Images are an essential part of the digital landscape and are used in a number of contexts from displaying products, information, icons, CTAs and of course as marketing collateral. As a result, Google Image search became a de facto resource for anyone wanting to find specific images or inspiration, long before the likes of Pinterest.

As an industry, SEO practitioners knew for a long time that image search was important and that to an extent it wasn’t as well policed as the main search platform. A great demonstration of this was the VW image search “ad” which saw the car manufacturer create a number of bespoke websites to enable them to place specific images in a specific order in image search results.*

Of course as soon as the story broke that this had been achieved, the influx of searches broke the pattern and the results skewed, but the precedent had been set. Image search mattered.

While Google Images has been through a number of iterations over the years, some more popular than others, one thing has never changed; anyone wanting to understand how searchers were using Google Images to access their website from an image search has been frustrated.

Standard reporting in analytics platforms has contained limited information about traffic from image search. This effectively meant that the understanding of the true value of Google Images to online operators was hidden.

That was until Google announced the creation of a new HTTP referrer to resolve this precise issue.

This means that moving forwards, those reviewing analytics data will be able to clearly see which users have entered a website from a Google Image result. At a base level this is great news, but of course we can then start to use this information to dig deeper and develop:

  • An understanding about how this type of user behaves
  • Which pages are driving traffic from image search
  • Insights around applying optimisations to other areas of a website

While this announcement goes a long way to help improve our understanding of the role that image search plays, we still don’t have all the facts. In line with not being able to see the search terms people are using to find a website, we can’t see the images which users are discovering a website through.

With all that said though, while this development doesn’t give us everything we want as marketing professionals, it does go a long way to helping brands and businesses understand the importance of image search to their overall search marketing mix.

*image source: