- Posted By Mitul Gandhi
- 0 Comments
Usually tracking issues arise when campaigns in different channels are not tagged properly. This makes measuring the results from different marketing channels/campaigns difficult and leads to skewed ROI calculations.
But what happens when your properly tagged URLs get widely distributed, copied, bookmarked and linked to? It can actually be just as damaging as not tagging your URLs at all.
Tagged URLs from Other Channels Get Indexed
While tagging your campaign URLs is best practice, the prevalence of tracking tags on every URL you have out there can lead to problems for your SEO.
We’ve found in several instances that tagged URLs can be indexed by search engines and displace canonical versions of pages.
This can happen if :
- A user lands on a URL through a particular marketing channel that is tagged and tracked, and then proceeds to pick up the URL and post it somewhere on the web which crawlers can then access
- You have posted URL’s on the net which are crawlable and are tagged
If you take a dive into your indexing, you may find URLs that look like this:
In these examples, we are using Google Analytics tags, but this can happen with Coremetrics, Omniture and other programs as well.
Our examples are for Twitter and RSS links but this also happens with PPC, email, Facebook and other channels. RSS and Twitter links tend to get shared a lot, so we tend to see them more in these situations
How The Tagged URLs Can Hurt Your SEO
- Causes confusion within Google index as to which of the duplicate pages should be shown and which one dropped.
- If the URL with the parameter is displayed in the search results, then all clicks coming on that URL will count towards the marketing channel that it is tagged for.. not Organic search.. this causes skewed reporting and inaccurate yoy comparisons.
- Can result in greatly reduced “authoritativeness” and reliability confidence within Google algorithms
What this means is that your hard-earned rankings can start to slide as your main version of a page gets replaced by the tagged version: the inbound links and history you’ve built for the “real” page are not enough to keep search engines from seeing your site as having duplicate content issues. At the same time, your Organic traffic numbers can start to decline as traffic sent from SEs is attributed to other channels due to your tagging.
How to Fix The Problem
You should be using the canonical meta tag on your pages by now. That’s your best protection against this happening to you.
Assuming you haven’t used it up until now, then the best solution to this is to program all the pages on your site to check for the existence of query parameters such as utm_source or utm_medium(for Google Analytics) and automatically insert a canonical tag in the metas that refers to the NON-tagged version of the page.
Over a short period of time, search engines should automatically drop the Query parameter version and this will resolve the tracking issue.. this solution will also preserve the link equity you’ve built and also eliminate the duplicate content issue.
Damned If You Do…
Honestly, this is an issue that I think will become more prevalent as social becomes more integrated into marketing campaigns. Pages that previously got nominal traffic or at least predictable levels from different sources can suddenly see their traffic graph spike and the tagged version of URLS get distributed far more widely than their main version.
If you have another suggestion about how to fix this problem or examples of it from your own site, then tell us about it in the comments.