When I search Google, I sometimes see URLs in the result list with query strings that look like they contain SEO related data. For example, when I search Google for "nike", the results included these two URLs:

  • https://twitter.com/Nike?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
  • https://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=nike&find_loc=Galleria%2FUptown%2C+Houston%2C+TX

Notice that the first link contains "google" and "serp". The second link contains my search term (find_desc=nike).

My questions:

  1. How do site owners get their sites indexed this way? Does Google provide a tool for it? Or do they do something to their site content to accomplish this? I'm especially curious about how the search term was included in the query string, but I'd also like to know how any other data from the search engine might be included.
  2. Is there a name for this? (Preferably something I can search for so I can read more about it)

1 Answer 1


Twitter appears to be abusing hreflang tags to make this happen:

<link rel="canonical" href="https://twitter.com/nike">
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="x-default" href="https://twitter.com/nike?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor">
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="fr" href="https://twitter.com/nike?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor&amp;lang=fr">

It looks like by putting tracking parameters into the hreflang URLs they can get Google to index the page with those tracking parameters.

I would be careful trying to replicate this technique. I haven't seen it used before. It isn't clear that Google is OK with doing it. Google could choose to penalize sites that do so.

Putting tracking parameters on URLs is known as "tagging" them. This is a very common practice for pay per click advertising. Google Analytics has a tool for tagging advertising campaign URLs so they are tracked in GA: https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/ I haven't found any articles online about using hreflang for SEO URL tagging.

The Yelp case is somewhat different. Google appears to treat Yelp results more like local results. If I search for "Nike", I don't get any Yelp in the results. If I search for "Nike Yelp", I get results from the Boston area near where I am located. The parameters for Yelp are required to specify the location.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.