tasks on the website.
And in the case of SEO, this is truly a case where you want the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing, and vice versa. In this customer’s case, it did not happen this way.
For the longest period of time, I’ve managed the website and SEO efforts for this customer.
But as time progressed, the customer took it upon themselves to bring in other parties here and there based on the recommendations of personal friends and various professional connections.
And here is where things get weird and confusing.
The customer hired or negotiated a working relationship with an individual who possibly created a new Google Webmaster Tools account for the sole purpose of measuring their tasks.
In addition, the customer also engaged with a few SEO and web design agencies, yet it’s not clear that they were at fault.
Regardless of who created the additional Google Webmaster Tools account, it should not have been created without contacting and asking the current overseer or webmaster of the website.
Now I could easily fault both the customer and person involved for not asking the appropriate question of whether a Google Webmaster Tools account already existed.
In actuality, before creating the new webmaster account, both parties could have easily identified and verified an existing webmaster tools account by looking at the head in the source code and noticing the google-site-verification meta tag.
<meta name="google-site-verification" content="LongAlphaNumericString" />
In addition, both parties could have checked the root directory of the website for HTML file upload or even checked the domain name provider to see if a TXT record existed. They could have also used Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager to verify the webmaster tools account.
But neither party elected to do so, and the person created a second account for the same domain that already had an existing account, going on for quite some time undetected.
You may be wondering how could such a thing go undetected for so long? Well, I’m glad you asked or at least share the thought.
Little did I realize, but my original webmaster account for the customer was verified using the google-site-verification meta tag while the other party had used the TXT method.
Both accounts were able to be verified by Google because they both met the criteria of having their respective tags associated with the domain.
In my humble opinion, this is where I think that Google Webmaster Tools should have alerted both parties involved, myself and the other person, of our website being registered with 2 different accounts. But this alerting did not happen.
How I found the domain to be registered with 2 different Google Webmaster Tools accounts
Inadvertently, the customer and I figured out when the customer was trying to explain to me that in their webmaster account there were two listings for their website.
There was a website registration for the non www. (e.g., domain.com) and www. (e.g., www.domain.com) versions in their webmaster tools account. I was a bit baffled by their statement as I only saw one www. registration in my webmaster account.
So, as I usually do when customers are attempting to explain things to me, I fired up a GoToMeeting and had the customer walk me through the steps of how they arrived at non www. and www. versions in their webmaster tools account.
And to my surprise, there they were, present as ever, both the non www. and www. versions.
Seeing my account and their account really baffled me as well as allowed the fog to begin to clear. This customer’s SEO has greatly suffered over the last year or so.
One may think that having multiple Google Webmaster Tools accounts may be one reason why traffic greatly suffered. I personally don’t believe so. If it were by a long shot, it would be a minor consideration.
The interesting thing about each instance is that they all showed different data when it came down to search queries, search impressions, sitemaps, crawl errors, etc. Nothing matched at any given point throughout reviewing each metric and its respective data.
After identifying multiple accounts, I instructed the customer that we eliminate unneeded instances of their website.
Long story short, we removed my original account and the non www. version of their website. All is well and happily verified for the time being.
Over the course of a week after identifying this gaping mistake, I’ve noticed a positive change in their website metrics in regards to queries, impressions, submission of a sitemap and crawl indicators.
In the midst of straightening out their duplicate webmaster tools account, we’ve also migrated their website from a manual website to a WordPress website.
In closing, we’ll keep an eye on their SEO metrics in the weeks and months to come. When we do, we’ll be doing so from one webmaster tools account and not multiple webmaster tools accounts.