Google Image Search Redesign Raises Ire

angerRoughly a week ago Google began rolling out their new Image Search.  That roll-out is live now worldwide but not everyone is happy with the streamlined Google image  search result. Webmasters are not pleased that searchers can get the high resolution image in search results, rather than having to click through to the source to see that high resolution image.

In the next few days, you’ll see image results displayed in an inline panel so it’s faster, more beautiful, and more reliable.  — A faster image search

Once you search and click in you can flip through the whole set of image previews using your keyboard without leaving Google’s page. In the updated image search the source page no longer loads in an iframe.  Selecting an image to display results in the larger version appearing in a central preview area.

Webmasters are reporting traffic to their image rich sites has dropped significantly, negatively affecting earnings. Some are blocking Google bot. Others are trying to employ a coding solution, so when a searcher views the  image in the central preview area he or she will be redirected to the source page which contains that image.

Discussion threads at WebmasterWorld and DigitalPoint Forums both have webmasters citing they have noticed a significant decrease in traffic from Google Images since the design update. – Webmasters Notice Decline In Google Image Search Traffic After Design Update

Many are posting to Google’s webmaster’s support forums saying new google image search is hotlinking webmasters images,  stealing their bandwidth, and robbing them of traffic generated income. There are numerous duplicated and overlapping threads  Google Images Redesign.

I did some Google image searching myself  due to  two WordPress.com support forum threads Changes In Google Image Search and Can something be done to prevent Google from “stealing” images?

The domain name of the source site is clickable and a link has been added for visiting the source page, doubling previous link targets from two to four. But I found I had no need to click in and visit the source pages for any images, as  I had full size high resolution images before me.

I  understand why those with Art, Photography and Wallpaper and other image rich sites were upset. They are the content providers that Google is making a profit from. If  most searchers don’t click through the search results pages where Google makes money then there’s surely no benefit to the sites providing that content.

Discussion

What’s your response to the Google Image Search Redesign?

Have you noticed any impact on yopur site as a result of the Google Image Search Redesign?

63 thoughts on “Google Image Search Redesign Raises Ire

  1. Wow. I’m late getting to this post, and it’s one of your most interesting ever– possibly the all-time teeth-grinder. As an illustrator I post a lot of images, and I’ve noticed that my blog views have diminished over the past couple of months. I had no idea why. Google’s new image search may well explain it. Control of one’s content seems to have become a complete joke.

  2. My blog is not image based at all, but I’ve still seen about 20% drop in views I get from Google, due to the image search change, despite my web search hits still rising.

  3. Update to my Feb 1 post here: During weeks 6 and 7 of the year, my blog has now seen views per week level off 41% fewer compared with for the first four weeks of the year (according to stats measured by WordPress). So much for the Google Image effect!

        • Hello again,
          You made me smile. I don’t have a vested interest in this as my family and close friends and I entered a pact. Someone close to us had their identity stolen and went through a living hell for 19 months. That tore it for us. We all agreed not to post any images of each other online or to discuss our personal stuff online either.

  4. Pingback: So if Google’s changes made it so that when we add images we get fewer visitors to our blogs… « Pouring My Art Out

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  6. I’m in a different niche and the Google Image change might be beneficial against folks who are browsing solely to reuse an image on their website (without proper credits the original website might have entered). That gives better insight into real visitor behavior, and that’s the sole benefit for website owners who keep those images.

    I’ve been looking into this subject for a friend who owns a web design inspiration website whose traffic halved. Guess people can just do a search for images on his website, sit back, and browse.

    I used to block hot-linking in the past, but I saw the benefit of additional visitors who might like the website after finding some image of interest.

    Think that watermark+redirects solutions should be effective to convince people to visit the original pages and view the originals (solution folks from fansshare.com managed to make).

  7. Pingback: Pay per click for image views? | digital bristles

  8. Not relevant to this post but…. Has WordPress made a change so that when one leaves a comment, like I just did, there is no longer a message saying, waiting moderation or approval, or whatever it used to say, the comments now just vanish and one has no ‘feedback’ as a new commenter… have you noticed this Titi?

