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Mastodon Is Using Rel Noreferrer On Outbound Links Causing Visits To Appear As Direct Traffic In Google Analytics

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Mastodon Is Using Rel Noreferrer On Outbound Links Causing Visits To Appear As Direct Traffic In Google Analytics

With all of the Twitter chaos over the past few weeks, many have been flocking to Mastodon. I signed up last week and many other SEOs have signed up as well. Although there’s a bit of a learning curve, and it feels like Twitter in 2010, I must admit I’m really liking it.

The founder and CEO of Mastodon just announced this week they hit the 1M monthly active user mark, which is great to see. If you haven’t signed up yet, you should try it. And if you’re wondering how to find people to follow, Jon Henshaw created a list of SEOs that are on Mastodon with links to their profiles. He even explains how to import that list and follow those people automatically.

Where’s the Mastodon traffic?

As I’ve been sharing on Mastodon more, and as activity on the social network surges overall, I’ve been trying to track visits to content from Mastodon. Digging into Google Analytics yielded nothing in the past from Mastodon, so I decided to quickly check what’s going on from a tracking standpoint.

I ended up testing the tracking situation by sharing some links on Mastodon and seeing how that was tracked in Google Analytics. If you’re a user of Mastodon, and want to analyze traffic from the growing social network, I don’t think you’re going to like what I found.

Mastodon is using rel noferrer on all outbound links:

When a site owner employs the rel=“noreferrer” attribute on a link, that tells the browser to not pass the referrer via the header. So, when someone clicks a link to your site via a link with rel=“noferrer”, those visits will show up as Direct Traffic. That’s why you will not see any referrals from Mastodon (unless that changes in the future).

Here is what an outbound link looks like on Mastodon:

1668155704 83 Mastodon Is Using Rel Noreferrer On Outbound Links Causing Visits

And here is what a visit from Mastodon looks like in Google Analytics:

Mastodon traffic in Google Analytics

Is hidden Mastodon traffic a problem for the growing social network?

With Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks, you can see the traffic from those sites in your Google Analytics reporting. That surely helps site owners, social media marketers, and others better understand the value from that social network (traffic-wise, conversion-wise, etc.) With Mastodon using rel noreferrer, that traffic is mixed in with Direct Traffic, so it surely muddies the waters from an analysis standpoint.

If anything changes on that front, I’ll be sure to add to this post. And if you end up trying Mastodon, you can follow me and Barry (both of us are pretty active there now).

Update:
Someone pinged me on Twitter that adding campaign parameters enables GA3 to track visits from Mastodon. I was referring to normal links posted there, which will appear as Direct Traffic. Also, it sounds like GA4 is still tracking those visits as Direct, even when campaign parameters are being used.

Here is what I see in GA3 when using campaign parameters. I included Mastodon as the source and Social as the medium:
Tracking Mastodon traffic using campaign parameters



Source: www.seroundtable.com

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SEARCHENGINES

Daily Search Forum Recap: July 18, 2024

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Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.


We’re seeing more Google Search ranking volatility, is this a sign of the core update coming? Google is testing AI Overviews on by default in the UK, even on some Workspace accounts. Google Merchant Center Next is coming to all merchants now. Google’s site reputation abuse policy forced a public company to lower earnings forecasts. Google is testing bolding the query in the search box when unselected.


Search Engine Roundtable Stories:


  • Google Search Ranking Algorithm Volatility – July 18th


    We may be seeing the start of a Google Search ranking algorithm update, as I am starting to see volatility spiking in the Google Search results and a spike in chatter within the SEO community. I know we are expecting the next core update to touch down in the coming weeks, so maybe Google is testing/evaluating something now?

  • Google Tests AI Overviews In Workspace Accounts In The UK


    Google AI Overviews are only really live in the United States, for personal Google accounts (not Workspace accounts) and on Chrome browsers. Well, Google seems to be showing AI Overviews to some Workspace accounts in the UK.


  • Google Merchant Center Next Coming To All Merchants


    Google announced that Google Merchant Center Next, the updated version of Google Merchant Center it announced at Google Marketing Live in 2023, is now coming to all merchants this month. Google has already begun notifying merchants and advertisers of this via email and will continue to do so over the month.



  • Google’s Site Reputation Abuse Update Leads Gaming Affiliate To Reduce Financial Forecast


    Catena Media, a publicly-traded online gambling information company, issued their Q2 earnings update a couple of weeks ago, saying they have reduced its revenues forecast due to the Google Site reputation abuse policy update.




  • Google Bolding Query In Search Box When Cursor Out Of Search Box


    Google is testing bolding the query in the search box when you click your cursor outside of the search box, otherwise the query is in normal plain font text. This is a weird one – don’t you think?

