Buzz has been growing over the past 4-5 days about what appears to be a new Google search results test that, if widely implemented, might spell doom for SEO rank checking software and some other tools. Many are concerned that it could kill web analytics software, too, but that may not be the case.
Google appears to be testing AJAX-based search results on a limited basis. Users who are able to access the test see different URLs for Google searches. Rather than the standard www.google.com/search?q=keyword, URLs in the AJAX test use a hash mark, like this: www.google.com/#q=keyword.
What Does It Mean?
If Google rolls out AJAX-based search results on a wide scale, there could be some big ramifications. As Michael VanDeMar and the commenters on his post point out, SEO rank checkers and other tools could be rendered useless. (Google would probably like to kill such rank checking software, as it has long viewed these tools as taking computing resources it would rather use for human visitors).
While some might not cry for those still stuck in the rank checking mentality of the past, a post today from analytics software provider Clicky says it would also have dramatic impact on web analytics tools, those that measure activity from visitors who come to your web site:
“This change breaks search/keyword tracking for every single analytics app in existence…. the fact that Google is even considering doing this, with blatant disregard for the fact that they will be breaking every single analytics, stats, and log analyzer product on the planet, is just amazing.”
Both the Clicky post and this one from Aaron Wall suggest Google may be setting up Google Analytics as the only software that will be able to track keyword referrals from AJAX-based search results. Says Aaron:
“…what happens to existing tools? Plugins? Rank checkers? Stats and other referral tracking packages? All tools that rely on Google passing data in order to work…. Perhaps the only place you’ll be able to get this data is Google Analytics? Is this the next step – a lock-in? It has happened before.”
We’ve contacted Google for an official confirmation of the AJAX-based test and a comment on its potential impacts, and will update this post if/when we hear back.
Postscript #1: Sean from Clicky, who authored the post we linked to above, has added some clarification for us.
Postscript #2: A Google spokesperson shares this statement:
Postscript #3: Google’s sent us an updated further statement that’s stronger on them seeking on a solution to analytics issues.
Currently AJAX results are just a test on Google. At this time only a small percentage of users will see this experiment. It is not our intention to disrupt referrer tracking, and we are continuing to iterate on this project and are actively working towards a solution. As we continue experiments, we hope that this test may ultimately provide an easier solution for our customers and a faster experience for our users. For more information on the experiments that we run on Google search, please see http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2006/04/this-is-test-this-is-only-test.html