Is Google’s New Image Search Increasing Or Decreasing Your Traffic?

    January 31, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Last week, Google announced a new design for its Image Search. It’s been rolling out, so maybe you have it by now. One thing that was interesting about this particular launch is that Google made a major point of talking about how good it was going to be for webmasters. They even made the announcement on the Google Webmaster Central blog.

As a webmaster, have you been pleased with the changes? How about as a searcher? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Note: This article has been updated as we’ve encountered more discussion about the changes.

Google implied that the changes would be good for webmasters in terms of increasing traffic to their sites.

“The domain name is now clickable, and we also added a new button to visit the page the image is hosted on,” said associate product manager Hongyi Li. “This means that there are now four clickable targets to the source page instead of just two. In our tests, we’ve seen a net increase in the average click-through rate to the hosting website.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that this will be the case for everyone, but that’s the kind of thing you want to hear, if they’re going to talk about the effects the changes have had on sites in internal testing.

Marketer Rich Gorman has gone as far as issuing a press release praising the benefits of the new Image Search to webmasters. Here are a couple of quotes from that:

“Google has made some changes to its Image Search platform that will be immediately apparent when you go to conduct your next image inquiry,” Gorman says, in a new statement to the press. “At first, the changes may seem cosmetic, but they are actually very significant, and for a couple of reasons. The most obvious reason is that it simply makes image searching quicker and easier for search engine users, but more important is the fact that these changes bring new challenges and opportunities to online marketers and reputation management professionals.”

“More than ever, users are going to be using an image search to click through and access a corresponding domain, and what this means is that Google Image Search is going to be sending more referral traffic,” Gorman says. “For businesses, this presents a whole new opportunity to draw users to a particular website. By using compelling, engaging images, businesses and marketers can boost traffic to various landing pages and online assets. In other words, image optimization just became a lot more important!”

“The source page will no longer load up in an iframe in the background of the image detail view,” explained Google’s Li of the changes. “This speeds up the experience for users, reduces the load on the source website’s servers, and improves the accuracy of webmaster metrics such as pageviews. As usual, image search query data is available in Top Search Queries in Webmaster Tools.”

Some sites aren’t having such great experiences with the new Image Search. Here are a few examples of comments we’ve received from WebProNews readers (some in the comments section of this actual article):

I’ve noticed a huge negative difference in my image search results according to my WordPress stats. However, this might be deceiving as I’m not sure if it was counting those “hits” that were just my page in the background. In reality, it might actually be for the better, will have to keep monitoring.

My initial fear was that somehow I did something wrong “Google-wise,” but looks like that wasn’t the case.

Why would you expect anything less from Google? The changes are only meant to benefit the bottom line. Next up will be Google ads next to our hotlinked images.

They have certainly crossed the line past thumbnail images and fair use with this one.

I’ve had a 50% drop in visitors, and I still rank good in search results.

How can it be good for webmasters? I do not need my domain name to be displayed on images search section of google.. I need that someone finds an image then because i show him/her this image, he/she comes to my website, then i can get profits. I do not want that i do the job and google gets the money thing.

Then google should also have a section search-for-content, he should show everything on our websites, at the bottom he should give a link to our websites, is that also okey for you?

You write all stuff, google shows every letter in it to the users, then do you think that the visitor will come to your website? Forget about it…

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable has been monitoring the forums as usual, and has seen other webmasters complaining about “significant” decreases in traffic. He points to threads in both WebmasterWorld and DigitalPoint.

Have you seen a dramatic difference in traffic coming from Google Image Searches for better or for worse? Let us know in the comments.

On a somewhat related note, Google has been rolling out its recent SafeSearch changes to more countries, and that may be having a direct affect on some businesses. One WebProNews reader, who says they work in adult business, says the change affects their sales and research. More on all of that here.

  • http://www.jcopro.net/ Jeremy Cook

    I’ve noticed a huge negative difference in my image search results according to my WordPress stats. However, this might be deceiving as I’m not sure if it was counting those “hits” that were just my page in the background. In reality, it might actually be for the better, will have to keep monitoring.

