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Filtering Visits From Image Search Queries

February 28th, 2011 | | Analytics

Images can be a great tool for improving visitor engagement on a particular webpage. This is especially true for news articles, press releases, and blog posts. On both SEO Boy and PPC Hero, we try to use images to help illustrate the concepts we discuss in our articles. Assuming these images are tagged with descriptions, alt text, and other Meta data, search engines will index them for image results pages. With that being said, images can drive a lot of extra traffic to your site and generate more data in your Analytics accounts.

Unfortunately that traffic might not the kind you want as a site owner. This happened to me recently when I had a picture in a blog post on my personal site generating a lot of search traffic. The picture was a Delta airplane that I had tagged with all of the right alt text and Meta descriptions. The image had been indexed by Google and had started to show up on the first page of image search results. The users that were searching for images of Delta airplanes would click on the picture and Google Analytics would count it as a visit to my site. This generated both a spike in traffic and a high bounce rate because those users were only interested in finding an image, not engaging with my site’s content. I was able to determine this by first recognizing that the page with the image was getting a lot of traffic. Then I examined the source of the traffic; the bulk of which was organic search traffic. Finally I looked at the keywords that most people were using to arrive at that page and found that they were using terms such as “delta airplane pictures” or “pictures of Delta airlines.”

As a site owner, it can be very frustrating to get these kinds of traffic spikes that convolve your Analytics data. Fortunately there are several options; adding a robots.txt file to prevent image indexing, adding a filter in Google Analytics, and editing the meta data on a particular page to prevent images from being indexed.  Generally speaking, I don’t recommend using a robots.txt file or Meta data edits as solutions to this problem. There may be some people who come to your site through an image search and find something on your site that piques their interest.  Even if these types of visitors are few and far between, they are quality visitors nonetheless and provide an opportunity for engagement. Consequently, I’ll show you how to filter out these kinds of image searches in Google Analytics.

Whenever you apply a filter, you always want to make sure that you have an unfiltered profile to collect raw data. Without this, you are unable to get an accurate snapshot of your website’s Analytics data. Remember, Google Analytics cannot reprocess raw data into its original form once it has been filtered.

To begin applying a filter for image searches, click Add Website Profile, just below the list of existing profiles in your analytics account. Add Website Profile Google AnalyticsOn the next screen make sure that “Add a Profile for an existing domain” is selected and fill out the additional information boxes for the profile. add a profile for an existing domain google analytics

Make sure you name the profile properly to indicate that you are using it to filter out image searches. Click finish when you are done naming the profile.

Next, click “edit” in the same row as the new profile on your account home page.

Edit Profile Google Analytics

On the next screen click “Add Filter” on the Filters Applied to Profile Bar.

Filters Applied to Profile Google Analytics

Next name the filter and select custom filter.  Next make sure that Exclude is selected (default option) and select “referral” from the filter field drop down menu. In the filter pattern box, you will need to insert a regular expression. To filter out image searches from Google use ^http:\/\/images\.google\..*$ and for Bing use ^http:\/\/www\.bing\.com\/images\/..*$ Once you have created a new filter, click save changes.

Edit Filter Google Analytics

You will need to create separate filters for Bing and Google. It can take up to 24 hours for the applied filters to giving you data in the new profile.  Thanks to these new filters we can now get clean traffic data without our statistics being skewed by low quality image searches.

Steve is an Account Executive at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.

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