Tuesday, 10 March 2009

SEO Tracking Problems

A worrying post by Patricio Robles emerged on the e-consultancy blog recently. Patricio wrote about how Google are testing the use of AJAX in order to hide the query parameter within their search string.

There are two obvious impacts should Google decide to continue on this path.

1. Broad Match
Anyone that has worked with me on a PPC account knows that I am not a great fan of broad match. I believe that the most effective campaigns are built where careful keyword planning has been applied so that the keywords within the account are very closely aligned with those searched upon by the target market. The generic, catch-all nature of broad match means that impressions, clicks and money can be wasted on queries that are not relevant and will not convert.

Search organisations should be pro-actively enquiring against the query string parameter on broad and phrase match terms in order to identify the actual term being searched upon.They can automatically update their keyword portfolio with a revised list of negative match terms and further terms on exact match. This helps to minimise the wastage on a search budget.


2. Tracking Natural Search
Nearly all natural tracking solutions rely on the query string parameter in order to determine information about the user and their search. For example, from the following URL it can be identified that I searched for Arsenal, using firefox.

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Arsenal&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&client=firefox-a

Web analytics software extracts this information from this query string. If Google hide the query string from passing this information, then it can only be captured if Google create an API which is unlikely considering the result of this change means that Google Analytics establishes a unique selling point over competitors in the ability to capture detailed information about natural search tracking.

It will still be possible to determine where the traffic has come from, just not which keyword it was. For brands that are trying to coordinate their search engine marketing to generate the best ROI from both paid and natural simultaneously, this is a serious obstacle.

Within the comments on the post, Jon Howard notes that AOL, which is powered by Google, has always obfuscated query strings for search terms, although I have not found this to be the case in reality.

I believe that the only way forward is for web analytics to collaborate and challenge Google on this process.
The industry has been crying out for standardisation of search strings for some time and web analytics companies are best placed to achieve this. Voices need to be heard but Google, of course, does not have to listen.

1 comment:

ann said...

Good content.
Just wanted to add some points here that may be helpful for those looking out for professional SEO services. There are tons of SEO companies offering different SEO packages and solutions at highly competitive rates. However, when looking our for these services, its important to not only look at the affordability factor but also what is unique about their SEO service and what differentiates them from other companies.

While choosing an SEO company its equally important to analyze the SEO company's website in terms of their Rankings, Yahoo links, Google index, Alexa ranking and similar such factors which indicates the company's expertise in the field of SEO. So make sure you are doing enough research and smart work before investing your advertising spend.