Google Updates Referral Source

Google has announced that there will be a change in the referral source URL and it will now include referrals from Google images.

On average there are 40,000 searches made every second through Google and depending on the search type, sometimes the best result is given in the form of an image. Some people find Google images much more helpful than a text explanation, for example, searches such as ‘how to build a shelf’ or ‘how to repair a bike chain,’ may be better explained through a step by step image instead of text.

For many webmasters it hasn’t always been easy to identify how Google images contribute to site traffic – this new update has been introduced to help website owners understand this, giving real insight into the importance of imagery as part of a wider marketing strategy.

What is a referrer URL?

A referrer URL is part of the HTTP header, and indicates the last page the user was on when they clicked to visit the destination webpage.

Referrer URLs are logged by most website analytics tools, including Google Analytics. By monitoring these traffic sources, the website owner can understand where their visitors came from, which could influence marketing decisions.

As per the Google update, the new referrer URL which will be specific to Google images will be:

Will this affect country-specific queries?

The referrer URL will have the same country code top level domain (ccTLD) as the URL used for searching.

This means that most visitors worldwide will come from the image URL This is due to Google’s recent change of being the default choice for searches worldwide. If users choose to go directly to a country specific service, e.g., then the referrer will use this specific top level domain (

Will it affect me?

It will affect the way in which website owners and marketers plan their marketing activity, also any images used must be optimised correctly to ensure they appear within image searches.

Google Analytics will automatically update with the new changes once the new referrer URL has been rolled out, however if any other tracking software is being used, it’s important to ensure that the new image referrer URL is included, so that any vital information is not missed! Google has said the change will not affect the Google Search Console.

So, with the increased importance of imagers, here are some top tips for image optimisation:

  1.  Add Alt tags to all images
  2.  Give any images an appropriate title
  3.  Make sure the image matches the content it’s appearing with
  4.  Check image dimensions for the web page – desktop and mobile
  5.  Save them for the web
  6.  Ensure the file format is correct

This change will make a huge impact on the way the world of digital marketing works, appreciating images more! With more of a weighted impact on referrals, images should be higher up the list when making decisions.

If you have any questions regarding images on Google please refer to the Google Image Publishing Guidelines. Or, if you need advice on how to optimise your images or anything else digital marketing then our digital marketing team will be more than happy to help. Fill in a contact form or call us directly on 01603 252555