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Google’s Hummingbird Update: How It Changed Search



Google's Hummingbird Update: How It Changed Search

Google Hummingbird was a rewrite of Google’s algorithm that consciously anticipated the needs of searching on mobile devices, in particular by enabling conversational search.

Hummingbird set the stage for dramatic advances in search.

Google never published an explainer of what Hummingbird was.

However, there are records of Googlers explaining what it is.

Let’s take a look at what Google’s Hummingbird update did, how it impacted natural language search, and what Googlers and SEO industry experts had to say about it.

Google Hummingbird

The Google Hummingbird update was put into place in August 2013 and announced one month later, in September 2013.

The Hummingbird update has been described by Google as the biggest change to the algorithm since 2001.

It was also described by multiple Googlers as a total rewrite of the core algorithm.

Yet, despite the scale of this update, the immediate effect was so subtle that the update was largely unnoticed.

It seems contradictory for an update to be both wide-scale and unnoticeable.

The contradiction, however, is made more understandable when Hummingbird is viewed as the starting point for subsequent waves of innovations that were made possible by it.

Hummingbird Defined

The update was called Hummingbird because it is said to make Google’s core algorithm more precise and fast.

We all know what fast means.

Arguably the most important part of Hummingbird is the word “precise” because precision is about accuracy and being exact.

As you’ll see in the following linked conversations by Googlers, Hummingbird enabled Google to be more precise about what a query meant.

And, by moving away from matching keywords in a query to keywords on a webpage, Google became more precise about showing pages that matched the topic inherent in the search query.

A Complete Rewrite Of The Core Algorithm

Former Google Software Engineer Matt Cutts described Hummingbird as a rewrite of the entire core algorithm.

That doesn’t mean it was a brand new algorithm but rather the core algorithm was rewritten in a way that makes it able to do its job better.

In a December 4, 2013 video interview, Matt Cutts said that the Hummingbird algorithm was a rewrite of Google’s core search algorithm.

Matt Cutts explained (at the 1:20:00 mark of this video):

“Hummingbird is a rewrite of the core search algorithm.

Just to do a better job of matching the users queries with documents, especially for natural language queries, you know the queries get longer, they have more words in them and sometimes those words matter and sometimes they don’t.”

Some people think of Hummingbird as a component of Google’s core algorithm, much like Panda and Penguin are parts of the core algorithm.

Matt Cutts makes it clear that Hummingbird was not a part of the core algorithm. It was a rewrite of the core algorithm.

One of the goals of the rewrite was to make the core algorithm better able to match queries to webpages and to be able to handle longer conversational search queries.

Hummingbird Affected 90% Of Searches

Matt Cutts followed up by sharing that the precision and quickness of Hummingbird were present in 90% of searches.

Matt said:

“And so Hummingbird affects 90% of all searches.

But usually just to a small degree because we’re saying this particular document isn’t really about what the user searched for because maybe they said, ‘Okay Google, now how do I put a rutabaga up into space, what really matters is rutabaga and space and not how do I’.”

Hummingbird And Natural Language Search

When Hummingbird came out, some in the search community advised that it might be a good idea to change how content is written in order to match how searchers were searching.

Common advice was to convert articles to use more phrases like, how to.

While the advice was well-intentioned, it was also misguided.

What Hummingbird did was to make long conversational search queries understandable to the search engine.

In Matt’s example, Google was ignoring certain words in order to better understand what the search query really meant.

In the old algorithm, Google would try to rank a webpage that contained all the words in a search query, to do a word-for-word match between the search query and the webpage.

What Matt was explaining is that Google was now ignoring certain words in order to understand the queries and then use that understanding to rank a webpage.

Hummingbird enabled Google to stop relying on matching keywords to webpages, and instead, focus more on what the search query means.

That’s what he meant when he started his explanation of Hummingbird by saying:

“Just to do a better job of matching the users queries with documents, especially for natural language queries…”

Is There A Hummingbird Patent?

Some of the things that Hummingbird was doing with search queries was rewriting them by using techniques like query expansion.

For example, there are multiple ways to search for the same thing, using different words.

Five different search queries can be equal to one search query, with the only difference being that they use different words that are synonyms of each other.

With something like query expansion, Google could use synonyms to broaden the group of potential webpages to rank.

After Hummingbird, Google was no longer exact matching keywords in search queries to keywords in webpages.

This was something different that began happening after the Hummingbird update.