  • Doogler Google Office Bed


    Here is a photo of a Doogler, Google dog, at the Google Dublin office in a dog bed – a Google dog bed. The dog looks a bit tired and for some reason is lying near the bed and not on the bed.

Other Great Search Threads:

Search Engine Land Stories:

Other Great Search Stories:

Analytics

Industry & Business

Links & Content Marketing

Local & Maps

Mobile & Voice

SEO

PPC

Search Features

Other Search

Feedback:


Have feedback on this daily recap; let me know on Twitter @rustybrick or @seroundtable, on Threads, Mastodon and Bluesky and you can follow us on Facebook and on Google News and make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or just contact us the old fashion way.



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SEARCHENGINES

Daily Search Forum Recap: July 17, 2024

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Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.


Google has finally ended its labs experiment for Search Notes. Google Knowledge Panels tests showing store rating reviews. Google tests renaming short videos to quick takes. Google Ads in Japan changed the term brand match to intent match. Google is testing query refinements under the ad carousel.


Search Engine Roundtable Stories:


  • Google Search Notes Finally To End


    There was a lot of speculation that Google would remove the Search Notes feature from the Google Search labs results last May after living past its official end date of December 2023. Well, Google told 9to5Google that Notes on Search and Discover is finally going away.

  • Google Ads Changed Broad Match To Intent Match In Japan


    Google Ads has changed what they call broad match to intent match in Japan. So now it is called (Intent Match), it was called (Partial Match).

  • Google Knowledge Panels Tests Store Ratings Reviews


    Google is testing showing store ratings review stars in the knowledge panels for some retail stores. Clicking on the stars will take you into the Google Store Rating panel.

  • Google Tests Renaming Short Videos To Quick Takes


    Google is testing renaming the short videos carousel to quick takes in the Google Search results. Short videos are quick videos Google surfaces in its search results from YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and other sources and now Google is testing naming them “Quick Takes.”

  • Google Ads Query Refinements Under Ad Carousel


    Google seems to be testing a query refinement ad option. Where Google is showing other search queries related to the ads it is showing under a sponsored ad carousel in the search results.



  • Google Paris France Olympics Signage Adapted


    In April, we covered the prep the Google Paris, France office put together for the upcoming Olympics events by dressing up its lobby signage in Olympic sports. Well, the sign changed a bit. Here is a more recent photo I found on Instagram.

Other Great Search Threads:

Search Engine Land Stories:

Other Great Search Stories:

Analytics

Industry & Business

Links & Content Marketing

Local & Maps

Mobile & Voice

SEO

PPC

Other Search

Feedback:


Have feedback on this daily recap; let me know on Twitter @rustybrick or @seroundtable, on Threads, Mastodon and Bluesky and you can follow us on Facebook and on Google News and make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or just contact us the old fashion way.



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SEARCHENGINES

Google Core Update Expected In Coming Weeks

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Google Core Fire Balls

Danny Sullivan, the Google Search Liaison, said that he expects the next core update will be rolling out in the coming weeks. He said it is hard to predict because these updates are not scheduled to a particular day but rather tested and then once approved are launched.

Sullivan said this on a comment on this site, over here, he wrote, “I would expect we’ll see one in the coming weeks, because that fits in with our general cycle.” “But precisely when, that’s just not known yet,” he added.

In fact, he added that these updates are simple not scheduled, he said, “the ranking team makes changes, tests those, evaluates those and eventually we get a launch date.” But that, I guess, has not happened yet and thus we don’t have a date yet. When it is ready, I assume Google will roll it out and let us know and that seems to happen pretty quickly after the testing and evaluations are all approved.

He wrote:

We’d tell you when the next core update will be if we knew. But we don’t know exactly yet, that’s all. These aren’t scheduled to a particular day. The ranking team makes changes, tests those, evaluates those and eventually we get a launch date. There have been many times I could have said “Core update next week!” because everything was on track for that to happen, but then there’s a need to do a bit more work or other things that might cause a pushback. I would expect we’ll see one in the coming weeks, because that fits in with our general cycle. But precisely when, that’s just not known yet.

As to seeing changes? Well, Sullivan did also say in the comments, “I do hope we can improve in some of these cases where creators with their hearts in the right places, and who are doing the real content effort behind that, are rewarded as we should be doing.” This echoes a lot of what Google said before.

He also added something I did not know, that he interviewed folks at HouseFresh and RetroDodo in front of about 50 Google Search Quality team members, so the Google team “could hear first-hand directly some of the things that they’ve had relayed from me, John or which they’ve read about,” he wrote. “It was incredibly useful, impactful, and I’m deeply grateful for both of those for agreeing to do it,” he added.

So maybe we will have a July 2024 core update or maybe it will be an August 2024 core update – or maybe later. It all depends on how the testing and evaluations go… For all we know, that might happen later today, so buckle up.

Forum discussion at us and X.

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