Evan Goldin
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Update (7/12/09): We’ve now built a way to verify your Ning Network with Google Webmaster Tools right into your Ning Network. Check out this Help Center FAQ for instructions.

Want to take control of traffic coming from Google searches to your network on Ning? Read on to learn how to harness the power of Google Webmaster Tools to help boost your network’s rank in Google searches.

Setting up Webmaster Tools will gives you a wide range of tools that you can use to both improve the experience of your members and increase the number of visits to your network. If you use any analytics software or gather data on how your members learned about your network, you’ll notice that many people come to your network after using a search engine.

But what if the first result when someone finds your network in a Google search is an old forum thread or a random member-uploaded video — not the best welcome for a first-time visitor! Or what if potential members are searching for a social network for football players, but your network is named “Pigskin Central”? It’s possible search engines could be missing the connection, if the word “football” isn’t actually used in your network’s title or description.

That’s where Webmaster Tools can help, by providing a number of features to allow you to master Search Engine Optimization. But before you can really take advantage of Google’s tools, Google has to verify that you are the site owner. Learn how after the jump…

Note: Your network has to be completely public for you to verify your site. Otherwise, you’ll get an error from Google and you won’t be able to complete the verification process.

1. Log in to Google and head to the Google Webmaster Tools Dashboard. Type in your network’s address, and hit “Add Site.”

2. On the following page, click “Verify your site.”

3. Under “Choose verification method,” select “Upload an HTML file.” New text will appear below in a small box. Highlight and copy the text.

4. Open a text editor on your computer, such as TextEdit, Notepad or Microsoft Word. Create a new document, and then hit “Save.” When prompted to name the file, paste the text you copied from Google. If you can select the file format, choose “HTML.” Save the file.

5. Next, you’ll want to access your network’s files through WebDav.

6. Once you’ve connected to your network’s file system, simply drag the file you just created from your computer into the file system. Be sure to place the file in the root directory — meaning not inside any folder.

7. Go back to Google and the “Verify your site” page. Hit the “Verify” button.

8. All done! Your site should be verified. Prepare for your network to liftoff!

In the next Webmaster Tools blog post, we’ll explain everything you can do with Google Webmaster Tools.