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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Monitoring Google Rankings Is Easier with New Referral String

Posted by @ 8:12 pm

SEO is all about ranking. Whether you’re optimizing code, creating keyword driven content or acquiring links; the aim is to appear at the top of Google’s search engine results page (SERPs).

So for anyone undertaking an SEO campaign, monitoring rankings is the ultimate way to measure success. However Google have never really endorsed SERP monitoring, as they’re not really keen on people trying to manipulate their search results.

That said, it would appear their stance on rank monitoring might be changing.

This week website owners have noticed a new parameter in the referral string on Google search engine results. The speculation was that the “cd” parameter in the URL string indicated the listing’s ranking in Google’s particular results page, be that web search or other verticals such as product, image or local.

Below is an example of the URL string used in Google’s results page. This example is a copy of the ineedhits Google referral URL. It was generated when our listing was the top result displayed.

As you can see from the cd parameter that I’ve highlighted, the 1 reflects the ranking of the listing. Other site owners have done similar tests to validate the theory. Here’s one of the comments on their findings.

If you’re logged into a Google account and perform a search you will already see this data, and it looks very, very much like the &cd= part of the string matches up with your result position in the SERPS – see this example from a search for BBC news, which naturally is in the first position in Google UK

Lower down the page, at position 13 is a Youtube video, the string for which is:

Blended/Universal search muddies things a bit, and local search results are at cd= position 1- 10 for some queries but it really does look like it’s reporting the position in the SERPS.

If this is rolling out to unpersonalised search as well it will be a massive help – I feel some analytics filters coming up…

And when all the speculation was starting to reach fever pitch, Matt Cutts weighed into the discussion with the following comment:

I think if you do experiments, you’ll be able to confirm your speculation, Patrick and Brent Nau. As Jamie mentions, I think this is awesome for webmasters–even more information than you could glean from the previous referrer string.

So there we have it. Google is actually starting to feed us ranking information. It’s not quite a green flag on SERP monitoring completely, but definitely a step in that direction.

Hat tip to Patrick at BlogStorm for the find!

Rene LeMerle Rene is the marketing manager of - a global search engine marketing company. He also leads the marketing for - a web 2.0 style community for online and digital marketers. Rene has been in the industry since 1997 with much of that time spent helping businesses embrace the best of the internet and digital world.

View Rene LeMerle's profile

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