Google Image Index Update

This has been a rocky year for Google algorithm updates for sure, especially for sites in the “money and health” niches. Today we discovered another update that has been brewing all year, this Google image index update has impacted 400+ sites that we directly monitor, all ranging in size from small business sites at <1k pageviews/month up to our most busy bloggers pulling >5MM pageviews/month, it’s affected sites across all hosting companies, with cdn from Sucuri/Cloudflare and without any cdn – it’s affecting everyone.

How can I check my image index?

Here’s how to check if your site has gone through the change, in the old Search Console go to Crawl>Sitemaps>click the tab for Images. Here’s a sample of how it should look:

google image index

For perspective, this is two large blogs and a small business site – we do see some commonality as to sites being affected in waves. later in this article I’ll describe steps to check the New Search Console to look at your updated indexed images.

What’s this update about?

It’s still unclear as to the purpose of this update, though it may have something to do with Google Ending Search Console Beta on Sept 4th, they’re now redirecting new logins to the new Search Console by default. Of course it should be expected that more and more services would be ported over from old Search Console to new, but we haven’t yet seen features in the old Console being turned off – so is the old Console still working/accurate? Mostly.

What are the effects on traffic?

We’re currently seeing a mixed bag of results for every site, on average 50% of sites are seeing an immediate drop in traffic from image search, we’ve also seen SERP features also affected (missing recipe thumbnails, position-0 thumbnails, etc). In every case we’re seeing improved or rebounded traffic within 2-3 weeks of the initial dip, in the New Search Console you can see your image search performance by going to: Performance>Toggle ‘Search Type’ to ‘Image’>Analyse the last 3 months of data. here’s a look at how some sites have been affected in their image traffic:

new image indexing
Dramatic loss of indexed images followed by quick recovery.
new image indexing
Steady index loss followed by steady recovery.

Is my site going to be okay?

For sites that have experienced the loss of indexed images the worst should be over and all signs currently point to improvement and recovery for any lost ranks, we’ve seen reports of lost indexed images going back as far as August, thought the vast majority of users have been affected in September, a small minority of around 5% that we monitor have not yet gone through the index loss but we are monitoring and expect they’ll be swept in the next wave. For now, the recommendation is not to do anything dramatic, before we realized it was a Google-wide change affecting everyone we considered removing cdn’s, changing seo plugins, resetting analytics/console accounts and more – all unnecessary since this is a forced update and there’s nothing to do but ride it out. if you’re worried about your SERP ranks just remember, your competitors are also going through the update, and if they haven’t yet, they will, so SERPs should balance out as everyone goes through the update.

Do I still have images indexed?

The easiest way to check is to go to Google Image Search directly and search for When we search for WPT we find a dozen images, even though the old Search Console says we have none. On sites we tested we found varying numbers of images indexed ranging from 80% of their full image library to as low as 5%, though as seen in the charts above it’s possible the number of images you have indexed after the update could vary wildly as your site re-ranks for image search terms.

Will we ever be able to see how many images are indexed?

Since the New Search Console just got out of Beta and is now the Standard Search Console it’s likely development on the new platform will increase, this might mean missing features that are only accessible in the Old Console are planned to be ported over soon, so yes it’s likely we’ll eventually get another toggle in the New Console that shows how many images are actually indexed, for now it seems we have no reliable tracker for that metric.

Is there an official announcement?

No. Google doesn’t announce changes to its platforms or services, you might have noticed receiving more email notifications last month than usual, you might have also noticed getting “mobile first indexing” enabled as well – all telling signs of big changes. The closest we get to a notice about changes is the announcement of Search Console leaving Beta status, a big change accompanied by multitudes of other changes for sure. I’ll include some links below to see what other people say about the changes, there’s also a lot of activity in Google forums that makes for interesting reads, just don’t try some of the whackadoodle fixes some people are trying to get their images to come back up like renaming all the images in your library, lol.

Additional reading on the update:

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