It’s been common knowledge for a while that on iOS 6, Google has not been passing referral data when performing a search on an iPhone. And with all the new SSL encrypted search, Google stopped passing organic keyword data for users who were logged into their Google accounts.
Now, it looks like Google Places (or Google Maps, or whatever they want to call themselves this week) isn’t passing any referral data at all. If anything, traffic from a listing on Google Places is reporting to Google Analytics as direct traffic.
After a big local push from a client, and trying to use Google Analytics to clean up some referral data, I started looking for an increase in traffic from the URL maps.google.com, and what I found over the last two months was startling.
Wait, I’m not this bad at my job am I? How could we not have any visits from Google Maps? Zero! Keep in mind, this client isn’t using any filters to aggregate any and all Google Places traffic. We’re looking at a Raw Data profile that isn’t using any filters at all. Traditionally, maps listings came in from the referring domain maps.google.com.
Admittedly, that’s still not a whole lot of traffic.
I started investigating further, performing a search on Google Places for specific locations, and according to the Google Analytics debugger for Chrome, Google Places is not passing referral data. Because all examples of local search involve pizza and plumbers, we shall continue said trend. Looking for pizza places in Nashville, I click on a random link to view the listing (Incidentally, this isn’t random. Bella Napoli is not a client. They were just the first local pizza place I could find with Google Analytics on it.)
When clicking on the display URL from the maps listing, the Google Analytics Debugger tells me that there is no referring URL.
That’s normally where the referring URL should go. This is literally what gets sent to the Google Analytics servers. On any unfiltered data, the entire referring URL and domain reports there first. From the Google Places maps listing, the referring URL is completely blank. No referral data is being sent to Google Analytics.
When I click on the link from the Google Maps sidebar…
I get the same result. No referral data.
Even when I sign out of my Google Account and try the same search, the same thing happens. It’s blank. I only get referral data when I click on More Info on the pinpoint maps listing and go to the Google Plus page.
Now there’s referral data.
I wanted to see how this was working for Bing maps and for Yahoo local as well, just to see what the other maps systems were passing along.
Here’s what the Bing Maps listing looks like, and which link I clicked.
See? Referral info.
How about Yahoo Maps?
Yup, referral data.
At first glance this looks like it’s an SSL issue. Both Bing and Yahoo maps are on http URLs, where as Google Places and Google + pages default to https whether a visitor is signed in or not. But when the link is clicked from the Google + page, the referral that is passed by the Google Analytics cookie is http.
Has anyone else noticed this, and/or are there any explanations?