Ammon Johns Discusses Problems with Referral Tracking

 

Ammon Johns in a thread at Search Engine Watch Forums named Referral ID strings and referrer info, discusses his thoughts on the ongoing and future issues with capturing referral data. He says that due to spyware, other "applications and plug-ins strip referrer info from HTTP headers sent by browsers, making the HTTP referrer less accurate by the day." Many web analytics applications now resort to the use of both log files and JavaScript to capture this information, but "even this is sometimes blocked, and JavaScript is more often turned off than ever." Ammon said "It's [JavaScript Tracking] less reliable than HTTP referrer info."

In Ammons post, he discusses risky and safe methods to go about improving the tracking of referral information. But he then gets into some theory with the statement;

We might all decide that we'd use a refID=somevalue; query string parameter, which the engines can then look at to see if they'd teach the spider to automatically strip out that one variable, or perhaps even change the value - refID=Google; or refID=Yahoo for instance.

I am confident, this thread will turn out to be exceptional.

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Comments:

-lc-

01/18/2005 07:15 pm

Only existing method I know of is to stuff the referer into POST data. No existing browser will strip out POST data. It's up to the destination page to harvest it. The problem is not getting variable name collisions. By the way, most personal firewalls/blocking tools will continue to send referer data if its a HTTPS SSL connection. In firefox you actually have to turn off an additional setting to get SSL referer's to stop.

Ammon Johns

01/18/2005 10:25 pm

Nice of you to pick this one up, Barry. It is an important issue, and is not getting easier. Its also an issue where both marketers and engines benefit from having more accurate referral data. It'll be interesting to see what develops in the discussion.

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