SEO Roundtable reported last week that SEOs and webmasters saw major declines in Google image search traffic. The drops were from international versions of Google in particular, not the US version. These reports were just confirmed by SEO Roundtable in a report from today, February 20.
The problem was this. Four years ago in 2013 Google changed the design of the image search here in the US. Webmasters originally complained, but Google insisted that in the long run the changes were better for them. Now, they are bringing those same changes over into France, Germany, and possibly other countries.
The reason for the 2013 changes was that old traffic from the image searches was not accurate; part of what we were seeing was not real traffic from people clicking over to our sites. The changed interface fixed those errors and made it seem like there was a drop in traffic. Now that it’s being rolled out in the EU, that same pattern is being noticed, although it’s really just what looks like a big dip in traffic.
An update to the Google data anomalies page dated February 7 specifically mentions the issues in France and Germany:
“The design and behavior of Google image search results was standardized to match the design and behavior in all other locations. As a result, there may be an adjustment in click counts for image search result data for searches from Germany and France.”
A spokesperson from Google told Barry Schwartz of SEO Roundtable that Google has “recently rolled out the updated UI for Image Search to some other countries.” They did not reveal to Schwartz why there was a four year gap between the US roll out at the international roll out. Beyond France and Germany, they did not disclose which countries were affected.