Mixed Up Image and Web Queries in Google Webmaster Tools
Results of a recent survey showed that only 50% of webmasters consider Google Webmaster Tools search query data accurate enough to be actionable. Personally, I am a believer in Google Webmaster Tools and and have been quite active building systems around the search query data.
What I found today was a surprise to me. While analysing traffic for a website I noticed a phrase with a rank average of 10 in web search. I checked the results and I spotted the site as one of the four image results.
Here’s an example of a search query which brings similar results – “Nike Shoes“:
So it looks like Google counts image results as web results unless users explicitly switches to Google image search.
User behaviour and intentions of users on Image search and web search are vastly different and ranking for something on position #10 is not that exciting if we’re talking about an image result. There is also a chance that user might click on the image itself and skip the original page.
Additionally this type of data skewing could possibly mess up phrase potential calculation (e.g. how much more traffic can I get based on CTR, position and difficulty). For example the result #14 in the screenshot above could mislead a webmaster (or a script analysing data) into believing this URL shows on the second page of Google results.
Google could include the page position data with the search query data:
Additional filters or flags for universal search, could also state if a result was displayed as “places”, “shopping”, “books”, “image”, “news”, “onebox”, “video”, “knowledge graph” or containing authorship markup or other forms of rich snippets.