    My initial fear was that somehow I did something wrong “Google-wise,” but looks like that wasn’t the case.

  • http://www.manwd.com Manwd


    I’ve noticed the new design in the image search yesterday, I didn’t like it, may be cuz I didn’t got used to it yet, but I think the other sites that were hurt, were having visitors from the page that directs visitors when they view the photo, but now you can click on view original photo to view it only, but before, there were sites when you click on a photo they direct you directly to the site, where they might find other posts that might attract them!

  • http://donnabarstow.com/ Donna B.

    I guess you wrote this post just to be controversial, because you couldn’t be that naive. People don’t look for images to find websites! (that would be a@@-backwards, don’t you think?) They look for images to take (ie steal) images! They rarely go through to the page.

    I’m a cartoonist, and my traffic is down about a third. I’ve always had code up to break the google image-frame — which of course, is another huge burden, because no next is shown in whole like this — so readers will only see the image a few seconds before it breaks into my webpage and deposits readers there.

    Now I’ll just disallow images totally. There is no advantage left to having Google scrape them, use my bandwidth, take my traffic, and more importantly, take the cartoons.

  • http://adamgoodrich.com adam

    I have a larger image hosting site that was affected negatively when Chrome did their little beta tests a few months back and when it was fully implemented I saw a drop of around 60% in traffic. The positions for the content hadn’t changed, but the CTR to the actual page dropped dramatically. If Google doesn’t change this fast then there will be an effort to add more junk to the image in order for people to click-through to see a cleaner version of it. I am already trying to figure out how to deliver annoyingly watermarked versions of my images that only Google’s image results would put up. Again… ranking was not an issue. CTR was a HUGE issue.

    • http://adamgoodrich.com adam

      Oh… and I had a “frame breaker” script which used to kill the old Google frame when people went to see my images… now they can download without even seeing the site.

      • http://igor-lukyanov.blogspot.com/ Igor

        The same is with me. I am so disappointed with Google now =(

    • http://espliego.wordpress.com/ cantueso

      It was a good idea to look at Google.de.
      Now I’ll go there again. Last time, it seemed resistance was not only stronger, but more lucid and mainly legal.

      In the US that would not work because there interest goes first, law follows.

      Some people say that disable hotlinking will help. At WordPress.org there seems to have been talk about that for some time even last year, but at WordPress.com it is not mentioned and maybe not even mentionable which could mean that they are themselves caught by surprise (and that is not verisimilar), or there is a deal.

  • Alex

    Webpronews editor (Chris Crum) why did you wrote such a dry text? Analyze a bit and dare to write something against Google, now is the perfect opportunity for it, since this is a true rudeness.

    Who will now click on the image when it is presented in full scale in Google search?!?! And average google user can now view a ton of images without having to go to any web site. And G is still search engine ? No, Google is content farm and in this case image stealer.

    Donna B, your answer is real… I lost about 60% of visitors but at the same time, traffic has increased 10-20 %.

    Chris, one tip for you…check out results on google.de and google.fr

  • http://greg-neville.com Greg Neville

    Yes I’ve seen a big drop in hit numbers on my photography blog since last weekend, when the new Image search went live. Down about 50% to 70%.

  • http://espliego.wordpress.com/ cantueso

    I am at WordPress, and the drop is considerable, around 50% on one blog and maybe 70% on the other. I think the drop depends on how much each post depends on pictures.

    Two other bloggers, both at WordPress, have told me that their text blogs are also down around 50%.

  • http://www.moviedeskback.com slavco

    I’ve noticed 50% drop in visitors, so what I did is enabled hotlink protection and now when people click “view original” they are redirected to my home page. The traffic is back to normal but visitors are kind of left displeased because they didn’t exactly got what they came for, which means google is serving false image results. I put a note on top of my page saying why this is happening and how google hotlinks other people’s images and wastes server bandwidth and doesn’t even pay for it.
    It’s interesting how Bing did this a year ago, and google took after it, we can see where this company is going. Facebook where’s that search engine?

    • http://espliego.wordpress.com/ cantueso

      Well, so here is somebody who thought of something to do to fight the new Google system.

