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Image Ranking Experiment - Allow indexing without watermarks

 3:32 pm on Apr 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'm surprised that no one else has been commenting about the disappearance of so many watermarked images from Google's image SERPs. By my reckoning, in my niche, they have cleared-out some 90% of them with many good images being replaced by inferior and in several instances, totally incorrect ones.

I'm guessing that Google hasn't liked all the watermarked images appearing in its SERPs

Since I've had so many images stolen over the past 14-15 years today I've decided to let those specific images be indexed without watermarks to see what, if any, difference it makes to traffic. I'm doubting very little since myself, and many other image creators, saw such a dramatic fall in traffic after 28th January 2013, however one never knows without experimenting.

All new images created in the past 2-3 years will not be uploaded without watermarks plus I certainly will not be relaxing my hotlinking defence.

[edited by: goodroi at 3:38 pm (utc) on Apr 14, 2014]
[edit reason] Looking forward to a productive experiment without editorializing [/edit]



 3:52 pm on Apr 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

Interesting observation and it is probably only able to be made by someone who watches images as closely as you do.

Do report back to this thread if you decide to share the result of your experiment on replacing watermarked images I presume not currently indexed, with the non-watermarked version and see if it has any effects on image indexation.


 4:11 pm on Apr 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

What happened January 28th 2013?


 7:32 pm on Apr 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

Google's new image SERPs.


 8:14 pm on Apr 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

I can clearly see the disappearing traffic from my image related news site.

There are 2 problems:
1. Google does not like big sizes pictures (ex 1920x1080 px)
2. Very few watermarked images still rank.

Thats very frustrating for us, as I pay a lot of money for my pictures.
I've invested a lot in photo equipment for reviews and events.


 9:51 am on Apr 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

The trick is to use image sitemaps

The problem is how can Googlebot know what is in the licence URL?

I could not find any standard info about this :(


 2:19 pm on Apr 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'm guessing it's going to take a few weeks before I see if this has any effect meanwhile I am experimenting with watermarking new images "differently" just to see how Google handles those. At the moment they are being accepted and ranking well.

I wondered just how they are detecting the watermarks hence my experiments.

I, too, have invested a lot of time, effort and money creating my images, like quite a few as a primary source in my industry however I have to say that there are not very many wholesalers & retailers sites worldwide who have not copied my images.

Since Google has done this I have now opened a Pinterest account and have started posting there, with watermarks, and they seem to be gaining quite a lot of interest. To me this throws a spanner in Google's works if more originators upload there, with watermarks, and both Google's and Bing's images SERPs worsen significantly since both can be very inaccurate at times.

I really could do without all this extra work it is causing me but I keep reminding myself that it was Google that did this, not me, therefore they'll have to live with the consequences of their short-sightedness.


 5:22 pm on Apr 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

Interesting observations, RedBar!

By "watermarks", I assume you mean VISIBLE watermarks, like the common overlay of some big white text or logo having some opacity level making it semi-transparent. There are other (invisible) types, like comments in the EXIF codes.

"I wondered just how they are detecting the watermarks..."

The "how" isn't really important. The "why" could be. One component could be the usual set of assumptions about what a "web user/searcher" would want, or not. Another could be "IP rights".

But then, if you have two identical images - one with a watermark, and another without - then you can easily detect the extra weight. More reliably so when you have more images to train your algorithm with. It's not rocket science.


 8:01 pm on Apr 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

They recognise patterns, it's like facial recognition of search for the same image, but different px size.

It's not that hard....


 3:16 pm on Apr 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

Patterns of what?

How would one distinguish a pattern on a pattern?

Repetitive example.com on many images


What about a hollow v solid font?

Why don't they just admit they screwed-up? Nah...that ain't ever going to happen with them:-)


 6:43 pm on Apr 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

Let's put it in another way.

Do you know CAPTCHA ? Let's say that captcha got so screwed, because robots got better and better to recognize the codes.

It's really not very difficult to sport different patterns on pictures, especially one one site.

Search for a car model in google images and tell me how many have watermarks?


 7:54 pm on Apr 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

Actually I've seen quite a few top quality car images over the years with watermarks but many of the stock car images used are promoted initially by the manufacturer. It's in their interest to promote via their dealers etc.

Let's say there were a market in clouds, there are loads of different clouds, all natural, all different colours and all different sizes and let's say that there were a dozen people taking images of those clouds to try and sell to different dealers.

Why should a dealer spend all his time and effort in creating those non-watermarked cloud images only for one of his competitors to steal the images and purport them to be his own? That's what has happened to me over the last 14 years, code and images scraped and subsequently outranked by many blogspot pages and none of them to do with backlinks!

Of course a human eye would be able to detect even a subtle watermark on the clouds image but, genuinely, would a machine/software be able to do so?

Honestly, I do not know, I've seem programmes that claim to be able to do all sorts of things in the right hands however I seem to be able to muck 'em up immediately:-)


 9:08 pm on Apr 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

Google does not like big sizes pictures (ex 1920x1080 px)

Is this still true? I just did a test search for {standard image that's always cited in examples} using an up-to-the-minute browser and OS.

First six results, excluding first row which offers categories:


That's 5 of 6 images much bigger than an ordinary browser view. (Are they sniffing out my connection speed along with my UA? Brr.) Results seem to have much more to do with sitename than with image quality. I vote for the one from the Telegraph, which is way down around #40 or more.


 3:53 am on Apr 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

Nice find, I have a large image gallery in which I didn't watermark them and they ranked well for years, sometimes to well. What i have noticed is pintereast type sites claiming they are providing a server to webmaster hosting their images.

To be honest, images are a touchy issue, and for years bloggers and webmasters would do a quick G search grab an image and use it. As it turns out fair use... is only valid in very rare cases and you really need express written permission to use images, that are not royal free.

Maybe google is trying to replace copyrighted works with "free to use" images. I will report back on how a scrapper site that is claiming my images are free to use from their site as long as you link to their site is doing over time..

In the end people could pay between, a few hundred up to $150,000 per image.. for copyright laws. search for "You CAN Get Sued For Using Photos You Don't Own on Your Blog" she got sued after taking down an image and still had to pay.


 6:03 pm on Apr 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

Okie dokie, a couple of weeks into this experiment and the site I was specifically testing has definitely seen an increase in PVs by 25.6%, uniques, first time and returning are more or less the same so far.

The past 7 days for this site has seen it's best daily average for the year...Interesting, nothing conclusive, yet consistently better days.


 11:55 am on Apr 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

I used the Image Guard plugin on one of my Wordpress blogs. Yesterday I noticed that all images disappeared from Google Image Search. I deactivated the plugin and will see what happens. Punished by Google for trying to protect my images and copyrights ...


 12:42 pm on Apr 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

Redbar, do you also have alot of car related images? I have found a lot of scrapper sites hot linking to our site wchi i prefer over stealing them out right. What i also noticed is google has been "swapping" my sites ranking images, with sites that have stole the images.. crazy (although it makes it easy to see who to go after)


 6:44 pm on Apr 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

Patterns of what?

How would one distinguish a pattern on a pattern?

Ask FB. They predict pretty well who's in the photo. Detecting repetition of a face, occurring in different angles and expressions, in photos is a lot harder than detecting a repetition of a watermark.

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