Bill Slawski wrote about a patent that describes things that the Hummingbird algorithm is said to be able to do, especially with regard to natural language queries.

Bill writes in his article:

“When the Hummingbird patent came out on Google’s 15th Birthday, it was like an overhaul of Google’s infrastructure, such as the Caffeine update, in the way that Googles index worked.

One thing that we were told was that the process behind Hummingbird was to rewrite queries more intelligently.”

The patent that Bill discovered and wrote about describes a breakthrough in how search queries are handled.

This patent described a way to make a search engine perform better for natural language search queries.

Thanks to Matt Cutts, we know that Hummingbird was a total rewrite of Google’s search algorithm.

Thanks to Bill Slawski, we can read a patent that describes some of the new things that the Hummingbird update made possible.

Does The Hummingbird Update Do New Things?

Similar to what Bill Slawski touched on about the patent he discovered, Matt Cutts said that the Hummingbird update allows Google to remove words from a mobile search query.

Matt Cutts said at a Pubcon 2013 keynote session that Hummingbird allows the algorithm to remove words that aren’t relevant to the context of what a user wants to find from a mobile voice search query.

You can watch Matt discuss Google Hummingbird in this video at the 6:35 minute mark:

“…the idea behind Hummingbird is, if you’re doing a query, it might be a natural language query, and you might include some word that you don’t necessarily need, like uh… [what’s the capital of Texas my dear]?

Well, ‘my dear’ doesn’t really add anything to that query.

It would be totally fine if you said just, [what is the capital of Texas?]

Or, [what is the capital of ever lovin’ Texas?]

Or, [what is the capital of crazy rebel beautiful Texas?]

Some of those words don’t matter as much.

And previously, Google used to match just the words in the query.

Now, we’re starting to say which ones are actually more helpful and which ones are more important.

And so Hummingbird is a step in that direction, where if you are saying or typing a longer query then we’re going to figure out which words matter more…”

There are three key takeaways from Matt’s explanation of what Hummingbird does:

  • Google no longer relies on just matching keywords in the search query.
  • Google identifies which words in a query are important and which are not.
  • Hummingbird is a step in the direction of understanding queries more precisely.

Hummingbird Did Not Initially Affect SEO

As previously mentioned, some SEOs advised updating webpages to make them match longer conversational search queries.

But just because Google was learning to understand conversational search queries did not mean that webpages needed to become more conversational.

In the above video recording of the 2013 Pubcon keynote address, Matt goes on to remark that Hummingbird doesn’t affect SEO.

Matt observed:

“Now, there’s a lot of articles written about Hummingbird, when even when just the code name was known, people were like, okay, how will Hummingbird affect SEO?

And even though people don’t know exactly what Hummingbird is they’re still going to write 500 words about how Hummingbird affects SEO.

And the fact is it doesn’t affect it that much.”

The Effect Of Hummingbird On Search Was Subtle

Matt next describes how the changes that Hummingbird introduced were subtle and not disruptive.

He said that the effect of the Hummingbird update was wide but the effect itself was small.

Matt explained:

“It affected 90% of queries but only to a small degree and we rolled it out over a month without people even noticing.

So it’s a subtle change, it’s not something that you need to worry about. It’s not going to rock your world like Panda and Penguin.

It’s just going to make the results a little bit better and especially on those long-tail queries or really specific queries, make them much better.”

Hummingbird & Long-Tail Keywords

Cutts continued his discussion about Hummingbird by describing its effect on sites that targeted extremely specific long-tail keywords.

We have to stop here and talk about long-tail phrases in order to better understand Matt Cutts is talking about because this part of the Hummingbird update had an effect on some SEO practices.

Long-tail keywords are search phrases that aren’t searched very often.

Many people associate long-tail with keyword phrases that have a lot of words in them – but that’s not what long-tail is.

Long tail, within the context of SEO, simply describes keyword phrases that are rarely searched for.

While some long-tail phrases may have a lot of words in them, the amount of words in a search query is not the defining characteristic of a long-tail search phrase.

The rarity of how often a phrase is used as a search query is what defines what a long-tail search query is.

The opposite of a Long-tail Search Query is a Head Phrase Search Query.

Head phrases are keyword phrases that have a high search query volume.

Screenshot by author, March 2022

Because there are so many people using the internet, spammers figured out that it was easy to rank for rare search queries so they began targeting millions of long-tail search phrases in order to attract thousands of site visitors every day and make money from ads.

