GoogleSearch Engine OptimizationThe Complicated Nature of Google URLs

June 12, 2012by Reva McPollom2

Here’s a bit of Google geekiness to start your day. RankPanel.com just published this post on Google search parameters in 2012. In it, the writer discusses how complex Google search URLs are as opposed to some other websites due to Google’s intricate filters and the way it passes user data from one page to the next. If you didn’t know, when you conduct a search on Google that URL can reveal personal information about you that you might not feel too comfortable sharing. So read on to learn more about the Google search parameters used in 2012.

The Google search URL has changed over time. Parameters have been added and taken away (or encrypted) to keep pace with the increasing complexity of the search product, the Google interface and the integration of verticals. RankPanel provided this exercise below to demonstrate the difference between the complex Google search URL and the search URL of another search engine.

Try this:

  1. Go directly to Google and search for your name. Look at the URL.
  2. Go directly to DuckDuckGo and perform the same search. Look at the URL.

You will see that while DuckDuckGo has only one search parameter, your query, Google uses a much more cryptic and complex construct. However, the same does not apply on Mobile devices.

Here is a table to explain the different parameters used by Google. The cd= is among the most relevant for SEOs.

Normal Search – all you really need

DuckDuckGo shows us all we really need when searching, a “search?” initializer followed by the query. When sharing Google searches online you might want to limit the URL to only this single one parameter.

Parameter (with example)Descriptionq=your+queryPrimary Google search parameter containing your query. Usually appears directly after the search? initiator. When you search directly via the Google website you don’t see the search? initiator anymore. But searches from e.g. Browser toolbars still have it.

Advanced search operators

Google offers many ways to filter results. Knowing the advanced search operators can enhance your productivity when working with Google. Try combining the different values to get the results you are really looking for.

Parameter (with example)Descriptionas_q=should+containThe results should contain all of the words entered, same as normal searchas_epq=must+includeIt’s the exact phrase that you’re looking for. It can also be entered in brackets like “must include”as_oq=any+of+theseThe results should contain any of these words, the search operator isORas_eq=none+of+theseThe results should contain none of these words, the search operator isas_dt=eWhat as_eq is for queries as_dt is for operators, as_dt=e excludes the following operator, as_dt=i includes it, e.g. as_dt=e&as_filetype=pdf returns results excluding pdfs, can also be entered using the  in front of the operatoras_filetype=pdfReturns results of a certain filetype, e.g. pdf, can be entered into queryfiletype:as_lqReturns a sample of links to any site, also usable via the link:commandas_sitesearchSearch a specified site, you can also use the operator site:as_rqShows a sample of related websites, also addressable using related:as_occt=anySpecify where keywords shall occur on the page

  • any
  • title
  • body
  • url
  • links

as_nlo=1Numbers range starts with 1as_nhi=44Numbers range ends with 44 a range. It can be typed into the search bar using 2 full stops .. between the first and last numberas_rights=cc_attributeThis attribute limits the search results to pages that have certain rights. It is quite useful for things like image or graphics search. The possible attributes are:

  • cc_publicdomain
  • cc_attribute
  • cc_sharealike
  • cc_noncommercial
  • cc_nonderived

You can combine all of these attributes in one query putting them in brackets and combining them via the | character.

num=100Sets the number of results per page. It can only be used if Google Instant results are turned off. Instant limits results to 10 per page.

Country and language

Google uses certain country codes and language names in its search. For more localized results you can even enter certain cities or provinces.

