Sunday, February 22, 2009

URL referrer tracking: Some lesser known facts!

The conventional method employs the tracking of parameters in the URL; however this is likely to cause certain issues with the search engines over a period of time. Imagine, there are two promotional teams to a single website. Despite the fact that both of them incorporate separate parameters in the URL, they do lead to the same web page (and thus you could track the conversions based on URL’s), over a longer span of time this method may affect the search engine acquisition of the website and lead to low quality data tracking.

There are four major issues that come up here:
  1. Search engines are a little ill-equipped when it comes to determining if multiple URL’s are connected to a same page. This becomes a potential problem to you, especially when the number of URL’s to your home page increases. Search engines will detect all the URL’s and store them (rank them along too) in their content index. This would cause the search engine robots to crawl over the same page many times (as many as the number of URL’s) and thus, other good and unique pages may lose its weight to the infinite indexing of the same page!

  2. For the purpose of determining the authenticity and usefulness of a content, search engines use the number of quality URL’s leading to a page as an indicator. When there are three different URL’s to the same page, the search engine assigns a lower rank to all the variations of the URL! However, this wouldn’t have been a problem if all the URL’s were same but then that would have been a major hindrance to track the referrer!

  3. Popularity too could pose a threat! If Youtube videos that become extremely popular, then the promotional URL’s will surely fetch more links than the URL of the home page. So, the promo link might as well fetch a better rank in the search engine and thus, the video is more likely to replace in the original page in the search results (confusing the users all the way!).

  4. With sharing and social networking becoming popular, imagine a person finds your home page to be excellent and copies the promo link. Then, whomsoever the person shares the link will be using the promo link to land up to your website. Don’t you see a reporting flaw there?

There’s no formulated solution for this, however there are few tricks and tips that might as well work to your benefit!

  • URL fragmentation: Place a hash mark in the beginning of the tracking parameter, as search engines ignore such links as hah marks are usually used to denote links within a page! E.g. Similarly, one can even use JavaScript for URL fragmentation.

  • Usage of robots.txt is another solution. This will keep away search engines from indexing certain links.

  • Trapping the incoming request should do you good too! Find out the point at which your website application’s logic processes the HTTP request for a particular page. Trap that request. Check is it has a tracking parameter there and then; record it in your internal referrer tracking system, if it’s present.

  • Implement a redirect from the current URL to the same page. By doing so, you trick the search engine to actually discard the promo link from its consideration of ranks. The method’s great but it requires self-management of referrer tracking system.

1 comment:

  1. We normally use robot.txt methods it works very well. and support search engine we also use 301 redirect great post Ameen. updating your blog we learn from you

    cheers mate.