Search Marketing

Have You Set Up Parameters in Webmasters?

Google Webmasters Tools

This week, I was reviewing client sites utilizing webmasters tools. One of the oddities it identified were that many of the internal links on the site had campaign codes attached to them. This was great for the client, they could track each of their calls-to-action (CTA) throughout the site. It’s not so great for Search Engine Optimization, though.

The problem is that Google (the search engine) doesn’t know what a campaign code is. It’s simply identifying the same address throughout your site as different URLs. So if I have a CTA on my site that I swap out all the time to test and see which draws more conversions, I might end up with:

  • http://site.com/page.php?utm_campaign=fall&utm_medium=cta&utm_source=1A
  • http://site.com/page.php?utm_campaign=fall&utm_medium=cta&utm_source=1B
  • http://site.com/page.php?utm_campaign=fall&utm_medium=cta&utm_source=1C

That’s really a single page, but Google is seeing three different URLs. Your site’s internal linking is important because it tells the search engine what content is important deep within your site. Typically, your home page and content 1 link away from your home page are weighted heavily. If you have multiple campaign codes used throughout, Google is seeing different links and, perhaps, not weighing each as heavily as it should.

This can occur with inbound links from other sites as well. Sites such as Feedburner automatically append Google Analytics campaign codes to your links. Some Twitter applications also add campaign codes (like TwitterFeed when enabled). Google offers a couple of solutions to this.

One way is to login to your Google Webmasters account and identify parameters that may be used as campaign codes. For Google Analytics, it’s set up as follows:

The page will actually tell you what parameters that it’s been seeing on your site, so it’s pretty easy to figure out whether or not this is impacting you. Google states:

Dynamic parameters (for example, session IDs, source, or language) in your URLs can result in many different URLs all pointing to essentially the same content. For example, http://www.example.com/dresses’sid=12395923 might point to the same content as http://www.example.com/dresses. You can specify whether you want Google to ignore up to 15 specific parameters in your URL. This can result in more efficient crawling and fewer duplicate URLs, while helping to ensure that the information you need is preserved. (Note: While Google takes suggestions into account, we don’t guarantee that we’ll follow them in every case.)

The additional solution is to ensure Canonical Links are set up. For most content management systems, this is a default now. If you don’t have the canonical link element in your site, contact your CMS provider or webmaster to find out why. Here’s a short video on Canonical links, which are accepted by all major search engines now.

Make sure to do both – you can’t be too careful, and the extra step won’t be hurting anything!

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