Sgt_Kickaxe - 1:50 pm on Nov 24, 2012 (gmt 0)
*update* This isn't related to image hotlinking, it's about search results showing ANY image and LOCATION of image.
- With a weeks worth of data to use as comparison I was able to hone in on "affected" images and search for clues. It seems that images based on a brand, or on a page discussing that brand, are the affected subset and as mentioned in the opening post the position of these types of images has been shuffling from top to bottom of Google's search results.
New(to me at least) - no images results fitting the criteria are shown at all in natural search. That's no images at all as in Google doesn't display a few image results along with the text.
I was trying to figure out what it was about the images but it turns out that it's about the keywords, e.g. images don't return for "brand name product name" searches nearly as often right now (on my site at least) for SOME brand/product combinations, but not all.
It also started changing as early as Nov 2nd, after years of being stable. Something to think about when taking pictures of your xmas presents to post online! (unless of course it's just something affecting my site alone, or is purely cosmetic by Google, or this is a change caused by the intent algorithms or... just a layout change).