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Traffic from "New and Improved" Google Image Search Drops 63%

google image search

Back in January, Google drastically redesigned how their image search feature works. Although the Google image search became easier to use, with large-scale images opening right in Google as opposed to the site containing the image, many image-centric site owners worried that they'd see a drop in traffic as a result.

Google said this wouldn't happen, and that if anything, site owners could expect a marginal uptick in traffic instead. According to a new report from Define Media Group, Google was quite wrong about that, and many sites are losing image traffic in droves.

63% Decline in Image Search Traffic

A little detective work by Define Media Group revealed that, of the 87 sites they tested, the overall decline in traffic coming from image search was 63%. As you'd expect, the verticals that suffered the most included Entertainment, News, Fashion/Lifestyle and Photo, all of which experienced a dip of about 78% in traffic from image search.

Google originally said that this type of dip might occur because the new image search would eliminate the phenomenon of "phantom visits," in which a page appears to be visited in terms of analytics even though the user only brought up the image in Google. However, when speaking with Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land, Marshall Simmonds of Define Media Group said they didn't detect any evidence of "phantom visits" whatsoever.

Community Reactions

The most popular comment on Search Engine Land's posting of this story is from a user named Alan, and it does a good job of summing up the anger many site owners are feeling toward Google right now:

"Wow what a surprise? Google made a change and it benefited Google and harmed the site owners (content owners). Google wouldn't do that now would they? (yes sarcasm)."

However, the top response to Alan by Paul Caudell takes a different perspective on the situation:

"Hasn't Google always been geared towards the user not the site owner? I'm sure they weren't thinking about a sites traffic when they designed this update, instead a fast loading easy to use system."

What do you think? Is the current version of image search just a way for Google to "steal" content from site owners and present it as their own, or is the fact that the system is simpler for users the only thing that matters? Let us know in the comments below.

Ryan Lundin

Posted on 7th April, 2013 by Ryan Lundin

About Ryan Lundin

Ryan Lundin is a content curator, manager, editor and writer from Marquette, MI.

View all posts by Ryan Lundin

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