      There is something else to figure out: why did Google do this? Do they feel that the blogs etc took up too much of their advertising space?

  • Oliver

    Slavco that’s a great idea, I’ll probably implement something like it. Would you mind sharing some code?

    I also hope that enough people go to FTC again so they start REALLY investigating. Now that Larry is CEO their only goal is to please shareholders and they’re making more enemies than friends

    NO Google you did NOT improve your search engine, people cant find stuff any more!

  • Oliver

    If you would like to discuss Google’s latest changes, I’ve set up a forum at internetfreedom.net – I’m fed up with Google and how they are treating small businesses, it’s time to start a petition and get heard, they cant just ignore us

    Here’s the forum, please join if you would like to help and post your ideas: http://internetfreedom.net/forum/google-s-monopoly-panda-co (hope it’s ok to post this link here, else remove it)


  • http://lovefoodies.com maz lovefoodies

    I tried using the Google search today looking for some photos, but ended up going back to Flickr. Reason……on Flickr you can tell instantly if a photo has a copyright, or attribution, distribution rights etc. (I was looking for a particular photo I could freely use). Google on the other hand just says in the screen when you click on the photo, ‘this may have copyrights’…but when you try and find out what the copyright is, it’s impossible. If you click on the image, it takes you to what looks like the homepage (not where the image is on the web page), or you just get taken to the image and nothing else, ie no other info. So as far as using Google for image searches, I won’t use them again. There is also no commentary by an author (which is another thing missing) so you don’t know where the photo was taken or sometimes what it even is!

  • Paddy O’Door

    I’ll take whatever human visits I can get: for images OR for content.

    Obviously content searches generate more revenue.

    Unfortunately, at this time Google Analytics does not distinguish between organic image search hits and organic content search hits, which is rather annoying because I think I’m getting more potential customers than I actually am.

    Google should separate image and content search hits in Google Analytics.

  • http://www.bloketoys.co.uk BlokeToys

    I’ve also seen drop of about 50 – 60% on image search results over the last few days, noticeably since Google started censoring (I have an adult blog).

    I stopped using Google for search months ago, and I stopped using Google for image search when this change came in.

    I sincerely hope this is the start of the decline for this corporate monster. It’s about time the search market became more equally competitive, and businesses didn’t have to submit to the will of an unelected internet police force.

    Bye Google, you should have stuck to the concept of “don’t be evil”.

  • http://norightsforkids.com/ Robin

    I don’t like that your images are even more prone to copyright infringement, on the other hand, you can find your pic all over the place, even when they change the title & alt text.

  • Entrav

    My traffic has been hit especially hard as I’ve been down over 70-80%. I can’t imagine what some other wallpaper websites or other image based websites are going through right now :/

  • http://planet48.blogspot.com/ Ali

    lost 50% traffic. same is the story of my friend bloggers.

  • http://www.zanderchance.com Zander Chance

    We posted about this exact same thing on our blog a few days ago.. It’s a real mess for sure, and the drop in traffic is undeniable.


    I like slavco’s idea, though it’d be great if you could redirect visitors to the page containing the image instead of the homepage.

    If all else fails, I plan on blocking Google’s imagebot, since there’s little benefit to having my images in their search anymore.

  • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin Rack

    No not yet.

  • http://www.azenhadoramalho.com ChrisJJ

    Is Google smart enough to listen to people who tell them they are sending traffic to sites which have plagiarised their images?

  • Cap’n Cyberzone

    DO NOT TRUST ANY GOOGLE CODE BEING ON YOUR PAGE (else you’ll be sorry)!!!

  • http://www.ocimblog.com/ berita terbaru

    I think big but not too powerful for some blogs that rely on visitors from the picture is sure to be reduced, but there will be other ways to address them later

  • Leo

    I wen’t from 4,000 unique visitors to 49 in one day. Needless to I am completely screwed over.

  • http://www.cpasitesolutions.com/ kenny

    It requires prospective visitors to click twice. Extra clicks are bad. No brainer. It’s just a shameless trick to keep traffic from leaving their site.

