Your analytics software can already tell you a lot about the traffic you’re getting from natural search: which search engines are sending traffic, what keywords are sending traffic, which pages are getting the most search engine traffic. But wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly where in the search results your page appeared when the user clicked?
Google has confirmed speculation originally published by Patrick Altoft that their new referrer string does include ranking data.
Google’s original announcement on Tuesday didn’t mention the inclusion of ranking data in the new string, and even downplayed who might be interested in the announcement. But the example they provide clearly shows ranking data:
While this data would make a great addition to any web analytics software, a Google spokesperson cautioned that they may not support ranking data in the referral string forever. They also had no comment when asked if Google Analytics would incorporate the ranking data into its reports.
We have emails in to Yahoo and Live Search to see if they have any plans to pass ranking data as part of their search referral URLs. After all, Google may be the dominant search engine, but web site owners and search marketers would want the other engines to follow Google’s lead so they can see and analyze ranking data from more than just Google. Plus, if all three major search engines start to provide this data, it’ll be more difficult for one to change its mind and stop doing so.
It’s also worth noting that Alex Chitu speculates that the new referral string may be a pre-cursor to Google switching to AJAX-based search results pages.
Postscript: A Yahoo spokesperson says, “At this time, we don’t have any plans to do this.”