My Google Analytics is reporting organic traffic for URL's with a QueryString attached, even though there's a Canonical tag that points to the preferred (non-QueryStringed) version.

Would the best way to handle this be the GWT URL Parameters Tool? I'm fairly unfamiliar with the tool, but after some research, it looks like this might be the best way to go. Does anyone have any good/bad advice for using the tool?


  • How long have you had the canonical URLs in place? – John Conde Apr 11 '14 at 19:53
  • Hi John, I've had the canonical in place since April of 2013, so roughly a year. The odd thing is that the QueryString didn't start gaining organic traffic until just after I put the Canonical tag in place. What could this be indicative of? – GFM0416 Apr 11 '14 at 19:59
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    The rel=canonical tag is advisory. It is still up to Google whether it honours it. If the two URLs (with and without the query string) are sufficiently different then it is likely that both will get returned in the SERPs under different searches. The GWT URL parameter would seem to be the way to go, if you really do want to discount the query string. – MrWhite Apr 12 '14 at 0:15

Before taking action using the Parameter tool in GWT, I would recommend at least trying to identify why Google is ignoring your rel=canonical reference.

  1. Check your XML Sitemap - URLs reference in an XML Sitemap will normally override any rel=canonical reference
  2. Check the internal and external linking profile for those URLs with a tool like MajesticSEO (external links) and ScreamingFrog (internal site crawler).

I would hesitate recommending using a 301 redirect on URLs containing query-strings, as you haven't mentioned the type of query-string - tracking parameter, sort-parameter, pagination, etc.

If you find that your internal links, external links and XML sitemap aren't causing conflicting signals, then the parameter tool would be a logical next step in mitigation. The instructions provided by Google in using this tool are pretty helpful.


Consider trying to reduce the visibility of your query strings. For instance, in WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin has an option to 'hide shortlink' this removes the URL with the query string from the head of the page.

Another place I frequently see (overlooked) query string URLs is in automatically generated sitemap.xml files, so check there.

If you use services that syndicate your content via RSS or auto post to social media, check those as well. On-site search can also sometimes return query string results.

Ideally though, you probably want to do a server side 301 redirect so any traffic coming in from a link with a query string, including a bot from a search engine, is redirected with a "permanent redirect" header.

That said, configuring parameters in Webmaster Tools (don't forget the other Webmaster Tools) is also a good idea.

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