Tips from the Chartcorps: Using developer tools to identify referral sources and more

Due to Google’s frequent updates to their suite of search products, it’s not always clear what is considered Google Search, Google News, or another of their services that help readers discover content. After a recent customer question about where Google’s Top Stories section fits within this ecosystem, we thought it would be a good time for a refresher on how you can use Chartbeat pings and your browser’s developer tools to identify referral sources and more.

According to Google, “Top stories is a section that appears within Google Search when we detect a search query is news-oriented. We match the search with relevant, quality news content to display.” In other words, it’s a section of the search engine results page that combines search terms with trending topics to pull in related articles from the News tab.

When it sounds like Search, but it’s also related to News, it’s not a bad idea to validate which referrer is recorded when Chartbeat pings your site, and using your browser’s site inspector tools can help you do so.

Using Chartbeat pings to identify a referrer

To identify the referrer on the page you’re viewing, follow these steps.

1. In Chrome, right-click the page and click Inspect to open Developer Tools.

Inspect element

2. Click the Network tab.

3. Type ping? in the filter field.

4. Click into a ping under Name, and then click the Payload tab to view the Query String Parameters.

5. Locate the r key to determine the referrer.

In the case of Google’s Top Stories, it turns out that the referrer is set as, which means that it’s considered Google Search. So, the next time you find yourself with a story featured here, it will be grouped under the traffic source “Search” and the Referrer “Google Search” in our Real-Time Dashboard.

Other query string parameters captured in Chartbeat pings

As we mentioned, you can use the same steps to verify other site information, and below are some other helpful query string parameters to review.

h:  The site id, or “host” where the site’s traffic data will appear in your Chartbeat account. 

p:  The page’s path. Sometimes this value is just the path portion of the URL, and sometimes it includes the domain name as well.

d:  With this key, we collect the actual domain of the page, which may be different from the h-key host/site name in your Chartbeat account. 

gAccount ID

g0:  A comma-delimited list of sections received from the page.

g1:  A comma-delimited list of authors received from the page.

iPage title. Only appears in the very first ping from each unique page session on the site.

rExternal referrer. Will carry the referring URL of the current pageview IF the referring page is an external site.

vInternal referrer. Will carry the referring URL of the current pageview IF the referring page is your own site.

tUnique identifier for the page-session. Each unique t-key value represents a separate pageview in the Chartbeat data.

Looking for more tech tips? Reach out to the Chartcorps at or @Chartcorps on Twitter.

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