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

Can you talk about the change in Google’s referrer string? - answered by Matt Cutts

Matt's answer:

CUTTS: Hey folks whenever we started with a bunch of questions, I threw a couple of example questions in and some people wanted to hear the answer. 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 it 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 will 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 a really interesting tidbit that not everybody knows, which is–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 one, there’s a parameter in there that indicates the click came from result number one. If you were number four, it will indicate the click came from, result number four. So, now, you don’t necessarily need to go scraping Google to find out what your rankings were for these queries. You can find out, “Oh, yeah. I was number one for this query whenever someone clicked on it and came to my website.” So that can save you a ton of work, you don’t need to worry nearly as much, you don’t have to scrape Google, you don’t have to think about ranking reports. Now, we don’t promise that these will, you know, be a feature that we guarantee that we’ll 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 you’ve done a search for sunset and maybe we have three images of a sunset, and then your website is number one for sunset. You might show up as if you were at position number four because those images are treated as if they’re results one, two, and three. Or if you had a news result, you know, the news headline and the two or three links after that might be treated as regular results. So, in theory you could, you know, think you’re at position four when it just was that you had, you know, an image or two or three up ahead of you. But for the most part, this gives you a very accurate idea of where on the page you were, so you get all kinds of extra information that you can use in your analytics and to compute your ROIs without having to do a lot of extra work. So, if you can, it’s a good idea to look at that referrer string and start to take advantage of that information. Again, this only affects a small percentage of users right now but we expect that it will grow over time.

by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team


Original video: