Google’s ‘improved’ image search wipes out site traffic

Google announced and implemented changes to the way their image search works around the end of January 2013. This updated interface was supposed to increase the amount of users visiting websites that serve the images.

In our tests, we’ve seen a net increase in the average click-through rate to the hosting website.

It seems the opposite has occurred. Now, instead of pointing users to the host site, Google serves up the entire image from within the search page. While this change is more convenient for those searching, it drastically reduces the amount of visits the site that owns/hosts the image receives. Here is a chart of Google Image traffic to my site before and after the change.

google_image_search

As you can clearly see, traffic to my site via Image Search has dropped dramatically since the update. Overall traffic to my site has been reduced to around half the normal amount, while visits in February were lower than they have been in three years.

Many others are reporting the same problem, and many of them generate income from visitors to their websites. Imagine income-generating traffic dropping by 50% or more and you can understand why people are angry. Not to mention the fact that Google is effectively hotlinking images and stealing bandwidth while circumventing clicks to sites.

Although I don’t use advertising on this site, I am a stats queen and I find this kind of thing very interesting. Google’s claim that their changes will increase the click-through rate is preposterous, and since Google makes their money off of advertising placed on individual sites, they are biting the hand that feeds them.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 12 years and three fabulous felines.

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