Can you talk about the change in Google’s referrer string?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 Mattcutts Video Transcript

Hey folks! Whenever we started off with a bunch of questions, I threw a couple of example questions in and some people wanted to hear the answers. So people asked “Can you talk about the change in Google’s referrer string?” so that was one of my questions that got voted up. And I would be happy to!

The short answer is that there is a change on the horizon and it’s only a very small percentage of users right now but I think that it probably will grow and will grow over time, where Google’s referrer, that is whenever you do a Google search and you click on a result you go to another website and your browser passes along a value called a referrer, that referrer string will change a little bit. It used to be google.com/search for example, now it’ll be google.com/url and for a short time we didn’t have what the query was, which got a lot of people frustrated. But the google.com/search, the new Google referrer string will have the query embedded in it and there’s really interesting tit-bit that not everybody knows it also has embedded in that referrer string a pretty good idea of where on the page the click happened. So for example if you were result number 1 there’s a parameter in there that indicates that the click came from result number1. If you were number 4 it will indicate that the click came from result number 4. So now you don’t necessarily need to go scrapping Google to find what your rankings were for these queries. You can find out, I was number 1 for this query whenever someone clicked on it and came to my website. So that can save you ton of work. You don’t need to worry nearly as much; you don’t need to scrape Google, you don’t have to think about ranking reports. Now we don’t promise that this will be a feature that we guarantee that will always have on Google forever but definitely take advantage of it for now. There’s one interesting twist which is, Google’s universal search or blended search is also taken account into the results. So imagine that you’ve done a search for sunset and maybe we have three images of a sunset and your website is number 1 for sunset, you might show up as if you are at position number 4 because those images are treated as if they were results 1, 2 and 3. Or if you had a news result, the news headline and the two or three links after that might be treated as regular results. So in theory you could think you are at position 4 when it just was that you had an image or 2 or 3 up ahead of you. But for most parts it gives an accurate idea of where on the page you were and so you get all kinds of extra information that you can use in you analytics, and to compute your ROIs without having to do a lot of extra work. Or if you can it’s a great idea to look at that referrer string and try to take advantage of that information. Again this only affects a small percentage of users right now but we expect that it’ll grow overtime.

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