Google says image search referrals will not get new source URL (but forgets to tell us)
The company teases publishers with more traffic data and then retracts that offer.
About 10-months ago, Google told publishers, site owners and tool providers to prepare for a change in how Google Image search will be sending their referral URLs. Instead of Google Image search traffic coming from www.google.com, they wanted to change it to help webmasters understand their image search traffic. So Google said in the upcoming months the referral URL will change to images.google.com so your analytics tools can track it better.
That ain’t happening anymore.
Google is not changing the image search referral URL. Google recently posted an update at some saying it is not going ahead with this change and that users can get this data in Google Search Console instead.
“UPDATE: After testing and further consideration, we have determined that the best place to measure query and click traffic from Google Images is in the Search Console Performance Report. Accordingly, we will continue to use https://www.google.com (or the appropriate ccTLD) as the referrer URL for all traffic from Google Images, and will not be providing a Google Images specific referrer URL (images.google.com),” the company said.
How we found out. No, Google didn’t inform us or anyone else of this change. It just simply and quietly updated the 2018 blog post and didn’t send out an update anywhere else about it. Nothing posted on Twitter, no mention of it on their blog. Just maybe hoped no one would notice. But someone noticed; AJ Kohn posted about it on Twitter:
I kept waiting for Google to roll out the image referrer in Google Analytics. But it turns out they decided not to after "further consideration". Am I the only one who missed this post update? pic.twitter.com/aU8wkRUsxr
— AJ Kohn (@ajkohn) May 16, 2019
Why we should care. This means the only way to see your Google Image Search traffic properly is within Google Search Console. That also means there will be at least a two-day delay because Search Console performance reports are always delayed by that length of time. In addition, this means you will get no real-time data on this — so if you have an image doing well in image search on a specific day you won’t know until later.
Not changing the image search referral URL for publishers, webmasters and site owners is confusing. Maybe there was a large technical challenge to doing this that Google decided not to tackle. But as Google originally said, “For webmasters, it hasn’t always been easy to understand the role Google Images plays in driving site traffic.” That really won’t change because Google Search Console had this data previously anyway. I guess Google’s “hope this change will foster a healthy visual content ecosystem” is something it is not currently interested in now?