Today I went to verify ownership of a site in Google Webmaster Tools and received an error message telling me that the verification had failed and the file was empty. Typically the HTML verification file, which was uploaded to the root directory of the site to verify ownership, would simply be blank.
Upon further investigation it appears that Google has updated the HTML Verification file and the HTML file now contains:
If you wish to validate your Webmaster Tools Account using the HTML file make sure you follow the instructions shown, also explained below.
To access your HTML Verification File click on the link to the file within the account and save it.
It appears that if you have verified your site with the old style file this is fine and you don’t need to update it. Therefore this change should only be applicable to new sites which haven’t been verified before.
Once Google has found the file or the alternative method of adding the Meta tag to your site’s Home page, you will then be able to access a wealth of information about how the search engines view and access your site.
It is worth taking the time to explore the various reports shown in Google Webmaster Tools. Issues relating to crawl errors, links to your site, site performance which discusses page load times (see 10 Tips for Reducing Page Load Time) as well as site configuration, all of which can help you check the health of your website.