THE RKGBLOG

iOS Organic Search Referrers Return, But Not Entirely

Marketers have had a day or two to rejoice at referrers returning for Google searches conducted on iOS devices, but while iOS organic visits are up sharply in analytics packages, it does not appear that we are getting the full picture quite yet.

Revisiting an analysis we’ve done a couple times recently, below we can see that the share of Google organic search visits originating from all iOS devices jumped on July, 30th from a previous weekday average of around 8% to about 15%.  But, iOS devices are still accounting for a slightly higher percentage of all site visits, 18%, and a much higher percentage of direct visits, 23% on average.

It could certainly be the case that iOS or other mobile device users are just more likely to visit a site directly.  However, if we isolate the iOS 6 segment, which had been failing to pass referrers for around 70-80% of Google searches, we get a picture that provides a counter to that argument.

Here we can see that iOS 6 accounts for roughly 94% of direct site visits on all iOS devices, which is in line with past trending we’ve shown for paid search.  For Google organic searches though, iOS 6 still only accounts for 80% of iOS visits even after the jump earlier this week.

In other words, earlier versions of iOS are making up a much higher share of iOS Google organic searches than they should be given iOS 6 adoption rates, and there’s no obvious reason why we would see that other than if referrers are still missing for iOS 6.  A behavioral difference this strong across OS versions seems unlikely.

With iOS 7 still in beta release, its traffic levels are pretty miniscule, so it isn’t having much impact on the figures above.  The iOS 7 data is pretty noisy, but it is interesting to draw some early comparisons to iOS 6.

Again, these figures are noisy, but it appears as though iOS 7 now accounts for a slightly higher percentage of Google organic iOS visits compared to direct iOS visits .  This is about what we would expect to see given iOS 6 being underrepresented in organic and if iOS 7 referrers are being passed fully for organic search.  We can keep our figures crossed on that last piece.

As for the cause of some iOS 6 referrers appearing to remain hidden, but not others, it’s unclear.  In some quick tests we’ve done, we are seeing referrers show up for our iOS 6 Google organic searches.  And while we’ll still need to keep an eye on this situation, especially once Apple officially releases iOS 7, there is still plenty for marketers to be happy and optimistic about here.

Do these numbers fit with what everyone else is seeing?  As with anything, there is definitely some variance from site to site.

  • Mark Ballard
    Mark Ballard is Director of Research at RKG.
  • Comments
    7 Responses to “iOS Organic Search Referrers Return, But Not Entirely”
    1. Houman says:

      Confirmed. I am seeing the same trend correlated at exactly the same time.

    2. Tim gill says:

      It’s because iPads are still going to direct. iPhones seem fixed

    3. Josh says:

      Tim is correct, the referer issue has not been fixed on iPads, only on iPhones. We performed a number of tests internally and the iPad visits were still going to direct.

    4. Antony Bradshaw says:

      The fix on the 30th of July was implemented only for iPhones, there was then a subsequent fix implemented on the 30th of September for iPads.

    Trackbacks
    Check out what others are saying...
    1. [...] fewer to be precise). Some of that may have been hidden referrers from some mobile browsers (more on that and the subsequent return of this data recently from RKG here), but it’s probably not a huge difference between the two periods. The good news is that [...]

    2. [...] Mark Ballard posts “iOS Organic Search Referrers Return, But Not Entirely” at RKG Blog. [...]

    3. [...] timing of the initial not provided jump coincides with the return of some referrers for iOS 6 devices, but this appears to be only one piece of the puzzle.  As we’ve noted in previous posts, [...]