Skip to content

Don’t freak out… your images are no longer Referrals

Yesterday a client, who hosts a bit of images on his site, approached me about his Google Analytics. The Client noticed that suddenly his number of referrals went down, but at the same time his organic search trends were increasing. He couldn’t understand it, and personally neither could I.

That is when I put on my researcher hat and started looking at everything I could. Luckily Rob D. Young over at Search Engine Watch (a great publication if you want to watch their feeds) already had an article about it. In the article “Google Analytics Tweaks Sessions and Image Referrals” Rob hits on some major changes you need to watch if you are watching or trending your web analytics (also for things you should SEO).

The first major point is that Google is changing how they determine a “Session.” For those of my followers not yet internet savvy, a session is a way that a web site knows how many times you visit a site. Think of it this way. If you go into McDonald’s and order a burger, and then go again tomorrow  and get a chicken sandwich that counts as 2 sessions. Now Google previously defined this a little differently. They stated that a website user ended a session when:

  • More than 30 minutes have elapsed between pageviews for a single visitor.
  • At the end of a day.
  • When a visitor closes their browser

The change that was recently put into place doesn’t effect the first 2 situations, but rather changes (not specifically enough for most as is Google’s trend) number 3, and adds a 4th. The change is that now Google realizes that people leave sites for multiple reasons. Using my example… maybe you ordered but forgot your wallet so you had to leave, then come back quickly. So they simply took it out. The new criteria, as reported by SEW, is that “If the user leaves the site and then re-enters from a new source, it counts as a new session. For example, if a user checks out an article on your site because they found it by searching for one term, then leaves your site and finds another article based on another term, each visit counts as a new session.”

On top of this metric (which has greatly changed the trending charts many SEO professionals watch every day) they changed their concept on referrals. Previously people coming from Google’s image search at (or any site for that matter) counted as referrals. As part of this change, Google made these types of accesses of your site considered part of the organic search content. So what does that mean? Well if you are a heavy media company, with lots of images (say an e-commerce vendor, or artist selling your work) you should start to get some “bonus points” for ensuring that Google indexes your images, and that you are tagging them appropriately. With that said, I feel this will begin to bring the information more into play I believe over time. Ensuring that your images are tagged with information about the company, ensuring proper alt tags etc will become key over time.

Hope none of you have had a heart attack seeing your stats yet!