URL Parameters

URL parameters are additional query strings that follow the main URL for a page, typically contained after a question mark. Multiple query string parameters can be used within a single URL, which can impact a website’s SEO and organic search performance in several ways, including causing duplicate content and crawling issues.  
This collection of SEO Office Hours notes addresses common problems seen with URL parameter handling, with recommendations on how to fix these issues with best practices suggested by Google Search Central.

Don’t Use URLs That Change on the Fly

November 27, 2018 Source

If URLs change on the fly to include session IDs, for example, this will cause Google to spend more resources on crawling duplicate content. This will also cause confusion around choosing the right canonical page.

Geotargeting Can’t be Applied to Language Versions Which Are Split Out Using Parameters

October 30, 2018 Source

Google is unable to automatically detect and apply geotargeting if different language or country versions of a site are separated out using parameters.

Google Only Crawls Hashed URLs When Unique Content Detected

October 19, 2018 Source

Google doesn’t usually crawl hash URLs unless it has detected over time that there is something unique it needs to pick up from the hashed version.

Use Log Files to Identify Crawl Budget Wastage & Issues With URL Structure

July 13, 2018 Source

When auditing eCommerce sites, John recommends first looking at what URLs are crawled by Googlebot. Then identify crawl budget wastage and perhaps change the site’s URL structure to stop Googlebot crawling unwanted URLs with parameters, filters etc.

Google Can Ignore UTM Tracking Parameters in URLs

July 10, 2018 Source

For URLs with UTM tracking parameters, Google will ignore the parameter and focus on the primary URL instead. Google will try to crawl UTM parameter URLs if they are linked to externally though, so use the parameter handling tool in GSC or the canonical tag in this instance.

Parameter Handling Signals Are Stronger Than the Canonical Signal

May 15, 2018 Source

Google won’t blindly follow URL parameter handling set in GSC, but John says that this is a stronger signal than using canonicals.

Content Loaded On Hash URLs Won’t Be Indexed

May 1, 2018 Source

Google doesn’t index URLs with a hash separately, so if content is only loaded when the hash is used on a URL rather than being loaded on the main URL, this content won’t be indexed.

GSC URL Parameters Are Signals, Not Rules, For Crawling

March 27, 2018 Source

Rules set in URL Parameters in Search Console are used as a signal by Google for what they shouldn’t crawl, but they aren’t obeyed in the same way as robots directives.

Google Can Proactively Assume Duplicate Pages Before Crawling Them

March 6, 2018 Source

Google will sometimes assumes that pages are duplicates before crawling them. This can happen when you have multiple parameters for your URLs that don’t actually change the content being served.

Related Topics

HTTPS Site Architecture URL Architecture Subdomains Canonical Domain Facets / Faceted Navigation TLDs Site/Page Quality