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on click tracking, logfiles--and back to google


So I was wondering today what was happening with one of my logfiles, which couldn't be parsed (This after spending ONE HOUR cleaning up a rash of spam comments on this weblog). The parsing was failing even though the log format was fine, and I finally identified the culprit as a line which included something similar to the following baffling text in the referer field:

onmousedown=\"return clk(2,this)\"

This was, needless to say, extremely weird. After some digging I found this thread at webmasterworld. Quote:

I know, Google has been sporadically tracking clicks on result listings through redirects. It looks like click tracking is obviously now a default but instead of rewriting the listings' urls to redirects, the tracking is done through a "hidden" JavaScript function that activates a image request to track the click + position of the listing.

[...]

The listings' urls within the serps look like this:
<a href="http:*//www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/" onmousedown="return clk(2,this)">Google News</a>

By itself, tracking is a teeny bit worrying. But tracking that destroys my ability to parse logfiles without fuss is evil. Evil I tellsya!

Okay, maybe not Evil. But certainly a problem. I've never seen this tracking myself before from Google (see below), not sure if Google is aware of the problem with this method--Hopefully they'll fix it.

Speaking of tracking.

Currently with Google when I see tracking (which happens more and more often these days) I see something of the form:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start=1
&q=http://www.dynamicobjects.com/d2r/archives/002587.html&e=7898

While Yahoo! Search shows the following:

http://rds.yahoo.com/S=2766279/K
=d2r+new+yahoo+search/v=2/TID=F223_45/SID=w/l=WS1/R=1/H=0/*-
http://www.dynamicobjects.com/d2r/archives/002587.html
Yikes! (Sorry for the line breaks, those are some pretty long and ugly URLs!).

Now, since the new Yahoo! Search came online I have never, never seen a link NOT tracked. They are tracking everything. And as the example above shows, Yahoo! tracks not only what you're clicking, but also the query and a number of other things that are unknown. Is that a cookie value there? Are they tying cookie IDs to searches? Their privacy policy didn't clarify this, as it has no reference to tracking that I can see.

I switched to Yahoo! a few weeks ago, and there are a number of other things that I find annoying about their new search. While the results are relevant and it's generally fast, I find the "sponsor results" which appear both at the top and at the bottom something that is pretty intrusive. In only two weeks I've learned to ignore them completely (I never click on them, barely see them) but now they're getting annoying. Sometimes I have to scroll down to get past the "sponsor results" which is ridiculous. Not only that, but the constant tracking slows down the request, if not by much, at least noticeably (something that doesn't happen with Google in my experience).

Finally, a small point: the page is too busy. It's weird that I feel this way now, but that's what it seems. The current Google results page is too busy as well, but less so. Then through Aaron I found a way to activate the new (as yet unreleased) Google look. So I tried it, and I liked it!. I like it better than anything else out there. Fast, and simple (the ads look a little weird without clear borders though, and make them a bit confusing). Let's hope that hack that makes it available doesn't stop working anytime soon.

So I'm switching back to Google, and Google is again my default in the Firefox/Firebird search box. All the reasons are fine, but in the end, it's as simple as this: at the moment, minor problems aside, Google is a better product, period.

Categories: soft.dev
Posted by diego on March 7 2004 at 3:51 PM

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