Webmaster Tools Site Versions: It Just Works.


Google recently announced that they added more precise data in webmaster tools. The announcement highlighted the ability to track secure (https) versions of a site and also cast a light on a webmaster’s ability to track subdomains and subdirectories.

In their documentation Google provided examples of the types of URLs you can add.


Webmaster tools provides a lot of options for verifying a website. But for most webmasters, there is no need to verify each additional URLs you want to track. Google will recognize that you have already verified the root domain and apply that verification when you add an https, subdomain or subdirectory.

I tested this with several sites by creating webmaster profiles for https, subdomains, and subdirectories of a root domain. Some information was available automatically, but it seems it will take time to see indexation, query, and error data.

It’s important to note that breaking down your site like this does not change how Google crawls or indexes your site, only how they report data in webmaster tools. The root domain will still report aggregate data. Adding other versions of the site will only report on the activity within that version. Because Google made it very clear that verified versions of your site will not be indexed or crawled differently, I don’t see a need to submit sitemaps to each of the versions you create. If you have a need to create multiple versions in webmaster tools, then you also have a need for multiple sitemaps. The best way for you to implement that is via a Sitemap index.

The best example of why you would segment your site like this relates to international versions of a website. Segmenting like this allows you to gain a better understanding of the site’s health in different countries, differences in landing pages, and geo-specific keywords data.

I would love to hear from some SEOs working with international and https clients about their use of multiple versions in webmaster tools. Tweet or comment.


For more information about the topics referenced in this article, please see the links below.
Webmaster Tools Original Press Release
How to Choose a Verification Method
How to Change Your Verification Method
Sitemap Formats and Guidelines
SSL Sites Don’t Get a Rankings Boost

Sean McQuaide is a Senior Account Manager at LunaMetrics. As the technical search marketing lead he is the go-to for website audits, search analysis, and site performance. Sean also leads LunaMetrics A/B testing service where he uses his experience identifying user intent to find and test conversion opportunities. Sean spends his free time racing sailboats in the Gulf, constructing massive sandcastles on the beach, touring breweries, and running 5 & 10ks.

  • Hi enjoyed reading your blog … have a question being searching for a answer but haven found it yet and thought with your knowledge you might be able to help …. i have a couple of blogs that i use google analytics on to track traffic and learn about using analytics …. but would love to track my visits to my google + page but cant find a way to do this or any info on it so kind of persuming it is not possible to track visitors to my google + site .. was wondering if you have any kowledge on this and if there is a way to track visits to a google + page
    Thanks in advance …

  • Hi there. Question if you don’t mind:

    I have a client who has currently has both the *www subdomain and root domain separately within the Google index. The preferred domain has not been set and they do not currently implement 301s or canonical tags.

    As part of a site migration project, I want to set the preferred domain to *www and 301 all the root domain pages to their *www counterparts. All good.

    However, they also have a second subdomain which is an entirely separate website in its own right (no duplicate content). I am concerned that by setting the *www subdomain as the preferred canonical URL, this will negatively impact the URLs for the subdomain in the index.

    Is there any best practice available on this?



    • Sean McQuaide


      Setting a preferred domain only impacts www and non-www versions of the site. You should still verify both www and non-www domains, as well as additional non-duplicate subdomains.


  • Santhilag

    If I start highlighting for the https://www.example.com/ – (https) sites by clicking start highlighting option in webmaster tools it states that the url must be
    http://www.example.com/- is there any other procedure for highlighitng https:// sites . please be stated…

    • Sean McQuaide

      Hi Santhilag, I am not sure what you mean by highlighting, can you clarify?

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