While I was poking around looking for comparisons of the different weblogging engines (you’ll noticed I settled on Movable Type), I saw a new trick. As usual, I was doing a Google search to find information. When I clicked on one of the links that Google found, my search terms were automatically highlighted on the new page. I know this is one of the tricks of the Google Toolbar, but this site was doing it all on its own.
To see what I’m talking about, do this Google search. Then look for the result titled “Remember Blogging?” (currently the 8th hit) and follow that link. Notice that the keywords that we asked Google to use are listed at the top of this unrelated page. Also, notice that they’re highlighted wherever they occur.
When you follow a link, your browser remembers the URL you’re coming from, called the referer. When it requests the next page from the server, it also tells the server the referer as one of the header fields. My guess is that this site is picking apart the referer to get the list of search terms and creating a custom page on-the-fly that highlights them.
I could imagine this being taken one step further. A site could offer different content based on the visitor’s search words. You could put a banner at the top that says “We noticed you were searching for X. We think you’re really looking for this other page.”