Since 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 Google.com 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 Google.com 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 Google.com home page.
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