Webmaster Tools and WordPress 404

I have Google’s webmaster tools as a gadget on my Google start page.

You have to verify that you control a domain before it Google will tell you stuff like the top search phrases and RSS subscribers and whatnot. When I logged in this morning I noticed that a couple of the domains that I had previously verified by placing a specially named HTML file on the site were now unverified.

“Stupid Google,” I thought to myself. “Why would you forget that I had verified those things?” I was thinking that perhaps it was because I had removed the specially named files and Google wanted to be able to reverify every so often.

Turns out Google was in fact brighter than whoever wrote my WordPress theme.

Every time your web browser gets a page from a webserver there’s a number, called a status code, associated with that transaction that categorizes the type of page that you are getting. If you try to access a page that doesn’t exist on my site you get a cute picture of a puppy. This is all fine and good except the status code that page sends is 200 (“OK”) which isn’t right. The reason Google unverified my site is it realized that my site reported every single page requested as being there rather than returning a 404 (“Not Found”) status for pages don’t exist.

This means that if someone else tried to put my page into webmaster tools and verify it then whatever the special filename that Google gives them would also come back as being present (status 200).

Smart as it is, Google made me fix this. So, I’m sorry Google for my lack of faith.

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