Rejoice! Safari Is Once Again Providing Google Referral Information In iOS

ios7-safari-google-referrerSince last September, people using Safari on iOS devices and searching on Google have appeared to publishers as if they came directly to their sites, not via Google. Now, the problem has ended, with iOS now apparently having been upgraded to support the “meta referrer” tag.

No, this doesn’t solve the “not provided” issue, where Google itself may strip search terms used to find a site from the referrer passed to publishers. However, at least people should now appear as if they came from Google Search generally, rather than as if they were “direct” visitors.

With iOS 7, Apple’s new iOS update expected to be released this fall, but currently in beta, Apple has begun to pass the referrer data to web sites from Google.

I’ve tested this using iOS 7 and iOS 6, on the iPad. Through iOS 6, the referrer data is not provided and hidden when you click from Google’s search results page to a web site. But with iOS 7, the referrer data is provided. Well, not all of it as discussed with the “not provided” issue but at least publishers and webmasters know the traffic is coming from Google and not from “direct sources.”

With iOS 7, the referrer data is passed virtually all the ways you search Google. Be it signed in or signed out, be it searching directly on or searching via the omni search box in mobile Safari.

When iOS 7 is released to the masses, expect major shifts in your analytics to account for the proper reporting of Google search traffic from iOS devices.

With iOS 6, we’re finding conflicting things. Some on the iPhone report full referrers being passed. Some get only a short referrer. Some get no referrer at all. And what you get can also vary depending on whether you search when signed-in, signed-out and via the Safari search box or from the home page.

Postscript: Two new stories with some more analysis came out from Adobe and Define Media Group.

Related Stories

Related Topics: Apple | Channel: Analytics | Google: Analytics | Google: Privacy | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Ross Scrivener

    Hey, great news!
    I’ve created a Google Analytics Dashboard you can install to view the differences of traffic between iOS 5/6/7…

  • Thomas Redmond

    This made my life

  • Ronnie’s Mustache

    I will believe it when I see it in the iOS 7 release.

  • RyanMJones

    Finally! It’s been forever – and strangely so few people still know about this.

  • Takeshi Young

    Great news!

  • Chris Dugdale

    I’m seeing it now.

    Natural search attribution of iOS traffic has nearly doubled since Monday on my sites. Much of the increase is being driven by iOS6.

  • Ronnie’s Mustache

    Well look at that! iOS organic traffic has doubled!


    Thanks for the heads up…

  • Ronnie’s Mustache

    Some SEO’s are going to be bonused big because of this -hahaha!

    Some completely unaware as to why. ;)

  • Henry Dupilo

    like Rodney explained I cannot feel that students competent to produce $8150 within 2-3 weeks on my pc. do you see this page big44. com.

  • Dan Fabulich

    Could you test iOS 6 again? We’re seeing that even iOS 6 browsers are sending referral info as of July 30; it’s seemingly confirmed by the “Define Media Group” link at the bottom of this article.

  • Pete Dainty

    ooh I’ll have a look at that, I didn’t see any unusual spike on our sites in traffic from reattribution around that time.

  • Pete Dainty

    OK, tested iOS in general (all versions) and between July 29th & 30th we see a shift in traffic for SEO from what was previously unknown.

  • constance762

    Louise replied, I am taken by surprise that any one can make $7597 in one month
    on the internet. did you see this web link w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • Joe

    My SEO traffic from iOS doubled on July 29th.

  • Justin

    Sweet!! I’ve been fretting about this issue for months! Thanks for the great news Barry!

  • Josh

    Unfortunately it appears that referer data from iPad visits are still not being passed. At least from iOS7, not sure about 6.

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