Google Image Search Redesign and How This Affects Webmasters

Google image search redesign

As a owner of multiple websites it happens to have an image-based site too. Like most of the webmasters – photographers or design artists that publish their images on their site, my site depended for most of its traffic from the Google image search engine. On the 24th-25th January I saw high decrease in traffic for that particular site and also its AdSense revenue more than halved.

I first believed it has to be that the weekend is close, and during weekends the traffic is reduced by 20% in some cases, but I was wrong…

The thing that really happened is Google redesigned their image search engine, keeping most of the traffic for themselves by using a good tactic. The new design now shows bigger images downsized from the original full-sized image on our sites, which previous to this update they could not be seen, thus leaving the opportunity for the user to download the image right from inside the Google image search, and ending in not even visiting our site.

Google backed up this update by stating the new design greatly improves speed and usability for the users.

Many upset webmasters and artists started raging forum threads and blog posts after the update, many considering this is a copyright infringement, while the other part says you should block Google bot to visiting your site if you don’t like it. In my opinion, Google has gone too far with this update and this is why I’m writing this post too.

I’m not that moved because my AdSense revenue on that site is down to 80%, because luckily I have other stable streams of revenue, but because the images I spend months to edit and upload now can be downloaded without users even knowing who made them, Google leaving just a small door for the users to visit your site.

This is how the new image search look, you can see that puppy right at Google and save the relatively bigger image in your computer, without even visiting the originating site (or you have the option to view just the original size image). Now most of the users will not be motivated enough to click on the picture or on the “visit page” button to land at your site:

Google image search redesign

While me and other webmasters can’t do too much in making Google considering to rollback the changes, in the past days I searched for various methods of redirecting visitors to my site before they will be able to download the bigger sized images directly from Google. Thus directing most of the traffic where it should land – at the owner gallery, and not on the new Google’s one.

I found a few redirect methods that implies some lines of PHP code and modifications at the .htaccess file in the domain root, but I’m still to find a viable solution for this particular site of mine, which is pure html, lacking a database. In the next days I’ll update this pot with the solution I found (for WordPress too), so others can direct most of the visitors to their site.

I have a feeling this was a bad step for Google.

UPDATE 16 February 2013:

I’m back with some new data and a positive experience. After days of researching and trying various redirect and watermark methods with my site I finally got something good put in place: A no-hotlink script that places a watermark on my images only on requests from other sites. So while my full resolution images remains intact if accessed from my domain, if any site is hot linking my images, the script will automatically add a layer over the image, with whatever transparency watermark file (saved as transparency png) you want to add.

Here is a screenshot of the adsense income before and after the Google image update, as my traffic increased back (half of January – half of February):

Adsense earnings recovery

And here is the code and the instructions on how to place it on your site (please pay attention when playing with the .htaccess file on your domain and always have a backup of it, so you can place the original file if something fails – your domain can become inaccessible)

The method will add a (transparent) watermark over the images embedded by Google, the watermark should contain a text instructing visitors to click on the image (so you get back most of the traffic if the user wants to get rid of the watermark and also see the full size resolution of the image). Credits for the code goes to this site: Brandintellect.in – Prevent Image Hotling

Step 1:

Add the following lines of code into your .htaccess file from the root directory of the site you want to modify, make sure to replace yoursite with your domain name, and the .com with your domain termination:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://www\.yoursite\.com/ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !Googlebot [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !Googlebot-Image [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !Mediapartners-Google [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !Mediapartners [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !Googlebot-Mobile [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !Googlebot-Video [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !Googlebot-News [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !msnbot [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !slurp [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !Bingbot [NC]
RewriteRule (^.*\.(bmp|gif|jpe?g)$) /watermark.php?src=$1 [L]
</IfModule>

Step 2:

Create a watermark.php file and add it to the root directory of the site, the file should contain the following code (exactly):

<?php

header(‘content-type: image/jpeg’);

$image = imagecreatefromjpeg($_GET[‘src’]);

$watermark = imagecreatefrompng(‘watermark.png’);

$watermark_width = imagesx($watermark);
$watermark_height = imagesy($watermark);

$dest_x = imagesx($image) – $watermark_width;
$dest_y = imagesy($image) – $watermark_height;

imagecopymerge($image, $watermark, $dest_x – 25, 25, 0, 0, $watermark_width, $watermark_height, 80);

imagejpeg($image, NULL, 85);

imagedestroy($image);
imagedestroy($watermark);

?>

Step 3:

Create a transparent .png image (I do it in Photoshop) with a text instructing visitors to click and visit your site, and also place it in the root directory too.