Prior to Hummingbird, many legitimate sites also routinely targeted rare keyword phrase combinations for the same reason as the spammers, because they were easy to rank for.

After Hummingbird, Google began using some of the techniques that Bill Slawski reviewed in his article about the Google patent.

This change to how Google handled long-tail keyword phrases that Hummingbird introduced had a profound effect on how content was written, as many publishers learned it was not profitable to focus on thousands of granular long-tail search queries.

Cutts explained this long-tail aspect of the Hummingbird update:

“So unless you are a spammer and you’re targeting, ‘how many SEOs does it take to change a light bulb,’ and you’ve got all the keywords, you’ve got 15 variants of it, you’ve got a page for each one, you know.

If you’re doing those really long-tail things, then it might affect you.

But in general people don’t need to worry that much about Hummingbird.”

Despite his confidence that this change wouldn’t affect normal sites, Hummingbird did affect some legitimate non-spam sites that optimized webpages for highly specific search queries.

Hummingbird Was A Step Toward Conversational Search

Because Hummingbird was a rewrite of the old algorithm, which made it more precise and fast, it can be seen as a step toward today’s more modern search engine.

All of that one-to-one matching of keywords in the search query to keywords on a webpage was gone.

Combined with other improvements, such as the introduction of the Knowledge Graph, Google was now on its way to developing a deeper understanding of what users meant with their search queries and what webpages were really about.

That’s a vast improvement over the old search engine that matched keywords in the search queries to webpage content.

The improvements introduced by Google Hummingbird may have made this direction possible.

And though Cutts described the initial effect as subtle, these changes eventually lead to a more robust spoken language search experience that had a profound effect on what webpages were ranked and which pages were not ranked.

Search Innovations Sped Up After Hummingbird

What we know about Hummingbird is that it helped Google to better understand conversational search queries; it was a rewrite of the old Google core algorithm; that it helped Google understand the context of search queries; and that Google improved its ability to answer long-tail search queries.

Many significant changes to Google’s algorithm happened within months of the release of the Hummingbird update.

User Intent

Of course, when the conversation is about understanding user search queries, we’re now getting into the realm of understanding user intent.

Being able to remove superfluous words and get to the meaning of what a search query means is a step closer to understanding the user intent.

Fast Conversational Search – June 11, 2014

Conversational search began taking off in a big way in the spring of 2014, about six months after Hummingbird was introduced.

That was when Google was able to integrate the moment current events into the search results.

Read: Let Google Be Your Guide to the Beautiful Game with Real-time Highlights and Trends

Google Hummingbird was so-named because it was fast and accurate.

This new feature gave Google Search the ability to display sports scores in real-time.

There’s nothing faster than real-time, and sports scores are an example of precise information.

Ok Google Comes Online – June 26, 2014

A few weeks later Google unveiled the “Ok Google” conversational search product.

The introduction of the “Ok Google” voice command could be said to be the moment Google finally achieved its goal of providing a true conversational search experience.

Read:Ok Google” From Any Screen 

Conversational search depends heavily on understanding what people mean when they ask a question. That’s a huge leap forward.

Many other breakthroughs in conversational search followed

Conversational Search And Planning – October 14, 2014

Pravir Gupta, Senior Director of Engineering, Google Assistant posted an article on Google’s blog instructing how to utilize conversational search for doing things like verbally asking Google to find a restaurant or to give the user a reminder.

Read: Fall into Easier Planning with Google

Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe it’s not that many of these conversational search innovations were released within months of Google’s Hummingbird update.

Regardless, these kinds of conversational search improvements are the sorts of things that Google Hummingbird was meant to support.

Though our understanding of Google Hummingbird could be better, what we do know makes it very clear that the Hummingbird update set Google on course to meet the challenges of mobile search and caused the SEO community to re-evaluate what it meant to build search optimized content.

More Resources:

Featured Image: Henk Bogaard/Shutterstock

In-post Image #2: D-Krab/Shutterstock, modified by author, March 2022 

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GPT Store Set To Launch In 2024 After ‘Unexpected’ Delays




GPT Store Set To Launch In 2024 After 'Unexpected' Delays

OpenAI shares its plans for the GPT Store, enhancements to GPT Builder tools, privacy improvements, and updates coming to ChatGPT.

  • OpenAI has scheduled the launch of the GPT Store for early next year, aligning with its ongoing commitment to developing advanced AI technologies.
  • The GPT Builder tools have received substantial updates, including a more intuitive configuration interface and improved file handling capabilities.
  • Anticipation builds for upcoming updates to ChatGPT, highlighting OpenAI’s responsiveness to community feedback and dedication to AI innovation.

