Few months back Google introduced a feature called “URL Parameters“, a very advanced feature for webmasters to handle the dynamic expressions of their website URLs, this tool will help Google in crawling your website and understanding, what exactly it should crawl and what not!. This is a great tool if you are suffering with a CMS built on PHP or .NET and creating so many dynamic expressions and causing duplicate content issues. Using this feature you can simply solve all those duplication issues, with few clicks also saves a lot of crawler bandwidth.
For example, recently I faced a problem with my feed, it added Google analytics tracking parameters to track the stats of the feed (http://seomagz.com/2012/10/complete-onpage-seo-tutorial-guide/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feeds&utm_campaign=post), due to which it created duplicate title and content errors in webmaster crawl errors page. Once I blocked that tracking parameter all the errors are gone. You can simply use this tool like your own duplicate, unnecessary URL remover. I also would like to remind you one thing that, this is the most advanced feature introduced for developers and experienced webmasters, if you don’t know how to do it, simply leave it and let Google decide what to do with those expressions, however with this tutorial you can still give it a try, but you will be responsible for your actions, because one single mistake will completely take down your website in search engines (Remove your URLs from SEs index).
Before I start let me tell you something, Google is clever enough to understand most of the expressions and how to deal with them, to decide whether to configure the parameters or not, first go to Google Webmasters tool > Configuration > URL Parameters. If you find a message by saying…
Currently Googlebot isn’t experiencing problems with coverage of your site, so you don’t need to configure URL parameters. (Incorrectly configuring parameters can result in pages from your site being dropped from our index, so we don’t recommend you use this tool unless necessary.)
Check this screenshot for the exact message and location…
If you find the above message, then give your trials a complete stop. You don’t need to do anything, Google already took care of your content. Just sit back and enjoy the ride, but if you still want to restrict some parameters (which is in most of the cases not recommended), then here we go..
Now if you all set to go and want to start working on the URL parameters, make sure to have your developer sit with you while doing this, because you might not be aware of few expressions and what they do for your website, so it is highly recommend to do these changes along with your developer. Now hit on the “configure URL parameter“.
Configuring URL Parameters in Webmasters Tool:
Once you click on the “configure URL parameter”, you will see a number of parameters of your website located there, every one of the expression has already set to “Let Googlebot Decide” mode, which is in most of the time recommended, but as you are here to set it for yourself, just click on the “Edit” to configure the parameter manually as shown in the below image.
Exactly after this step, now you will be prompted for an option whether to allow that parameter while crawling or not, if you don’t want that parameter to be indexed by Googlebot then you need to set it as “No, doesn’t affect the page content (Track usage)“. For example in my case, I have stop “utm_source” parameter which is normally used for tracking Google analytics campaign stats, which can also result in duplication issues in some cases, I simply set it to “NO” mode, that means I indicated Googlebot not to consider this URL when indexing and ranking my website.
If you don’t know where exactly this parameter is used in your website, you can simply click on the “Show example URLs” to get the idea, where this structure is used.. See the below screenshot..
In the above screenshot you can see the example URLs in your website using that expression, as it is a tracking expression for analytics, I simply set it as “NO”, ask your developers if you are not sure about what you are doing?.
Let me give you another example here on blocking URL parameters, my website is a WordPress blog (everyone knows that). Every WordPress blog normally has comments enabled, because of which in every post I write, there is one common expression can be found for comment reply, the URL will look like this (http://seomagz.com/2011/04/embed-youtube-videos-powerpoint-2010/?amp&replytocom=766), so this is again nothing but a trouble of duplication problem, all you have to do is setting this parameter to “NO”.
The reason I am giving so many examples is because to let you understand about the parameters and how they works. So what if you have allow some parameters and want Google to index them?, here we go..
Allowing Parameters and Types:
Choosing some parameters to allow isn’t that easy, first of all you have to make sure that those parameters does matters somewhere in your content, such as, you might be aware that we have a SEO forum, which is built on vbulletin platform. You probably do know that vbulletin forum create threads with dynamic links, some of those link will create lot of duplication issues and consume a lot of bandwidth while crawling. In this cases you can specifically allow some of the expressions as per your requirements, to do this, just click on the parameter you want Google to index and “Edit” and select “Yes, Changes, reorders, or narrows page content“. See the below screenshot..
Once you select Yes, now it will ask you to choose “how that parameter affect page content?“. You have to select one of the six options given, the options are..
1) Sorts: It will sorts content as specified by the parameter. For example, displays product listings sorted by name, by brand, or by price.
2) Narrows: It will display a subset of content specified by the parameter. For example, filters for only dresses in size M.
3) Specifies: It specifies what the page is about (such as, the subject, audience, item number, etc).
4) Translates: Displays content in the language (for example, English or Klingon) specified by the parameter.
5) Paginates: Displays a specific page of a long article.
6) Others: Your desired expression is not there in it?, simply select “other”.
After confirming with your developer on what to choose, you can set that parameter so. Now the next option is, “Which URLs with this parameter should Googlebot crawl?“. You can choose accordingly your requirements, if you don’t know what to do just let Google decide.
Now just save it and you are done, like this you can finish the advanced configuration of the parameters in Google webmasters tool, if you are still not sure about this, please leave it as it is. Don’t mess with the configuration, it will destroy everything if you do any mistakes. Works wisely.
So this is all about the “advanced configuration of URL parameters in the Google webmasters tool”, if you like this please consider it sharing with others, also please do drop your comments and suggestions in the below section, if you have any specific questions, please ask us at our SEO forum.