    Just like Google. Hand a hungry man a steaming bowl of crap and deduct the price of the bowl as charity.

  • Private

    Horrible change it is… what is wrong with everyone. It cannot possibly be for the betterment of the user, but more about politics. My visitors have gone down horribly and I do think there is more to this then meets the eye on the whys of it, its certainly not for the webmasters interest but more for googles and them falling suite of what is required of them to fit in or get lost type deal. You cannot even go anywhere on the net without having to use google credentials, facebook or twitter, and so what happened to the good ol days of being able to visit a site and just plain read. Like if you were going to a library to read. Why are they convinced that whatever you think, feel, read, and search for is their business. Then they give you results based on what they think you need to read instead of objective results. Its no wonder folks wish to be anonymous just to do a Google search so the results are more unbiased. When you research you want objectivity, not just the results that you always would lean towards but objective results, this way you can learn more, and get a better variety. They do everything but type the words in for you. It also seems that the ads are annoying as heck and the motives are becoming more money based, while tracking your every move. Its not that the majority of people are guilty, its that they people value their life, privacy and sacredness of it, For the life of me, I can’t understand why do they show personal things online after a person does a search? They claim they protect your privacy.. ya right.. Its horrendous, its setting people up for identity theft left and right. Its setting up for a crimes, IE: stalking. I have a horrible stalker and know this to be a fact, he just typed in my email and has been trying to find me and my physical location. It should be against the law to allow this. One woman wrote on a forum stating that she searched for things about a handicap and It was very personal to her and she was astonished that anyone that types in her email address into a Google search result page would find her private personal comments on a site that she asked questions on.. Tell me if this is right? does something seem morally wrong with this? it seems to be a no brainer.. Its plain intrusive and information is truly sacred to people but Google and others do seem to think your business is theirs when it is clearly NOT, and even if laws were passed that says it is, it does not mean it is right.. If it crosses the moral line then regardless, it is still wrong. The image thing is strange, I think due to Pinterest and the laws that are trying to change for internet freedom have much to do with this. Too paranoid in one area and not paranoid enough in regards to people’s privacy in another area comes to mind in regards to Google.

  • Alec

    The new Google Image search is, IMHO, an absolute load of crap.

  • https://twitter.com/weboptmization Rajesh

    In my opinion Bing Image Search is better than Google.

  • http://metanorn.net Kyokai

    I thought one of our referring sites got hit or something. 40% of my wordpress-based site traffic is gone and I get the same kind of comments from other anime bloggers. I don’t see any intelligence in this change, let alone benefits to bloggers.

    • http://espliego.wordpress.com/ cantueso

      No benefit for bloggers? Maybe Google needed to find ways of getting more benefit for themselves.

      How does Google generate advertising income from those pictures now?

  • http://igor-lukyanov.blogspot.com/ Igor

    I am an artist and I have a few blogs with lots of my artworks. The most of my traffic comes from Google image search. Now, after the update, traffic on my blogs is down more than 50%. I believe sites of photographers and other artists experience the same difficulties thanks to Google. I saw lots of photographers complaining online that their sites are going to die after the update.

  • http://www.tugagency.com/blog/author/susanngryska/ Susann Gryska

    As a marketer I def. see that the traffic goes down. Especially when you get most of your traffic through image search. On the other hand for as a private person, I actually really like the update ‘coz it makes things so much easier. Now I can find the right images way much quicker without all this back and forward clicking.

  • http://infographicsmania.com Stavros

    I have noticed about 60-80% decrease in image traffic while images were accounting for about 50% of search traffic to my site. God bless mama Google for “helping” webmasters and marketers.

  • http://infographicsmania.com Stavros

    I’ve noticed a 60-80% decrease in image traffic while images were accounting for about 50% of the overall search traffic to my site. God bless mama Google for generously “helping” webmasters and marketers.

  • http://GreenGlobalTravel.com Bret @ Green Global Travel

    OK, so that explains why my search traffic has dropped by about 50% this week. Thanks a lot, Google.

  • http://www.rtwholesale.com Star Carlton

    People looking for images doesn’t help me sell products – it only drains bandwidth.

