Understanding Google’s “Owner Removal Incomplete” Message

December 18, 2012

On November 30, Google started sending out “Owner Removal Incomplete” messages to webmasters around the world, causing confusion and panic. If you received one of these messages, Don’t Worry! The notification is actually a great security measure of Google’s. It doesn’t mean someone has hacked into your server and tried to delete accounts. It just means that you may have some loose ends that need to be secured.

What the Message Means

The message is simply a reminder to you that you’ve removed someone’s access in Webmaster Tools, but you did not remove their verification elements (or token as it says in the message from Google) on the website. Google flagged this as a security concern because it is still possible for the person to gain access to your site until all of their verification elements have been fully removed from your server.

You may be thinking, “But I didn’t try to remove anyone’s access!” If this sounds like your situation, it’s likely that you had some older verification elements left on your server that you were unaware of and these are the elements that got flagged by Google. They could be quite old and probably forgotten about.

What’s a Verification Element?

Verifications elements, files and tokens are meta tags, HTML files or DNS records that exist on your server. Archived files contain them, so it’s possible that a former employee’s name is still associated with a file somewhere, which prompted Google to send the message.

How Do I Fix This?

To fix this possible security issue, you’ll need to delete all of these verification elements/codes/tokens from your server then go back to Webmaster Tools and unverify the email ID associated with that element/code/token from the list of account owners.

Finding the Verification Element

To find the HTML filename, meta tag codes or DNS record you’ll need to go into Webmaster Tools. From there, follow these steps.

  1. Click on “Manage Site Owners”. This is located near the top of the right hand side of the page next to “Add a New User”.
  2. Under Action, click “Unverification pending.”
  3. You’ll receive a pop-up that shows you the HTML file name associated with the suspect email:  *google-file-name.html.
  4. Go to your FTP and delete the HTML file name that appears on the pop-up.

Once you’ve deleted all of the suspect verification elements, make sure you unverify the email ID associated with the verification token. Do this in Webmaster Tools in the list of account owners.

You should now stop getting the “Owner Removal Incomplete” message.

The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Revolution Flyers, Inc.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 at 6:56 am and is filed under SEO/Web Development . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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