How to create a transparent .png image in Photoshop: You can create a new image with the background set as transparent, (make the size of the image like 800×600 pixels, or whatever size fits you after checking the Google image search on how the watermark looks, at first you can start with any reasonable size) and then add a text of your choice, then use the “save for web” option and select png from the dropdown menu in the right upper corner before saving, make sure you check the transparency box.

If my instructions were too short you’ll find plenty of info on the Internet on how to create a transparent .png image and add text over it in Photoshop.

This is just one of the methods to recover some of the traffic from the Google images search. I hope this will help some of you.

Alternative traffic channels you can use for your site without needing Google’s organic traffic.

Alternative traffic sources

You may be happy with your actual organic traffic, you receive lots of visitors daily so your site and online income is doing well. Well, you must think twice. Why? Because that ranking position you have today, might not be there tomorrow, and here is why:

Organic traffic is something you don’t really control, if Google decide to launch a new algo update, or to penalize your site for whatever reason, your income based on that traffic will simply dissapear overnight, and getting that traffic back is not an easy task, especially for those with smaller SEO budgets.

The only good thing you can do for your site or business today, is to consider alternative traffic sources, step into them and build a base of traffic and clients that will remain, regardless Google’s moves – which many are afraid of.

You can look at this in this way: If Google would be gone tomorrow, your site would still have visitors, and your business new clients? If the answer is no, then you are in a very sensitive position. But fortunately you can solve this issue in different ways, Google is not the only source of traffic that exists.

You can take into consideration the following traffic sources, that can help improve and maximize your traffic / clients and ultimately your online profit:

 

Social marketing: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, etc. Use these to reach your target audience;

Forums are a great source of traffic if you know how to participate in the discussion, by helping others, you’ll gather trust. Find forums related with your industry;

– You can use PPC traffic from other networks except AdWords;

Email marketing is still a BIG one, build your list slowly, send your worthy newsletters, and market your site and products;

– You can also approach cold calling or spreading flyers, this is a powerful tactic of gathering new clients;

Amazon is a nice place to be if you have a good product, make sure to focus on quality so you can gain positive reviews;

Video marketing is not something you should neglect, as video traffic is growing day by day, ensure you take your steak from it;

– Setup an affiliate program for yur product or service, this will increase your client base, even if you give commissions;

– Run various contests and giveways on your site, people love receiving free stuff, and you can go viral with this approach;

– Try to get some good links on quality niche directories, for getting referral traffic, not just link juice;

 

Remember that Google traffic is good to acquire because of the great targeted traffic is offering, as people are searching for particular keywords before landing on your pages.

However, you must also keep in mind that organic traffic is not a reliable source, and if you want to succeed no matter what happens, you must build on other traffic channels before the bad things happen with search engine rankings.

Website Loading Speed – A New Google Ranking Factor

Website load speed ranking factor

Google announced a new factor in ranking algorithms: website loading speed, which reflects how quickly a website display its content.

Speeding up a website is very important – not just for webmastesr, but for all Internet users. Faster sites make users happier, and studies show that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. However, faster sites not only improve the user experience; recent data show that improving site speed also reduces operating costs.

Users give a great importance for website speed, and because of this, Google has decided to take site speed into account when it comes to search rankings. Google uses a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.

If you are a webmaster, here are some free tools that can be used to check the speed of your site:

Page Speed – An open-source Firefox add-on that evaluates performance of web pages and offers suggestions for improvements.

YSlow – A free tool from Yahoo! that suggests various ways to improve website speed.

WebPagetest – Illustrates a graph-cascade loading speed of your pages, plus an optimization checklist.

In Google Webmaster Tools -> Labs> Site Performance is illustrated your site speed.

While the speed of the site is a new factor, it is not as large as the relevance of a page. Currently, less than 1% of search queries are affected by the speed factor, which currently applies only to visitors who are searching in English on Google.com.

