Yahoo’s Search Assist and tracking keywords

Dave’s post pointed me at the new look for Yahoo!, and Greg did some coverage on SEL. The coolest thing in there is Yahoo Search Assist, which Danny explains at length in this somewhat older post. It works amazingly cool and it might even make me consider Yahoo! a bit more often.

Sean Hardaker raises a valid point in the comments on Dave’s post though: “wonder if you can track it?” So I started looking into the specifics by doing my favorite query “css3“. After that I hit space iyn the search box and waited a few seconds for the suggestions to pop up:

Search Assist on css3 query

On the left, it offers links to “new” queries whereas on the right it proposes “search refinements” or “concepts to explore”. If you hit the suggestions on the left, the URL changes to the new query, with ?fr2=sg-gac added to the front of the parameter string. This makes this feature “trackable”. The keyword used for the new query is in the p= parameter as normal. Unfortunately the first keyword searched for is not shown, so you’ll have to guess what triggered the keyword combination to show up.

The query refinements on the right are a bit complex though. If you click a refinement and open it in a new tab, the original query is stored in the rp= parameter, and the new query is stored in the p= parameter. This makes these queries and the keywords in them perfectly trackable. However, how often do you open options like this in a new tab?

What happens when you do it on the current page is a bit different: the “refining” keyword is added to the end of the current URL like this: #f=refine. That is troublesome, since browsers don’t pass the # and anything behind it in the referrer string, which makes these refining keywords basically untrackable. Now that could potentially create some trouble, as it might seem that pages are ranking for keywords they are in fact not ranking for, but are only ranking for with refinements added…

I’d rather see Yahoo! doing the same as they do when you open a search result in a new tab: adding the keyword to the query string…

Update: I just updated my Google Analytics plugin to give you a new option. It can now add the original query (used to search before it was refined and opened in a new tab as explained above) to the query that resulted in the user clicking to your page, so you now get search [original search].

The script used for tracking this can be found here. Since it works on the same function within urchin.js, you need this one if you also want to track image searches.

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