  • http://portadasfb.net/ Frank @ Portadas Facebook

    The new exchange, which has lost a lot of hits on my site and increased consumption of bandwidth. I’ve seen several scripts to redirect visitors from google images but are not working.

  • Petra

    I truly and utterly hate it!

  • Reno

    I dislike the new layout. Hovering your mouse over an image no longer shows details that I liked about the image. Not to mention it no longer blows an image up by doing so large enough for you to determine if you want to proceed opening that image. I now find myself being annoyed when searching for images on google. I might change search engines now for image searches.

    • Ella

      I agree, it was so much faster when you could hover over an image and have it enlarge. Now I have to click on more images. Additionally, it seems to take up to five seconds for images to load properly, so they look blurry and pixelated for ages.

  • http://www.cianellistudios.com Artist

    Traffic has been decimated – down 50-80%. As an artist I am not ok with Google using my artwork at full res with only a link to my site that barely gets clicked. I feel bad for people that rely on visitors not only to sell a product but to generate revenue via advertising. Someone made a good point, how is Google not acting like the world largest content farm? Has anyone figured out a script to only allow a thumbnail image? Besides blocking Google altogether that’s the only other solution I can think of.

  • http://www.quotesearching.com Quote Searching

    It is fact, lot of webmasters loose their traffic, but it is also good for sites, the chances for click on site is greater.
    And also the separate URL for each domain is also mentioned.

  • http://www.mallforarts.com/ Adam

    I lose 75-80 % of google image traffic!

  • http://www.b2bsupply.co hanan furman

    i hate it, but maybe because it is new. i hop it is
    last week i Though that some this is wrong with my computer

  • http://shapersofthe80s.com Shapersofthe80s

    I’m a humble blogger of social history with a fair number of specialist-interest images online. My year-ending stats at WordPress reported record numbers viewing my blog and a 37% increase year on year. In the 10 days following Jan 22 daily views plummeted by 55%. Significantly, it is referrers via web search who have been slashed by 62% in that time.

  • susan

    i totally hate this… as a stock photographer, for google to ‘buy’ an image and then offer it for free to whoever wants it is down right criminal. I have canceled any site that google is part of for my photographs, including istock annd flickr. shame on you goggle! micro stock photographers make so little already.. for you to devalue their work even further is horrible!

  • http://stejarmasiv.ro Stejar masiv

    For my blog, the decrease of the referral from images has decrease the traffic by 25 % and search images has lower to 50 %. It is significant. Unfortunately.

  • http://www.portablepartitions.com Versare

    This is outrageous and disappointing. Aside from making the image search (in my opinion) more bulky and annoying to use, it’s going to cost people clicks and possible business.

  • robert kearney

    I research history and find it has slowed my work down so much I am searching elsewhwere

  • http://theworldaccordingtoassholeblogger.blogspot.com Morte ad Tyranni

    Before the changes I had alot of traffic from Google images. I utilized a break out of frames script to land the images search users onto my pages, because I write for people to read, not just grab my images. Since the changes took place, that traffic has basically vanished altogether since the people are only looking for images.

  • Valentino

    Images not loading correctly. Clicking on image only show a black screen. Cannot find any information on what actions need to be taken to fix this problem. Sounds like and add-on issue. For some of our staff members hitting refresh loads the image(this needs to be done at every image)and of others this does not work. The preview image stays black on both IE9 and Firefox.

    Need to look for a fix to this problem or easier advertise to all 600 staff to use another search engine.

    Had no problems prior to Google changes.

  • Designer1

    Whoever designed/implemented this new format had their head up their rear.

    As a designer and student, almost all research is based on image searches. Have experienced the black screen another user mentioned as well as images not opening over 50% of the time.

    Huge time waster and nightmare format. Will find another search engine to use – thanks Google!

  • Peeved

    More content before. You used to be able to see part of the page including text which gives you context.

    The best Google search result was the picture at the top in a frame and the page below in an other frame.

    This is loss of information in the search result.

  • Peeved

    Click through might have decreased because the user cannot see any of the page. Or, people don’t like the new result the are switching away from image searching.

