I have a new product page that I’m building backlinks to for the first time. The product page was published over 7 days ago and still doesn’t rank for its primary keyword, its part number. These backlinks are from a blog have a Google tracking code on them, “?utm_campaign=CAMPAIGN_X…”, etc. The product page URL is search engine friendly and doesn’t include any variables – it ends with “.php”.
Even if a URL is not search engine friendly, Google can still index it. If you can, its best to URL rewrite your URLs so they don’t include variables. Google treats a backlink from www.yourdomain.com/product.php?id=123 changed to www.yourdomain.com/product.php?id=456 differently.
My question is, does Google handle backlinks that include Google Analytics variables differently? or does Google ignore them?
Let’s find out…
I published the product page, then published blog post and had a backlink pointing to the product page. The backlink had a tracking code so I could track the number of clicks from specific links from the post. I created 3 backlinks to the product page from the post. One text link at the very top of the page using “PRODUCT NAME X” as the anchor text. At the bottom of the post, I have the product’s thumbnail and a text link pointing back to the product page as well.
Launch Day: Observations
About 5 minutes later, the blog post was indexed in Google and ranked 1st for the product name. About 5 hours later, the product page ranked 2nd. I noticed the URL that Google displayed for the product page included the Google tracking variables, “utm_campaign…”. (Sorry no screenshot, I knew I should have, but alas it is now only my observation).
Day 1: Test
I logged into WordPress, edited the post to remove the variables from the URL in the first text link back to the product page. I will assume that since these are Google tags, removing them from the backlink will not make any difference to the backlink’s reference to the product page; that Google would simply ignore them and not consider it a different page completely.
Day 2: Observations
The blog post still ranks 1st for the product name keyword search. The product page… not so lucky. It is actually nowhere to be found in the first 5 pages.
Why doesn’t Google ignore the campaign tracking tags? And, if Google doesn’t, how do I tell Google to ignore them?
Tracking URLs is important. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t ignore its own tracking tags. To get around this, add a link tag to specify the canonical URL in the section:
By specifying the canonical URL, Google will suddenly count the links it has seen to that campaign tagged URL, towards the canonical URL, and not index the campaign tagged URL anymore.
* Current CMS Limitations: The problem is that the current CMS doesn’t allow me to easily edit thesection and unfortunately cannot add the link tag to specify a canonical URL.
- It doesn’t matter if your backlink URL includes Google Analytics tracking tags or not – the same deal. Add the canonical URL to your page. Changing a backlink’s URL variables affects SEO rankings
- Google doesn’t keep pages ranked high for a while after a backlink is removed – this can happen overnight.
- Google displays Google Analytics variables in SERP from a backlink.
- If you need to segment sources, this can easily be done in Google Analytics – the visits from the actual blog URL versus the visits from organic clicks from Google.
- Don’t assume.