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96.55% of Content Gets No Traffic From Google. Here’s How to Be in the Other 3.45% [New Research for 2023]



96.55% of Content Gets No Traffic From Google. Here's How to Be in the Other 3.45% [New Research for 2023]

It’s no secret that the web is growing by millions, if not billions of pages per day.

Our Content Explorer tool discovers 10 million new pages every 24 hours while being very picky about the pages that qualify for inclusion. The “main” Ahrefs web crawler crawls that number of pages every two minutes. 

But how much of this content gets organic traffic from Google?

To find out, we took the entire database from our Content Explorer tool (around 14 billion pages) and studied how many pages get traffic from organic search and why.

How many web pages get organic search traffic?

96.55% of all pages in our index get zero traffic from Google, and 1.94% get between one and ten monthly visits.

Distribution of pages by traffic from Content Explorer

Before we move on to discussing why the vast majority of pages never get any search traffic from Google (and how to avoid being one of them), it’s important to address two discrepancies with the studied data:

  1. ~14 billion pages may seem like a huge number, but it’s not the most accurate representation of the entire web. Even compared to the size of Site Explorer’s index of 340.8 billion pages, our sample size for this study is quite small and somewhat biased towards the “quality side of the web.”
  2. Our search traffic numbers are estimates. Even though our database of ~651 million keywords in Site Explorer (where our estimates come from) is arguably the largest database of its kind, it doesn’t contain every possible thing people search for in Google. There’s a chance that some of these pages get search traffic from super long-tail keywords that are not popular enough to make it into our database.

That said, these two “inaccuracies” don’t change much in the grand scheme of things: the vast majority of published pages never rank in Google and never get any search traffic. 

But why is this, and how can you be a part of the minority that gets organic search traffic from Google?

Well, there are hundreds of SEO issues that may prevent your pages from ranking well in Google. But if we focus only on the most common scenarios, assuming the page is indexed, there are only three of them.

Reason 1: The topic has no search demand

If nobody is searching for your topic, you won’t get any search traffic—even if you rank #1.

For example, I recently Googled “pull sitemap into google sheets” and clicked the top-ranking page (which solved my problem in seconds, by the way). But if you plug that URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, you’ll see that it gets zero estimated organic search traffic:

The top-ranking page for this topic gets no traffic because there's no search demandThe top-ranking page for this topic gets no traffic because there's no search demand

This is because hardly anyone else is searching for this, as data from Keywords Explorer confirms:

Keyword data from Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer confirms that this topic has no search demandKeyword data from Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer confirms that this topic has no search demand

This is why it’s so important to do keyword research. You can’t just assume that people are searching for whatever you want to talk about. You need to check the data.

Our Traffic Potential (TP) metric in Keywords Explorer can help with this. It estimates how much organic search traffic the current top-ranking page for a keyword gets from all the queries it ranks for. This is a good indicator of the total search demand for a topic.

You’ll see this metric for every keyword in Keywords Explorer, and you can even filter for keywords that meet your minimum criteria (e.g., 500+ monthly traffic potential): 

Filtering for keywords with Traffic Potential (TP) in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerFiltering for keywords with Traffic Potential (TP) in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Reason 2: The page has no backlinks

Backlinks are one of Google’s top three ranking factors, so it probably comes as no surprise that there’s a clear correlation between the number of websites linking to a page and its traffic.

Pages with more referring domains get more trafficPages with more referring domains get more traffic
Pages with more referring domains get more traffic

Same goes for the correlation between a page’s traffic and keyword rankings:

Pages with more referring domains rank for more keywordsPages with more referring domains rank for more keywords
Pages with more referring domains rank for more keywords

Does any of this data prove that backlinks help you rank higher in Google?

No, because correlation does not imply causation. However, most SEO professionals will tell you that it’s almost impossible to rank on the first page for competitive keywords without backlinks—an observation that aligns with the data above.

The key word there is “competitive.” Plenty of pages get organic traffic while having no backlinks…

Pages with more referring domains get more trafficPages with more referring domains get more traffic
How much traffic pages with no backlinks get

… but from what I can tell, almost all of them are about low-competition topics.