  9. I have almost given up trying to keep track of where my images end up. I feel very sad for people who make their living from photography. There is one site I visit called atopics co uk which has very few images scraped by google, I wonder what he does to make it harder…

  10. Honestly I wont notice a difference. Why? I don’t search via Google. Sure I have a android phone, but I use Firefox on both the desktop and mobile. It’s not about privacy, just I like Bings desktop backgrounds or just the simplicity of Duck Duck Go. Unfortunately DDG doesn’t do images.

    • Hi there,
      It’s good to see your avatar and it seems you have a different blog now. Thanks for your feedback because I hadn’t even considered what you report.

  11. I think in future I might put some text on my images (though i can’t to that on the Redbubble ones). I did, for other reasons, do that with a couple of my photos on my blog just yesterday. Curious… maybe my unconsious knows something my conscious mind didn’t!

    Thanks for this post, TiTi… food for thought, indeed.

  12. Excuse my language, but the new image search sucks. I rely (or rather, relied) on it to get people to my Redbubble portfolia – apart from people I send there myself – and on Redbubble the images have an invisible gif over them so that they can’t be grabbed by right click (though of course they can be grabbed by screenshot but at least then the resolution is 72ppi). This way, the images are nice and sharp and oh-so-grabbable.

    I wish there were a way to not use Google at all, but it seems that, like Facebook, it’s pretty much dominating the internet. And who’s to say that other search engines, etc, won’t follow in its wake?

    What I want to know is, what the heck is in it for Google if its users are losing out? Is it just advertising revenue?

    As well as hating it from my own point of view as an artist, it’s nearly impossible to find images one’s actually searching for these days. Very difficult. Ditto normal Google search. Horrible what’s happening.

    • They raised their ad revenue. I just didn’t understand how until one hour ago. I did an image search for “michelangelo timeline” where two of us used to get top hits on WordPress.

      At the top of Google’s “Michelangelo timeline” picture page there were 5 pictures.

      Of these the second one was not related to Michelangelo and two more were from an advertising page calling itself a hack and showing a famous Michelangelo picture meant to draw people to your mindless ad collection. There was nothing about Michelangelo.

      Result: Of the five images chosen by the Google computer 4 were wrong, but made me see close to 40 ads in 3 minutes.

  13. Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:
    This out of place, but I just have to depart into the real world for a moment. Have you experienced a significant drop in blog hits recently? This is probably why. After seeing a dramatic drop in views on RoP over the past several days, I had to to some investigating. Just FYI for those who may not already know. Thanks Google.

  14. Hi timethief, I recently stumbled onto your blog and appreciate your helpful content especially the blogging tips! I’m a newer blogger on WordPress.com myself and was quite disappointed to see a traffic decrease just before the new year. Now it’s a struggle to even get half the amount of traffic my blog used to get per day. I’m quite worried that it’s going to affect my earnings. Do you have any tips you could share that can help bloggers who are negatively affected by Google’s recent update?

    • Hi there,
      Over the past 7 years the traffic to my blogs has always dramatically decreased in the Christmas season and that’s the season you refer to. However, that traffic drop on my blogs recovers after the New Year. The Panda algoritmn and Penguin algorithm are also in play here, so if Google image search does not show a traffic decline then perhaps they are factors in your traffic drop along with seasonal decline. As you are referring to earnings on a WordPress.com blog it must be in the WordAds program wherein blogger split advertising income 50 – 50 with WordPress.com. I suppose if you don’t see a restoration of traffic you may choose to self-host, in which case you pay for hosting but the advertising income is all yours.

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  16. As I have seen the gravatars of those who do have image rich sites above I have been visiting their blogs and asking questions. Here is an example of what I asked one blogger.

    Hi there,
    Are these your own photos ie. taken by yourself and under your own copyright? I’m asking for three reasons:

    (1) I don’t see any image attribution credits on the images in this blog and/or any copyright notices on this blog.