  • http://Googlesearchformatonimages Stacy

    New format SUCKS! :(

  • Mark

    Google image traffic has dropped by 50-70% on my site. How to show people photos when Google does not give you visitors any more? Was this their objective? What is their objective? To send sites visitors or not? To steal peoples content for their own sight? Are they Flickr or a search engine? I spend hours taking, editing and writing about my photos. They therefore must been seen in full res at my site only. Do search engines not understand this? Images are content, sometimes a photo can say 1000 words or maybe only 10, but they still say something, therefore is content. Think again Google please, help us out, don’t kill us.

  • Steve C

    Yes – search traffic down by half overnight in late Jan. Now I know why. Not helpful.

  • mira

    It is soooo annoying! I thought it’s just me, but I see many people feel this way. What was wrong with the previous image search??? I was sure I would never say this, however – thank you Google, I am going to use Bing.

    • http://raghava-seo.blogspot.com Raghava

      good.. mee too, going to use bing…

  • Lars

    My image based website has lost 2/3 of the visitors after the change.
    Just a small site (700 pictures), but it feels that i have to change the direction of the site to more text based to get some visitors back.
    I hope google change their search back in some way to let the visitors in again.

  • http://thejoyofmoldings.com Ken

    My traffic was cut by half overnight.

    Showing my original content out of context is pure and simple theft.

    Google has been ramping up its screwing of all the individual publishers that it got rich on the backs of.

  • http://www.sunnysidekitchen.blogspot.com/ Eli

    My traffic has dropped to 1/5 of what it was before the new google images search roll out. The drop didn’t happen overnight. The google images traffic slowly decreased over the last 2 weeks until it is now basically nil.

    • http://www.sunnysidekitchen.blogspot.com/ Eli

      I’m not surprised since google gives no text whatsoever to allow the viewer to see the context in which the picture appeared. If I look up historical pictures, I can’t see which ones are from sites with a historical bent (that I might want to click on) and those that are something else (not of interest).

  • http://publicphoto.org/ ByREV

    55% dropped for websites with images … but here is a solution, new plugins like WP-PICShield saved us from disaster :) watermarks, blurr, redirects, iframe deny, etc… is manna from heaven !

    without this plugin already started to lose ~ 50% of my earnings !!!

  • teresa

    I HATE IT!!!!!!!!

    Google is WASTING MY TIME… It now takes me twice as long if not longer to find the images I want.. I do NOT want to have to DOUBLE click to get the page I am looking for.. STUPID and INSULTING to think anyone wants to waste time while trying to get work done.. TIME IS MONEY GOOGLE!!!! and you are wasting my time~~~

  • John Billam

    As usual, Google fixed something that wasn’t broken just to give its 12 year old techs something to do.

  • http://espliego.wordpress.com/ cantueso

    Notice two things:

    1. Most people claim losses of 50%. Some say the loss is 75%. I have not seen anybody that said his loss was 30% loss or a 90% loss.

    2. The vissitor/hits percentage has also dropped, in my case very evenly 25%.

    Plus, I am at WordPress and there the silence about this issue is itself so absolutely amazing a thing as to become tell-tale. This type of silence is sometimes called “deafening”.

    Putting these three things together I thought that past data were simply inflated. The Powers that Be have come up with new ways of counting hits. The changes at Google would contribute to the stats collapse, but not would not be the immediate cause.

  • http://www.bartending-school.com Dave

    We have local sites, that don’t depend on image search. Regardless one site, (the one referenced above) had 1 image ranked #1 in google image search for a particular keyword phrase. Fortunately for us, it doesn’t impact the business…though it impacted traffic to that page.

    Results since google made the change??? Traffic to that landing page dropped by over 50%.

    I would hate to have to depend on google image search.

    They took this content…reformatted it to one of THEIR pages…and now all that traffic to your images are KAPUT.

    Piece by piece Google has been doing this to content producers–screwing them.

    Its not a healthy devlopment.

  • http://gamerstherapy.wordpress.com Ryan

    Major drop in traffic. My stats dropped by 65%. Not happy about it but trying to work with it