For example, this lyrics page for a Neil Young song gets an estimated 162 monthly visits with no backlinks: 

Example of a page with traffic but no backlinks, via Ahrefs' Content ExplorerExample of a page with traffic but no backlinks, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer

But if we check the keywords it ranks for, they almost all have Keyword Difficulty (KD) scores in the single figures:

Some of the low-difficulty keywords a page without traffic ranks forSome of the low-difficulty keywords a page without traffic ranks for

It’s the same story for this page selling upholstered headboards:

Some of the low-difficulty keywords a page without traffic ranks forSome of the low-difficulty keywords a page without traffic ranks for

You might have noticed two other things about these pages:

  • Neither of them get that much traffic. This is pretty typical. Our index contains ~20 million pages with no referring domains, yet only 2,997 of them get more than 1K search visits per month. That’s roughly 1 in every 6,671 pages with no backlinks.
  • Both of the sites they’re on have high Domain Rating (DR) scores. This metric shows the relative strength of a website’s backlink profile. Stronger sites like these have more PageRank that they can pass to pages with internal links to help them rank. 

Bottom line? If you want your pages to get search traffic, you really only have two options:

  1. Target uncompetitive topics that you can rank for with few or no backlinks.
  2. Target competitive topics and build backlinks to rank.

If you want to find uncompetitive topics, try this:

  1. Enter a topic into Keywords Explorer
  2. Go to the Matching terms report
  3. Set the Keyword Difficulty (KD) filter to max. 20
  4. Set the Lowest DR filter to your site’s DR (this will show you keywords with at least one of the same or lower DR ranking in the top 5)
Filtering for low-competition keywords in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerFiltering for low-competition keywords in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

(Remember to keep an eye on the TP column to make sure they have traffic potential.)

To rank for more competitive topics, you’ll need to earn or build high-quality backlinks to your page. If you’re not sure how to do that, start with the guides below. Keep in mind that it’ll be practically impossible to get links unless your content adds something to the conversation. 

Reason 3. The page doesn’t match search intent

Google wants to give users the most relevant results for a query. That’s why the top organic results for “best yoga mat” are blog posts with recommendations, not product pages. 

It's obviously what searchers want when they search for "best yoga mats"It's obviously what searchers want when they search for "best yoga mats"

Basically, Google knows that searchers are in research mode, not buying mode.

It’s also why this page selling yoga mats doesn’t show up, despite it having backlinks from more than six times more websites than any of the top-ranking pages:

Page selling yoga mats that has lots of backlinksPage selling yoga mats that has lots of backlinks
Number of linking websites to the top-ranking pages for "best yoga mats"Number of linking websites to the top-ranking pages for "best yoga mats"

Luckily, the page ranks for thousands of other more relevant keywords and gets tens of thousands of monthly organic visits. So it’s not such a big deal that it doesn’t rank for “best yoga mats.”

Number of keyword rankings for the page selling yoga matsNumber of keyword rankings for the page selling yoga mats

However, if you have pages with lots of backlinks but no organic traffic—and they already target a keyword with traffic potential—another quick SEO win is to re-optimize them for search intent.

We did this in 2018 with our free backlink checker.

It was originally nothing but a boring landing page explaining the benefits of our product and offering a 7-day trial: 

Original landing page for our free backlink checkerOriginal landing page for our free backlink checker

After analyzing search intent, we soon realized the issue:

People weren’t looking for a landing page, but rather a free tool they could use right away. 

So, in September 2018, we created a free tool and published it under the same URL. It ranked #1 pretty much overnight, and has remained there ever since. 

Our rankings over time for the keyword "backlink checker." You can see when we changed the pageOur rankings over time for the keyword "backlink checker." You can see when we changed the page

Organic traffic went through the roof, too. From ~14K monthly organic visits pre-optimization to almost ~200K today. 

Estimated search traffic over time to our free backlink checkerEstimated search traffic over time to our free backlink checker


96.55% of pages get no organic traffic. 

Keep your pages in the other 3.45% by building backlinks, choosing topics with organic traffic potential, and matching search intent.

Ping me on Twitter if you have any questions. 🙂

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Firefox URL Tracking Removal – Is This A Trend To Watch?




Firefox URL Tracking Removal - Is This A Trend To Watch?

Firefox recently announced that they are offering users a choice on whether or not to include tracking information from copied URLs, which comes on the on the heels of iOS 17 blocking user tracking via URLs. The momentum of removing tracking information from URLs appears to be gaining speed. Where is this all going and should marketers be concerned?

Is it possible that blocking URL tracking parameters in the name of privacy will become a trend industrywide?

