This will be something to keep an eye on, especially for websites who get a lot of traffic from Google Image Search.
A recent controversial update to the Google Image Search user interface lets Google’s users view, share and copy images without visiting the image provider’s website! Many webmasters are reporting dramatic drops in traffic from Google Image Search, despite continued high position. In addition to losing traffic, high-resolution images are shown on Google Image Search using the website’s bandwidth. Double-ouch!
Over the next few months, we will be comparing traffic from Google Image Search to what is reported by Google Webmaster Tools. Initial feedback is not good news for image-heavy websites. We are recommending that clients add branding text to images on their website. This runs into two bumps: first, many websites have a lot of images on their websites, so image updates can be time consuming and expensive. Second, many designers don’t want to clutter images with commercial messaging. How necessary this “clutter” may become depends on what happens to Google Images click-through-rate.
We will also be looking into how Google reports click rate. If you click on an image in Google Image Search, the image is displayed in a black field with the target page Page Title and the website domain. That may (or may not) count as a click in Google Webmaster Tools, but won’t generate a visit to the website unless the user clicks again.
By not even including the Page Description, Google underscores that the primary use case behind the new Image Search interface is finding images, not finding websites. This copies other image search providers, most notably Bing’s image search.
And for online marketing managers and strategists, this change only adds further injury to the obfuscation Google has piled onto Image Search in recent years, where much of image search was reported as referrals from google.com rather than being identified as referrer google.com/imgres.
Read more about the controversy over Google Image Search on Google’s Official Blog. The comments are especially interesting, many along the lines of this one: “Google, you are stealing bandwidth, you are stealing traffic, you are stealing copyright, and you are stealing revenues.”