Google Image Search traffic is ruining my SEO reports

Google Image Search traffic is ruining my SEO reports

22nd August 2011

In case you missed it, a few weeks ago Google seems to have made a quiet change to how Google Analytics records visits coming from Image Search results.

Whereas previously Image Search showed up in your Google Analytics as a referral visit – and thus allowed you to easily filter it from your reports – now it seems Image Search visits are part of the organic search traffic in your Google Analytics reports.

See for example these two graphs for one of our client sites:

Google Image Search traffic
Google Image Search traffic
Google organic search traffic
Google organic search traffic

As you can see the drop in referral traffic from Image Search coincides with a rise in Google organic search traffic.

Shouldn’t Google Image Search traffic be part of organic?

Now you may think that Image Search should be part of the organic search traffic measured in Google Analytics. But you’d be wrong. Because Image Search traffic doesn’t behave like regular search traffic. At all.

Image Search traffic has an incredibly high bounce rate. Users search for an image, look at it and perhaps save it to their harddrive, and then click the back button or close the window. Either way it is extremely rare for Image Search traffic to look beyond the page where the image is embedded. In fact most of the time, thanks to how Image Search works, users don’t even properly see the page where the image resides.

This makes Image Search traffic all but useless for the vast majority of websites. So the fact that it wasn’t part of your organic traffic reports in Google Analytics, and the ability to easily filter it from your reports, were very handy and much-used.

But now that Image Search traffic is part of the organic search report in Google Analytics, things have changed drastically. It totally pollutes organic search metrics, skewing the bounce rate, throwing keywords in there that have no real value for your website, and generally messing up your SEO reports.

And the real problem is that you can’t filter these image searches from your reports. Not without some serious Google Analytics wizardry. In fact, if anyone knows how to filter image searches from your organic search reports, please do let us know.

I have no idea why Google has chosen to pollute organic search traffic reports with this useless Image Search traffic, but one thing is sure: it’s having a severe negative impact on our ability to report accurately on our SEO efforts.

Now for every keyword Google Analytics reports organic search traffic for, I find myself wondering if this is actually useful traffic that ends up on a landing page and that we can potentially monetise, or if it’s utterly useless Image Search traffic that is nearly impossible to extract value from.


Written By
Barry Adams is one of the chief editors of State of Digital and is an award-winning SEO consultant delivering specialised technical SEO services to clients worldwide.
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