Firefox Announcement

Firefox recently announced that beginning in the Firefox Browser version 120.0, users will be able to select whether or not they want URLs that they copied to contain tracking parameters.

When users select a link to copy and click to raise the contextual menu for it, Firefox is now giving users a choice as to whether to copy the URL with or without the URL tracking parameters that might be attached to the URL.

Screenshot Of Firefox 120 Contextual Menu

Screenshot of Firefox functionality

According to the Firefox 120 announcement:

“Firefox supports a new “Copy Link Without Site Tracking” feature in the context menu which ensures that copied links no longer contain tracking information.”

Browser Trends For Privacy

All browsers, including Google’s Chrome and Chrome variants, are adding new features that make it harder for websites to track users online through referrer information embedded in a URL when a user clicks from one site and leaves through that click to visit another site.

This trend for privacy has been ongoing for many years but it became more noticeable in 2020 when Chrome made changes to how referrer information was sent when users click links to visit other sites. Firefox and Safari followed with similar referrer behavior.

Whether the current Firefox implementation would be disruptive or if the impact is overblown is kind of besides the point.

What is the point is whether or not what Firefox and Apple did to protect privacy is a trend and if that trend will extend to more blocking of URL parameters that are stronger than what Firefox recently implemented.

I asked Kenny Hyder, CEO of online marketing agency Pixel Main, what his thoughts are about the potential disruptive aspect of what Firefox is doing and whether it’s a trend.

Kenny answered:

“It’s not disruptive from Firefox alone, which only has a 3% market share. If other popular browsers follow suit it could begin to be disruptive to a limited degree, but easily solved from a marketers prospective.

If it became more intrusive and they blocked UTM tags, it would take awhile for them all to catch on if you were to circumvent UTM tags by simply tagging things in a series of sub-directories.. ie.<tag1>/<tag2> etc.

Also, most savvy marketers are already integrating future proof workarounds for these exact scenarios.

A lot can be done with pixel based integrations rather than cookie based or UTM tracking. When set up properly they can actually provide better and more accurate tracking and attribution. Hence the name of my agency, Pixel Main.”

I think most marketers are aware that privacy is the trend. The good ones have already taken steps to keep it from becoming a problem while still respecting user privacy.”

Some URL Parameters Are Already Affected

For those who are on the periphery of what’s going on with browsers and privacy, it may come as a surprise that some tracking parameters are already affected by actions meant to protect user privacy.

Jonathan Cairo, Lead Solutions Engineer at Elevar shared that there is already a limited amount of tracking related information stripped from URLs.

But he also explained that there are limits to how much information can be stripped from URLs because the resulting negative effects would cause important web browsing functionality to fail.

Jonathan explained:

“So far, we’re seeing a selective trend where some URL parameters, like ‘fbclid’ in Safari’s private browsing, are disappearing, while others, such as TikTok’s ‘ttclid’, remain.

UTM parameters are expected to stay since they focus on user segmentation rather than individual tracking, provided they are used as intended.

The idea of completely removing all URL parameters seems improbable, as it would disrupt key functionalities on numerous websites, including banking services and search capabilities.

Such a drastic move could lead users to switch to alternative browsers.

On the other hand, if only some parameters are eliminated, there’s the possibility of marketers exploiting the remaining ones for tracking purposes.

This raises the question of whether companies like Apple will take it upon themselves to prevent such use.

Regardless, even in a scenario where all parameters are lost, there are still alternative ways to convey click IDs and UTM information to websites.”

Brad Redding of Elevar agreed about the disruptive effect from going too far with removing URL tracking information:

“There is still too much basic internet functionality that relies on query parameters, such as logging in, password resets, etc, which are effectively the same as URL parameters in a full URL path.

So we believe the privacy crackdown is going to continue on known trackers by blocking their tracking scripts, cookies generated from them, and their ability to monitor user’s activity through the browser.

As this grows, the reliance on brands to own their first party data collection and bring consent preferences down to a user-level (vs session based) will be critical so they can backfill gaps in conversion data to their advertising partners outside of the browser or device.”

The Future Of Tracking, Privacy And What Marketers Should Expect

Elevar raises good points about how far browsers can go in terms of how much blocking they can do. Their response that it’s down to brands to own their first party data collection and other strategies to accomplish analytics without compromising user privacy.

Given all the laws governing privacy and Internet tracking that have been enacted around the world it looks like privacy will continue to be a trend.

However, at this point it time, the advice is to keep monitoring how far browsers are going but there is no expectation that things will get out of hand.

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