Think you got a bump from Panda 2.3? Not so fast.
Image Search Analytics
In looking at a number of client sites I notice that image search traffic, tracked under referring traffic (google.com / referral) with the referral path of imgres, fell off a cliff as of July 23rd.
Where did that image traffic go? Organic.
So if you thought you'd been the beneficiary of Panda 2.3 (launched late last week), you might want to make sure it's not a phantom image search bump.
The Definition of Organic
At present I can't find an easy way within Google Analytics to distinguish between organic traffic that is search based versus image based. That strikes me as a step back since these forms of traffic are not homogeneous in nature. Lumping image search in with organic is like smearing vaseline on your windshield. I can still see, just not as well as I could before.
There's probably a hack you can put together via filters, but most users won't make that effort.
Where's Image Search?
This isn't the first time Google has played Where's Waldo with image search. On May 6th, 2010 Google moved image search traffic from images.google.com to google.com.
At least that time you could wander around Google Analytics and spot the new source/medium that would provide the same level of specificity. Oddly, you'd still see some stray images.google.com traffic after this change. I always meant to track that down but never got around to it. This new update seems to finish the job and eliminate the remaining images.google.com traffic that had been trickling in.
New Dimension Please
I am hoping that this is just evidence that Google Analytics will launch a new dimension so we can separate these two different types of search traffic. Yet, you'd think they'd launch the dimension before migrating the traffic.
For a long time I figured that these changes were an indication that image search was the ugly duckling of the bunch. But recent events make me believe that Google is very invested in image search, so why the lack viable reporting? No, 'it's free' is not the right answer.
I'm waiting to hear from a few Google sources and will update this post if I get any type of insight or confirmation. Until then, how do you feel about this change?