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I'm using meta tags rather than HTML files to verify my site ownership, because I want to keep my root directory clean. In contrast, Google recommends the 'HTML file' method. My quick web search didn't return anything about the reason of this recommendation.

Verify by HTML file or meta tag?

The verification method you choose depends on your web host. Use the HTML file method if you can upload HTML files to your domain’s web host. Use the meta tag method if you are unable to upload HTML files to your domain’s web host.

Here is a screenshot:

google search console

Is there any benefit (Google-specific or general) of the 'HTML file' method?

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    I think you're reading this the wrong way. They aren't giving preference to any one method. They're just letting you know which method you could use depending on your available options. – John Conde Sep 8 '18 at 19:54
  • @JohnConde You might be right about the quoted text, but the screenshot clearly shows that 'HTML file' is recommended. – ahmedus Sep 8 '18 at 20:28
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    Most people don't know which method to start looking into, so Google tries to pick one that would likely lead to success and recommends that. Depending on the site, this will differ - for example, if there's a simple way to do DNS verification, then that might be recommended. – John Mueller Sep 12 '18 at 12:25
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I like the HTML verification method. I use it myself. There are several reasons to prefer it:

  • It is the oldest verification method. For a long time Google only supported this method. It is tried and true.
  • It is usually easy to do, just upload a file and you are done. It doesn't usually require you to install plugins in your CMS or modify your website's code.
  • It is private. Other methods like the meta tag are visible to everybody who views your site. The file verification has a unique file name that is hard to guess.
  • It is low bandwidth. Another reason to prefer it over the meta tag is that it doesn't add to the byte count of your home page for all users.

If it isn't the easiest method for you, then go ahead and pick a different one. Any of them will work fine. I suspect that the reason that Google recommends one is due to the Paradox of Choice. The choice itself is hard, so them recommending a default makes the overall process easier.

  • If you don’t like having another file in your site root, there is also the DNS record method (which is usually the method GSC recommends to me). – DisgruntledGoat Sep 9 '18 at 11:57
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    I think they may recommend different things in different situations. Maybe if you have used one in the past, they recommend it in the future. I also just read that they will start auto-verifying if you are already the owner of the Google Analytics account: Google Analytics Access Can Auto Verify You In Google Search Console – Stephen Ostermiller Sep 9 '18 at 12:35

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