    (2) There has been a recent change in Google images search and as high resolution images at full size are now displayed in the SERPs (search engine page results) many webmasters have lost a significant amount of traffic flow to their sites.

    (3) I’m curious to know how the changes to Google image search and traffic flow are affecting WordPress.com blogs.

  17. I hope enough smart people can bring enough pressure to bear on Google to get this changed, but I’m not optimistic. My son’s a developer, and he has pointed out to me numerous times that any time you are given something for free on the Internet (eg, a search engine, a social network, a blogging platform), you can rest assured that you, your information, and your content are that website’s product. They use you, sell you, and profit from your presence.

    • Just looked over my stats and yes, there’s a noticeable drop in referrals from image searches They used to constitute half to two-thirds of my referrals. Now they’ve dropped to a third or less.

    • Your son is dead on the mark. Any time you get something free of charge on the internet ie. anything that you do not pay for you and your content are the product. Image rich blogs here at WordPress.com are already cash cows for WordPress.com. In this case ie. in view of the Google changes the image cache of indexed images may become a Google cash cow in the future, as all that’s missing now to achieve that is the advertising.

      • Hi timethief

        This is an excellent article and it’s making me aware of an issue that I didn’t even know about, thank you! I’m curious to know what you mean by “Image rich blogs here at WordPress.com are already cash cows for WordPress.com.”?

      • I’m trying to keep in mind that whether someone actually comes to my blog(s) (and others like hugmamma’s blog ) or not, they still might be accessing/viewing the various images and gaining some benefit from them, even though I might not know that they’re viewing them….but, it does feel a bit like losing some of the wind in my sails. But…well… I guess acceptance is what I need to practice, in this situation. (and maybe start figuring out the seo information so the actual blogs might continue to get accessed, in case that affects whether google images ranks by how many people access…ahhhh…more to learn, it seems.)

  18. FALLING OFF A CLIFF … My year-ending stats at WordPress reported record numbers viewing my blog and a 37% increase year on year. Suddenly since Jan 22 daily views have plummeted by 55%. Alarmingly, it is referrers via web search who have been slashed by 62% in the past ten days.

    According to your account above, what Google effectively seems to be doing is appropriating a site’s images for wider distribution – in the way individual web users do when they post our images at Pinterest and Tumblr, so that the source blog doesn’t receive a hit when other people “reblog” (ie, steal) the image. Google, too, is now guilty of “piracy” as Ray Hoffman suggests above.

    I already watermark my own exclusive images so at least a photographer’s credit travels with the image when it is stolen. What is new and dramatic is the loss of visitors to my website. One result I expect soon is that WordPress will stop placing ads on my posts!

    • Hello Reinhold “Ray” Hoffmann here

      Watermarking images is a good idea, there are programmers and webmasters also working on scripts to prevent that our images can be shown on google in the fullsize or that there are watermarks per script on the google search but not on our own websites.

      A solution is also to have multiple image folders, one with watermarks which can be scraped by google and bing and another image folder which is unavailable for google and bing

      So or so, there will be more or less good solutions but well..i wish i could spend time on writing on my site instead of fighting piracy!

      As soon as i have relative good solutions i will share them on the “Protect-Your-Image” site from me you saw probably. already.

      20 of so far 57 voters marked they lost over 60% traffic due to the traffic steal action by google so this is a dramatic situation which goes far beyound their panda or penguin updates earlier this year

      Greets from Germany and a nice weekend!

    • If any of the images are your site are duplicated elsewhere then the Panda update will have detected that. Have you looked at these? Google PageRank & Algorithm Updates http://www.seroundtable.com/category/google-updates
      It seems there a Panda refresh, a pagerank update, and some believe Google’s changes are aimed at “pushing the search query towards the brands, and less towards lesser known brands, people or things.” http://www.seroundtable.com/google-jan-17-brands-16261.html

    • Hi there,
      It’s too bad your site was so negatively affected.

