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Categorize parameters with the URL Parameters tool

You can use the URL Parameters tool to indicate the purpose of the parameters you use on your site to Google. For example, if you are the owner of a global shopping site, you might tell Google that you use the country parameter to distinguish between pages dedicated to consumers in different countries. Then you can set preferences for Google might crawl the URLs that contain those parameters. The preferences that you set can encourage Google to crawl the preferred version of your URL or simply prevent Google from crawling duplicate content on your site.

Change the values in this report only if you are sure that you know how parameters work. Incorrectly excluding URLs could result in many pages disappearing from search.

 

Open the URL Parameters Tool

 

Tell Google how to handle a URL parameter

  1. Click the Edit button next to the parameter that you want to define to Google. If your parameter isn’t listed, you can click Add parameter to create a new one. Note that this tool is case-sensitive, so type your parameter exactly as it appears in your URL.
  2. Set your parameter as either active or passive by selecting No or Yes in the dialog box:
    • Passive parameters: Select No.
    • Active parameters: Select Yes, and then choose one of the options that appears to indicate how you want Google to crawl URLs that contain this parameter. The table below describes the choices.
      • Let Googlebot decide: This setting is a good general option. Select if you're unsure of a parameter's behavior, or if the parameter behavior changes for different parts of the site. Googlebot can analyze your site to determine how best to handle the parameter.
      • Every URL: Use this setting to tell Google that URLs with unique values of a specific parameter do not contain duplicated content. Before you select this option for a parameter, be sure that this parameter really does affect or change your page content, or Googlebot might unnecessarily crawl duplicate content on your site. Google uses the value of this parameter to compare your URLs and determine if they are unique. For example, after you implement this type of setting for URLs containing the productid parameter, Google automatically considers the URL http://www.example.com/dresses/real.htm?productid=1202938 to be entirely different from http://www.example.com/dresses/real.htm?productid=5853729 because each URL has a different productid parameter value.
      • Only URLs with specified value: Use this setting to tell Google to crawl only URLs where your URL parameter is set to a value that you specify. Google crawls only URLs where the value of this parameter matches this specified value. URLs with a different parameter value won’t be crawled. This is particularly useful if your site uses the parameter value to change the order in which otherwise identical content is displayed. For example, http://www.example.com/dresses/real.htm?sort=price_high contains the same content as http://www.example.com/dresses/real.htm?sort=price_low. You could use this setting to tell Googlebot to crawl only those URLs where sort=price_low to avoid crawling the duplicate content.
      • No URLs: Use this option to tell Google not to crawl any URLs with a specific parameter. Google won't crawl any URLs containing the parameter you entered. For example, you can tell Google not to crawl URLs with parameters such as pricefrom and priceto (like http://www.examples.com/search?category=shoe&brand=nike&color=red&size=5&pricefrom=10&priceto=1000) to prevent unnecessary crawling of duplicated content already available from http://www.examples.com/search?category=shoe&brand=nike&color=red&size=5.

Active and passive parameters

The URL Parameters tool categorizes parameters as either active or passive:

Active parameters

Active parameters can change page content. Examples include parameters such as brandgender, country, and sortorder. Here are some common types of transformations created by active parameters:

  • Sorting (for example, sort=price_ascending): Changes the order in which content is presented.
  • Narrowing (for example, t-shirt_size=XS): Filters the content on the page.
  • Specifying (for example, store=women): Determines the set of content displayed on a page.
  • Translating (for example, lang=fr): Displays a translated version of the content.
  • Paginating (for example, page=2): Displays a specific page of a long listing or article. Note that you can also indicate paginated content directly.

Passive parameters

Passive URL parameters have no affect on how content appears to the user; they are often used to track visits and referrers, but have no affect on the actual content of the page. For example, the following URLs all point to the exact same content:

  • http://www.example.com/products/women/dresses?sessionid=12345
  • http://www.example.com/products/women/dresses?sessionid=34567
  • http://www.example.com/products/women/dresses?sessionid=34567&source=google.com

Some examples of passive parameters include: sessionidaffiliateid.

Choose a canonical URL

If your site publishes content that can be reached via multiple URLs, you can choose a representative URL to appear in Google Search results by specifying a canonical (preferred) version of the URL. You can do this with the URL Parameters tool, or you can add the rel="canonical" element to the HTML source of your preferred URL.

Note that to use rel="canonical", you'll need to be able to edit your pages' source code. Learn more about how to use canonical URLs.

NEXT: MANAGE URLS WITH MULTIPLE PARAMETERS

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