Our site attaches tracking codes to our URL's to track where certain orders come from, so the majority of our URLS look like this "www.domain.com/?tc=trackingcode". It seems that when we do a search in google for our domain name the only sites that come up are the ones that include the tracking code that occurs most frequently. For example, our most popular link partner uses tracking code "ATA" (www.domain.com/?tc=ata). When we seach for our domain name the ONLY sites that come up are URL's that inclde "ATA" at the end and none of our other tracking codes or even our homepage ( which is tracking code free) is listed. Does anyone know how Google handles this problem. It sounds like they include the most frequently listed pages and exlude the rest.
Also, our site is listed at the bottom of the Google directory with a blank PR scale, yet when we look at our index page in a browser the toolbar PR is about a 5. Could these tracking codes be resulting in our site being penalized for duplicate content or could it be that since the domain Google has listed most frequently, (with the tracking code "ATA") does not match the URL in the directory ( our home page) it does not know how to assign it a score?
Our sites have been using tracking codes for years and we have not been able to figure out our poor ranking, but I think your post may be the answer. If we have been penalized by Google by having duplicate pages will they remove the penalty when the duplicate pages are gone. I have heard that Google penalties are tough to remove and may be permanent?
Tracking codes wouldn't cause penalties. If you experiment and find a tracking code that works for you but that our crawler will handle, you'll be fine. Don't worry any about penalties, that's not something that tracking codes would cause. Things like cloaking and hidden text would do that.
A couple suggestions for tracking codes to avoid: session_ids, and codes that look like cookies. I'd suggestion trying to keep your dynamic parameters short if at possible. That increases the likelihood that any search engine spider will crawl you (not just Googlebot).
I think Google is working on this. I've noticed in a number of cases where Google is spidering through redirects of all sorts (302, meta refresh, etc). For example one site that I've been watching has a large number of incoming links to their old domain name. Recently they put a meta refresh tag on the old home page, redirecting people to the new domain name. In this particular case, it's very easy to see that they are getting credit for the old domain names PR and the associated incoming link text and that info is used on the new domain name.
I'm not finding this in every case, but I believe it's something Google is working on (and rightly should be) so that tracking urls, affilate links, etc. should be giving credit (PR) to the site that the link redirects to, and not to the tracking URL. Perhaps GoggleGuy will fill us in, but it looks to me that it's a change that is being worked on.