Google Makes It Even Harder to Estimate Missing iOS 6 Organic Search Data

In Estimating the Impact of iOS 6 Organic Search Data Loss & Relabeling we discussed how a significant number of searches conducted on iOS 6 mobile devices fail to pass referrer information to analytics packages with the adoption of secure search. As a result traffic from potential customers using the search box in the iPhone Safari search box will show up as direct traffic.

Here are the three main points taken from that post circa December, details of what has changed in the last 5 months, an accurate way to estimate impact, and an explanation of how a recent change in Google has made it even harder for us to estimate the percent of missing iOS 6 search data.

1. An Estimated 7% of Organic Traffic is Being Shown as Direct

This percentage was taken from a large sample set and will vary from site to site. Understanding and following the instruction of the next bullet points will help determine what this number is for you.

2. Apple Device User Adoption Rate of iOS 6 was at 60%, Now 86%

As of last month the number of iOS devices running iOS 6 (with secured search) is 86 percent, up 26 percent from last December. This translates to that much more missing keyword data.

3. Formula for Calculating Impact

With any given site seeing up to 12 percent of their organic traffic mislabeled as direct in analytics, the SEO industry has been pretty open to sharing ideas on how best to calculate the impact.

It’s important to take into account all variables (shown below), seemingly complicated, but worth taking the time for an accurate estimate. To make it a little easier, pull the number of iOS Google Organic visits from analytics, then simply apply these numbers to the formula given.

  • iOSA = Actual iOS Google Organic Traffic: This is unknown and will be the end result after the completing the necessary math.
  • iOSR = Recorded iOS Google Organic Traffic: Pulled from analytics program (Google Analytics).
  • AR = iOS 6 Adoption Rate: As mentioned earlier this is now at 86 percent and rising.
  • MR = Percentage of iOS 6 Search Traffic without Referrer: This is estimated using PPC data, 80 percent is a safe bet if you can’t get more exact on your own.

Once numbers have been gathered this formula will give you an accurate estimation of iOS 6 organic traffic labeled as direct:

iOSA = iOSR/(AR*(1-MR)+(1-AR))

Percentage of iOS 6 Search Traffic Without Referrer

Applying PPC data has been key in accurately estimating the impact of missing iOS 6 organic search traffic (% of searches not passing referral data because of secured search).

Unfortunately, since March 9, Google began returning trackable referral information for PPC only, skewing our ability to accurately apply this information to organic search.


Assuming Google (or Apple) fails to put a functioning (not provided) like system in place for mobile secured searches to allow this traffic to get bucketed as organic in analytics programs, running this math on your own site now may be the last opportunity to accurately understand impact as the variable percentage Paid Search Clicks Missing Referrer changes over time.

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