In January Google updated its image search algorithm to improve the user experience. The “new” Google Images now shows the selected picture in a black display pane.
By comparison the older version pulled up the website in the background. This seems like a straightforward enough change, certainly in line with Google’s many adjustments geared to a cleaner visual experience.
However, for websites that have many images in the Google index, there is a less than exciting result to this new and improved user experience. The newest update to the image search decreases the referral traffic from Google.com. Because the new display feature does not pull the website up behind the selected image, the Google Analytics code does not have a chance to fire, removing the page view credit and decreasing referral traffic.
Websites with substantial image libraries will see the decrease in Google Images traffic starting at the end of January when the switch was made. Traffic from Google Images can be found under Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals> Google.com. To identify the Google Images traffic specifically, click Google.com from the referral sources listed and look for /imgres.
In order for the Google Analytics code to fire using the new Images features, the searcher must select to visit the page by clicking on the image a second time, or selecting one of the two buttons to the right of the image. Although the impact of the change may appear extreme for some sites initially, the new functionality will result in a truer site visit, rather than one indirectly generated by Google’s Image search.