      “… what Google effectively seems to be doing is appropriating a site’s images for wider distribution ”

      Yes, indeed and isn’t that what WordPress.com is doing in the Reader and in reblogs? In the Reader images are blown-up to huge sizes so why bother to click into the blog? In a reblog one gets all the images so why click into the blog if all that’s in the post is images? At this rate everyone will be clicking like button in emails and on Readers and not visiting blogs. If so, then how does one move forward from here to create a win – win situation for bloggers?

  19. I wonder how it affects Google itself. For example, if Google counts the click throughs to a site as one of the ways it determines the popularity of the site, then fewer click throughs undermines its own ranking system.

      • I agree with that comment, except it begs the question of why that webmaster has so many images on his/her site.

        If they are not related to his/her business, then perhaps it’s better not to have so many images on his/her site. Yes?

        Following up on a suggestion from Barbara Weibel of HoleInTheDonut, I looked in ‘search queries’ in webmaster tools for one of our image-heavy sites.

        As a proportion of impressions, we gained rather than lost visitors.

        However, I think this is all too early to say. It will take searchers a while to get used to Google’s new system – maybe not everyone understands it immediately?

        • Hi David,
          On WordPress.com blogs, we can only sell items which we have personally made. As we have a very generous 3000 megabytes (~3 GBs) of space for storing uploaded files on every blog. Bandwidth charges are not at issue, as they are for those who pay for web hosting. These days everyone has some kind of camera and many WordPress.com bloggers are posting many images. Who know how this will shake out? I don’t.

          P.S. It’s good to hear your site gained visitors, rather than losing them.

  20. My traffic has dropped off a lot. I’m a wildlife photographer so my images are what brings people to my blog. Another problem this has created is that I have my photos right click protected and google has gotten around this.

    • Hi there,
      I visited your site and admired your wildlife images. They are great stuff. I’m sorry to hear your traffic has dropped off. Hopefully, it will recover. Disabling right click is not now nor has it ever been effective when it comes to preventing image theft online. It creates a false sense of security as it belies that fact that anyone can find instructions online to disable it in no time flat. Watermarking images is more effective than disabling right click is.

  21. Hello Ray here from Germany.
    I am a webmaster since 2011 of a non-profit art related website where i uased ads to pay the server costs and also to hosts art contests from time to time. My traffic dropped from 3200 to 1100- But thats only one thing..it also affects the artists featured on my site. On the google search no links to their own pages are shown, and since only one of 10 googlers seems to click to see the website behind an artwork well..bad for me..bad for artists and in the end bad for google because i will redesign my website in the next week, change the image folder which means over 26000 images less for google and disallowed google already to scrape any new images.

    I wait with all that some more days because more and more webmasters and coders work on script solutions to get rid of the google problem. If that one wont work..byebye @ google.

    For me it means a ton of work which was uneeded, it also means a giant copyright infringement and makes image piracy even bigger than it was before already.

    What google is doing currently is horrible for the thousands of websites and i fear its just the beginning.

    I created a small website with a poll for webmasters and what they lost, from currently 48 votes, 14 say they lost over 60% all others lost around 10-60% except one voter.
    http://protect-your-image.com/ spread the word, together we can work on solutions easier than everyone for himself.

    Greets and a happy weekend!

    • Hi Ray,
      Thanks for weighing in here. I’m beginning to get the picture that everyone is scratching their heads and thinking: What were they thinking? Maybe the backlash of negativity will result in further adjustment by Google. I suppose only time will tell.

      • We are asking ourselfes what can be done, we rant and curse but as you can see in the discussions at digitalpoint and webmastercentral but we are talking about possible solutions as well. Maybe placing big watermarks on images now and the hint to get the fullsize images on the website..which are there in a zip file as example.. script solutions to go around the google hotlinking disaster. The question about such turnarounds is how long they work though. Some think at suing google and a lot webmaster like myself are removing their content from the image search now. Google went too far this time and hopefuly there will be a big backslash this time. Otherwise you can be sure a lot artists, like the wilflife photgrapher will stop making their art public..which hurts the whole internet.

        Currently you see me on a lot blogs, commenting, my websites were /are not even commercial but created with heartblood over the years :-) and i try to share informations and make the problematic known to more and more people.

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