The Google Search Hype

- Contributed by Deep Moni Hazarika

Just about a month back, on 14th April, Google announced about a change to come in the Google search referrals. Next day on, there were series of discussions on enlightening the rest of the world about the present search referrer and newly structured search referrer. The flames can still be seen :-). Not going too much into the same conversation that had been around for this long, there is another reason for writing this post.

Like nature had intended, there were optimists who cheers Google for almost any upcoming changes and there were pessimists who are mostly infuriated, probably not because Google came up with the idea, but because they have to rework on the settings that they had settled on once defining the requisite structure. This primarily includes search related products and web analytics products but may not be limited to these. There had been a concern around the environment I am present as well. My approach – I don’t care whatever changes come up, it shouldn’t mess up the system we and our client had settled in. If it does, tweak it up to handle any such changes.

Why did they make that move? What purpose do those extra search parameters serve? What else are they going to track now? Apart from the obvious parameters, what do those alphanumeric parameter values mean? How can they help us?

Now, there were streams of questions like these that mattered more than just to be informed about the change in referrer string. Oddly enough, not much was clear on any of these questions. The emphasis had mostly been on the “/search” being upgraded to “/url”.

google.com/search will soon be an old format
google.com/url will be the de facto standard

Going through the Google Analytics Blog Entry, below are additional few such url standard Google follows:
google.com/ie for mobile search
google.com/webhp for searches which contains hash query

A #hash query example: http://www.google.com/webhp#hl=en&q=flowers&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f&oq=flowers&fp=g9hIhDHDw6s – notice the “#” instead of ”?”

Now to get an of the various parameters being used and newly introduced, Kent Davidson had put up this post Google outbound link tracking about google’s use of JavaScript to track outbound links from the search results. He has neatly described the various parameters of the JavaScript, which helps in understanding what all items Google is tracking.

Here is a snapshot if the Google search link with the query strings –

http://www.google.com/url?sa=T&source=web&oi=(Parameter 2)&cad=(Parameter 3)&ct=(Where you clicked)&cd=(Search Position)&url=(URL to be sent to)&ei=(Security Code)

To get the details on what each of the parameters mean, read his post.

In short, leaving aside the encrypted values in the parameters, the most useful one is “cd” which shows the search position. “url” gives the landing page in your site which I believe Google is going to use for their purpose as we would already have the landing url from [cs-uri-stem]. “ct” is another parameter which can help in identifying whether a search result was clicked or cached results.

Now, the ball is back in our court as to how effectively we are able to use these additional items.

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