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Thread: variables added to inbound links

  1. #1

    variables added to inbound links

    I am a member of a site that requires all its members to link to the site homepage.

    They have just asked that we append a variable to the links so they can monitor inbound traffic more accurately, so the links will now be of the form
    www. mainsite. com/index.php?ref=12345 (with a different id for every member)

    I was concerned that this will make google think there are lots of 'different' pages but all duplicates of each other - so they benefit of the inbound links will get spread across lots of identical pages.

    Any thoughts? Do I need to worry?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009
    New York
    Append the tracking code with a hash mark (#) instead of a question mark (?) to avoid duplicate content and canonical issues. Search Engines ignore the hash mark (#) and everything after that.

  3. #3
    Never come across that, thanks for the suggestion.

  4. They can also use the rel=canonical tag in their page header.

    Read about that in Specify Your Canonical.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
    New York
    Quote Originally Posted by Will.Spencer View Post
    They can also use the rel=canonical tag in their page header.

    Read about that in Specify Your Canonical.
    Will that work when the canonical issue is caused by multiple url variations and not duplicated content?

  6. #6
    Theoretically, the canonical is supposed to work, but I have seen situations where the incorrect version of URLs still end up in Google's index, even with a standard canonical. I do not know if those are having a negative impact, but their mere presence in the index suggests that it could. Google sometimes tends to put an URL in their index if they find it in a hyperlink somewhere. These should eventually get filtered out, but if they were paying strict attention to the canonical tag, the link would never show up in their index.

    Bogart's hash mark trick should definitely work, but they will need to capture the reference code when the page is loaded. I have not seen HTML anchor bookmarks (URLs with hash marks) show up in AwStats or other standard log file analysis software.

    There is a Google help page out there that I cannot currently find that lists reference parameters that Google ignores. They are mostly session IDs. That suggests that making the reference look like a session ID might work, but probably only with Google.

    It also appears that Google Webmaster Tools just added a feature that allows site owners to specify parameters that should be ignored.

    If the forum owners know anything about SEO, they could be capturing the URL, storing the reference code, and then rewriting the URL with a 301 redirect. If they are doing that, you would see the reference parameters get stripped out of the URL in the browser's address window. Basically, the reference code is being stored and then stripped out with the 301 redirect.

    If they are not doing anything to deal with the potentially negative SEO issues, they are probably making a very large mistake.
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