Will Google suggest mess up referral stats?

Posted by Shaun Ryan, May 25th, 2009 at 1:24 pm PST
Categories: SEO, Web Search | No Comments »
   

Last week it was announced that Google’s search suggestion feature is being updated. The major changes are:

  1. You will see results and ads in the suggestions, along with the keyword suggestions (it looks like only one result and ad at any time)
  2. The suggestion feature will be rolled out to the standard search results page – at the moment it is only on Google’s home page & toolbar. (I guessed they would do this in my post about Google Suggest last August)
  3. The suggestions shown will incorporate your search history

navigational-suggestion.pngI haven’t seen the new features live yet – but I wonder what impact this will have on the referrals you see in your web logs. If someone searches from Google’s homepage – and clicks on a result from the Google suggest list – then the referrer will presumably be google.com. This will mean that the referral URL won’t contain the search term. I recently saw google.com in our own web logs but didn’t think anything of it at the time. I wonder if was a referral from Google Suggest?

If someone searches from an existing search page then the referrer will be that page and won’t contain search term they were actually using. That means the referral URL will contain a different keyword – possibly completely irrelevant. For example if I search for Microsoft then type in Apple and choose the Apple.com homepage from Google Suggest then the referral URL in Apple’s web logs would be something like: http://www.google.com/search?q=microsoft and analytics software may mistakenly assume that they were ranking for the term microsoft.

There may be similar problems with the reporting for paid search. Presumably the folks at Google have thought of this and have some sort of solution.

Has anyone seen evidence of this happening?  Is there anything Google could do to help us accurately see the search term that was actually used (for example sending people through a redirect that contained the keyword in the URL)?

   

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