For years, meetup.com let us use “custom domains”. As part of their rebranding and refocus efforts, they are doing away with this feature. Fortunately they are grandfathering (kinda) those of us who were smart enough to brand our groups with a unique URL. But this change has broken access to Google’s Webmaster Tools.
And by Kinda Grandfathering, I mean that Meetup.com will accomodate those who already have a domain pointing at meetup.com, but then submit a redirect to your group on their domain. In other words, if you own “houstonphotowalks.com” and point it at meetup before June of 2013, everything worked pretty snazzy. After June ’13, your group members started being redirected to http://www.meetup.com/HoustonPhotowalks/.
Ok, as if that wasn’t bad enough, for those of you tracking your branding and traffic using Webmaster tools, you suddenly realize Webmaster Tools says you don’t own the domain. The reason is your domain cannot be Verified with the Google Webmaster Tools. And to add yet more insult, a lot of the Webmaster Tools aren’t going to be useful because any “houstonphotowalk.com” traffic is automatically shifted to “meetup.com/HoustonPhotowalks”. [sigh] (One note, so far Google Analytics will still work as long as Meetup doesn’t disable those too.)
Google will also search your Zone File for TXT entries when trying to verify a domain. If your domain management software (I use godaddy) allows you direct access to edit the Zone File, then open the Webmaster Tools, go to Verification methods, and select Alternative Methods. Simply add a TXT entry with the google-generated TXT Value and pop, you’re verified!
Let me know in comments if you found this helpful!