Parameter (with example)Descriptionhl=enLanguage settings passed down by your browser, here Englishlr=lang_csThe language the results should be in, here in Czechcr=countryZAThe region the results should come from, here South Africagl=caCan be used to find results as if the search was conducted in a specified location, here Canada. However, given the fact that Google uses many cues for determining your actual location the results can be unreliable. Try turning off localization as much as possible to increase accuracy. gr=US-NYJust as gl shows you how results look in a specified country, gr limits the results to a certain region, here New Yorkgcs=PittsburgLimits results to a certain city, you can also use latitude and longitudegpc=1020547Limits results to a certain zip code, here agin Pittsburggm=619Limits results to a certain metropolitan region, here Springfield MOie=utf-8input encodingoe=utf-8output encoding

Google’s advanced search tools

Parameter (with example)Descriptiontbs=rl%3A1%2Crls%3A0Reading level: only basic resultstbs=rl%3A1%2Crls%3A1Reading level: only intermediate resultstbs=rl%3A1%2Crls%3A2Reading level: only advanced resultstbs=rl%3A1Reading level: annotate reading leveltbs=dfn:1Dictionary: definition of a wordtbs=img:1Sites with imagestbs=sts:1More texttbs=clir:1Translated foreign pagestbs=li:1Verbatim resultstbs=vid:1Video resultstbs=nws:1Google news resultstbs=rltm:1Google realtime resultstbs=qdrYou can specify different time periods

  • tbs=qdr:s – previous second
  • tbs=qdr:n – previous minute
  • tbs=qdr:h – previous hour
  • tbs=qdr:d – previous day
  • tbs=qdr:w – previous week
  • tbs=qdr:m – previous month
  • tbs=qdr:y – previous year
  • specify filter results by time frame, by appending it with ,sbd:1, such as tbs=qdr:m,sbd:1 you get search results sorted by date

oi=video_resultThe “oi” parameter is used for universal search results. You can use it in Google analytics filter to understand when people come to your site via the universal search results. Different universal search categories have their own parameters, here video results. Other notable categories are:

  • Revisions_inline – related searches
  • image_result – image results
  • spell – spelling suggestion
  • Blogsearch_group – blog search results

Other factors

This section contains some of the most important Google parameters. You will learn how to turn off personalization and about the diverse filters that are applied by default.

Parameter (with example)Descriptionpws=0Parameter that allows you to turn offcd=2Passes down the keyword rank clicked. In analytics suites this can come in handy if you’d like to track the keyword rank. filter=0Include omitted resultscomplete=0Turn auto-suggest on or offnfpr=1Turn off auto-correction of spellingncr=1No country redirect: Allows you to set the Google country engine you would like to use despite your current geographic location. Though it works best if no Google cookie has been set yet.safe=onTurns the adult content filter on or offbiw=1920Browser inner width, here 1920pxbih=832Browser inner height, here 832pxstart=30Show results rankings from this number, so 30 is page three for 10 results per pagesa=User search behavior parameter

  • sa=N – User searched
  • sa=X – User clicked on related searches in the SERP

btnG=”Search”Text that appears on the search button (customization option for including search on one’s own site), here “Search”newwindow=1Open the results in a new windownavclient/client/sourceid=ie7Where the search originated from, e.g.:

  • navclient – Google toolbar
  • navclient-ff – Google search toolbar for Firefox
  • firefox-a – Firefox search box
  • chrome

rls=org.mozilla:en-US:officialSource of query with version of the client and language set.source=univGoogle navigational parameter specifying where you came from, here universal searchtbo=1Always show search tools in the left sidebarprmd=Parameter that determines which of Google’s vertical search engines are suggested in the left sidebar besides web, they can be combined, the most important ones are:

  • prmd=a – only applications
  • prmd=b – only books
  • prmd=c – only places
  • prmd=d – only discussions
  • prmd=i – only images
  • prmd=n – only news
  • prmd=s – only shopping
  • prmd=p – only patents
  • prmd=u – none (only web)
  • prmd=v – only video

2 comments

  • prarieguy

    July 5, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    You paint a bleak picture indeed. Actually it’s not that complicated. At the end of the data all you need to know is that Google is tracking you everywhere and they’re keeping more of that data for themselves and away from SEOs.

  • Nic

    July 5, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Wow, who knew all that was going on when I search!

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