„Major“ Update in Google’s Image Search

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Almost exactly one year ago Google has introduced the „new“ image search in Germany, triggering heated discussions. Now it seems they felt forced to make further changes, which is what Google call a „major update“. However, as is so often the case, it’s actually not a fundamental change.

Google vs. Getty

Recently there have been reports about Google making an agreement with Getty Images in a legal dispute, the reason being Google’s „new“ Image Search, displaying large images directly within Google Search. Now Google has officially confirmed that there are „major changes“ which have been launched worldwide, as reported by Martin Missfeldt and Barry Schwartz.

Apparently the legal dispute with Getty was causing Google some headaches – the lawsuit was filed in Europe, where Google’s market power has been eyed critically. Now they are cooperating with Getty: Getty images are licensed, allowing Google to use them in other contexts as well.
Additionally, some buttons have disappeared from image search. We don’t know how much Google payed for the license but Getty have since dismissed their complaint.

Everything is gonna be alright …

Turns out it probably isn’t. Let’s compare some screenshots taken by Martin Missfeldt to illustrate recent changes and give you an impression of what that might mean for your images in image search (the dashed line is outlining the areas you should pay special attention to):

Mona Lisa in Google Image Search, October 2017
Mona Lisa in Google Image Search, October 2017 (image from Martin Missfeldt’s eBook „Image SEO“).


Now let’s compare that to the most recent version of image search which seems to be live since today or yesterday:

 Mona Lisa in Google image search, changes as of 16.2.2018
Mona Lisa in Google image search, changes as of 16.2.2018 (by Martin Missfeldt)

What are we seeing here?

  1. The „View image“ button has disappeared
  2. The image size has moved from the top to the bottom of the image and is no longer clickable
  3. The hint „Image Search“ (above under the image title) has disappeared
  4. The note „Images may be protected by copyright“ has moved from the right side to the line underneath the image and is lightly highlighted

With the „view image“ button disappearing, you can no longer summon the original image version in a new tab by clicking on that button – you can still see the original image with clicking the right mouse button. Seeing other sizes of the image has now become a more tedious task, but is still possible if you know how to.

Selling the drama

As usually, Google are sticking to their strategy of selling updates as slightly more dramatic than they actually are. Sure, it got a bit harder to „steal“ images directly from image search but has the copyright notice really got that much clearer?

Google are selling their replacing the „View image“ with a „Visit website“ button as a success on Twitter:

Tweet about the Google image search update
Tweet about the Google image search update

Mountains and molehills

In a nutshell, nothing much has changed. Original images are still displayed within the Google Image Search frame upon click, and if you share the image, you actually share the Google image search result of the image, not the image source itself, so Google is actually getting visitors to their search site instead of the autor’s site. Plus they still have kept the „save image“ button on mobile image SERPs. Martin Missfeldt reports that since the update, he notices an increase of server load with each image file request within Google Image Search.

Supposedly the settlement with Getty has cost Google a decent amount of bucks but it seems only two companies are benefitting from it so far – Getty and Google. If you want to have your images licensed in a similar way, you might want to consider filing a lawsuit as well.

What do you think?
Let us know if you notice an increase in visitors in the next few weeks.

Seit 2009 im Online-Marketing, u. A. als SEO-Teamleitung in Agenturen, Senior-Inhouse-SEO bei Chefkoch.de und der Aufeminin-Gruppe (gofeminin.de, Onmeda.de in diversen Ländern), jetzt stolzes Teammitglied bei bold ventures. Lieblings-Themen: schema.org und Multilingual-Content-Markup auf komplexen Webseiten mit exotischen Sprachen. Ich hab mehr Interessen als die Woche Stunden, aber meine besondere Leidenschaft ist Sprache in all ihren Facetten. Und Essen. ESSEN!

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