Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 16 March 2012

What is all this crap Google adds to my search URLs?

I am a habitual URL hacker* - tinkering with the bits in a web address to try and find a page that I want. For example if I'm on I might prune off the bit at the end and see if there's anything at - it's often brought up loads of great stuff (not always, sometimes you don't get permission to view intermediate bits).

Whenever I run a search on Google and share the results with someone else I've noticed that I always paste the results URL into notepad and clip off all the stuff at the end that appears to be completely irrelevant to the search. I've only just started noticing that I do this although I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. I do it for everything though - if I'm sharing a link to an article on a news site and it has a bit at the end that mentions the referrer link (something like utm=twitter I think) then I prune that out too. I'm not exactly sure why, unless it turns out that I'm a purist and only want to share the minimum of alphanumerics needed to direct someone to the right page on a site.

The URL clipping itself is the work of seconds as I always have a notepad document open for that sort of thing and use keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to copy and paste and Alt+Tab to ping into the notepad window.

I've just searched on my work website for info about 'diabetes networks' using this exact search: "diabetes networks" - the site: bit means it just searches within our website and the bit in "" marks means it searches that exact phrase.

Wanting to send the results to someone else I copy the URL from the address bar and, as always, note with surprise the random string added to the end - what is all this guff that Google adds to my search string?

The URL above contains a duplicate of the search string (in dark red) and a whole load of apparently non-contributing filler (in green).

Deleting all of that pares it back to this much smaller web address: - which works fine. The %22 is the way web addresses render ", so you need to keep those (%3A = : - the colon between site and www).

The aqi / aql / gs_sm stuff is occasionally useful - if you click on the image search for example, you're given in return an address that looks a bit like this and removing these bits of text from the URL just resets it to the regular web search (meaning if you send the amended link to someone else they'll just see the regular results, not the image results).

But what do all those numbers and letters in green mean?

*solely for benign purposes!


  1. this should shed *some* light:

    e.g. its statistics that Google and/or the site you click on from the search results uses to track how you got to that site.

  2. Thanks Miguel - that's really explained things for me. I assumed there was some benefit to Google or someone else but the text seemed to be SO close to random gibberish that I wasn't certain. Of course just cos it's not human-understandable doesn't mean it's not perfectly machine-readable :)

  3. I found that this junk was slowing down Google searches so much that I was increasingly using Yahoo. In the end I got so fed up with Google that I had decided never to use it again. Which is a shame, because as a simple search engine it is unbeatable. It's just that they've got a modern disease that believes that more complicated is better. It never is! Anyway, just in time I found a Firefox addon called 'Google/Yandex search fix'. All this wonderful tool does is stop Google adding all this junk to its search URLs. Now Google is fast again!

  4. I did a search with the following string: "what is all this crap in the url google search"
    And I found your post.
    Thanks for your succinct explanation.
    I knew they wuz doing something. I just didn't know what.
    Then I found: "Google search link fix " Here:
    We'll see how it acts going forward.
    On a semi-related topic, Why does Firefox feel it necessary to update their browser every 5 minutes???
    Something fishy going on I'd say.


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