We recommend you start taking into account the speed of your site (above instruments can provide an excellent starting point), not only to improve your site rank in search engines, but also, to improve the experience of your website visitors.

Google AdWords Ads

Google adwords

Google AdWords is a simple and very effective web advertising program to help you reach a very large audience for your product or service, at low-cost. Due to the popularity of Google AdWords system and other sites affiliated with Google, you can promote products to a wide audience at relatively lower costs compared with other types of advertising. Google AdWords lets you reach potential customers at the right time, increasing your chances of profit.

There are many users who search the internet for products they need, Google AdWords help you so that you can claim to be in the right place at the right time. Through Google AdWords, you get much easier target audience, in fact, Google AdWords serves clients on a tray. This is possible because through Google AdWords, your ad is displayed above or beside Google’s search results if the user typed terms relevant to the content of your site. Thus, each time your ad is viewed and clicked, AdWords brings you a potential client to your site.

This is a very efficient advertising system, especially because you will pay only if your ad is accessed. Google AdWords does not charge a fee just for displaying adverts. What you need to do is to always check your ad performance, to see whether another one will perform better. For this, Google AdWords offers a monitoring service for daily visits, to see if advertising does its job or not. So, through the Google AdWords admin area you have complete control over advertising settings and costs.

Besides the money bid for keywords, Google AdWords perceive a single activation fee for your AdWords account. This enables you to take advantage of various tools to help you in making creative ads and to choose different formats for your ad. AdWords provides you with text, image or video ads, and also you can change it anytime you want to maximize the number of hits to your site.

What is the greatest thing in AdWords advertising system is that you choose your keywords, and especially, you choose how you want to pay. The more you pay, so AdWords will display your ads more frequently and at the top section of the Google search results, or other sites that you choose.

Your responsibility is to write a compelling ad that AdWords will display as an advertisement to differentiate from competitors. You can briefly introduce special offers, discounts, something to attract attention and interest of users.

PageRank – Link Popularity

Pagerank link popularity

As we showed in a previous article, PageRank is a number that shows how important a page is in the opinion of Google (by vote of all other sites), is an important factor in shaping the search engine results list. If you are not interested in technical details, you can skip the next paragraph and continue reading further.

Internet web pages contain many links. Some of these are internal links, and others are external links, that have as destination another web page. If we try to represent the set of these links by drawing a graph, we obtain a directed system. Points of this graphic represents web pages and the links between them are the actual links. The graph lines are characterized by the power of the starting point and the reference number, which start from that point.

Pagerank link popularity

If we have plenty of external links pointing to our site, and their pages are valuable sources, the more valuable our site will be, and PageRank becomes higher. PageRank value of our site depends not only on quantity of links, but also their quality and relation.

With the introduction of Google’s PageRank this aspect can be measurable, obtaining a more efficiently list of results in search, so Google will display the most popular sites in its search engine results. If we go further, then we see that this solution establishes the importance of pages by other people votes, meaning a human decisions, because these links are displayed on pages with the consent of the owners. So, in short, Google is able to measure the webmasters decisions. Links that point to our website are called backlinks.

We do not know the precise PageRank value of a site at a given time, since the PageRank update is not made in real time. There is however a readable value, which is a number between 0 and 10, which is created by a Google logarithm. When this value is exported by Google, we can read it in Google Toolbar (by enabling PageRank extension) or using other tools on the Internet to check the PR value of a site or a particular page.

Of course, the higher the PageRank value of our website, the better chance we have to get distinct places in search engine rankings. It is important to mention that PageRank is an important factor in the formation of the ranking, but it is not the only influencing factor. Our ranking depends largely on the quality and content of our website. A high PageRank value (due to plenty of backlinks) does not guarantee a good site ranking.

Of course everyone wants his site to be as strong and PageRank value to be as great. For this we must gather as many quality backlinks as we can, but also to constantly update our site and keep the flow of visitors coming, and returning.

PageRank in Google’s database is constantly changing, but the value in Google Toolbar is updated only once every 2-3 months. (This is called PageRank export). PageRank export does not change rankings because it is based on a database which is always variable. PageRank seen in the Google Toolbar is only a signal based on which we can draw conclusions about the power of our site, that may be the result of persistent work on site optimization.