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Google Image Search Gone Ballistic - 650% daily increase in referrals!

10:51 pm on Nov 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I have a ccTLD specialist site of about 100 pages that normally has steady traffic year in year out from international trade people searching for specific keyword widget images.

The SERPs position for most images have not changed however one specific image, which has been #1 in image search for quite some time, since the end of last month it has increased from its daily average by 650% today mostly from the USA.

I am absolutely perplexed, I have checked my logs and there does not seem to be any unusual activity and it's certainly not an AdSense click attack since, so far today, it has not had ONE single click!

I have checked the site: and link: and they are completely normal. Am I missing something?

This month this site has already had 400% more Google image referrals than the whole of October.

Can anyone shed any light on this or give me a clue as to what may be happening?

8:05 am on Nov 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Is the image about something quite popular in the US right now?

Are the query strings/keywords different than a few months ago? Maybe you are ranking better for some (popular) queries you are not aware of.

10:57 am on Nov 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Thursday ended up with a 1,600% increase.

Guess what? Social networking sites and smart phones user groups etc referring the image for a background! I have found loads of hotlinks to two specific images on two of my sites named keyword1keyword2.

Keyword1 has over 1 billion results in search and over 433 million in images and I am #1 for this keyword1 and if this is the type of image one is looking for then it's perfect.

Now the annoying factor is that these referring sites including user groups such as MySpace, Coolchaser, Mac, iPhone and Blackberry are telling people how to hotlink to the image even though the mods are telling them not to hotlink but to actually download and save. I don't mind them using the image, it's my bandwidth they're stealing and sending my stats crazy.

For the moment I have disabled my AdSense ads since I assume that users are coming from those sites and just clicking right and "saving" plus I have re-named those images and removed them therefore I am now throwing up loads and loads of 404s.

I'm guessing this will take a few days to clear-up once people realise their background images have disappeared and hopefully they will take their mods advice however if it is not this then I'm really stumped...for the moment.

Anyone else with any thoughts on this?

12:05 pm on Nov 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Replace with an image which clashes violently with the previous one - for example red and purple stripes replacing a gentle sea view.
Get rid of the unwanted traffic ASAP, by making it visually obvious, not just missing.

Some people would suggest you put up an offensive image to replace it - thats not my style.

2:13 pm on Nov 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from CA 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member encyclo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

joined:Aug 31, 2003
votes: 2

Replace with an image which clashes violently with the previous one

Why? It's worth trying to get some value from the situation. Replace the original image with a reduced-quality version with the same dimensions (ie. to reduce your bandwidth hit). Add a watermark with your site URL to the new image.

Bandwidth is cheap, and the image-hotlinking can be turned into good cheap advertising for your site.

3:09 pm on Nov 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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joined:June 3, 2007
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Replace with an image which clashes violently with the previous one

Hehehe...I actually created a flourescent lime green one and uploaded it and it really did make the sites I looked at really yucky, however I am playing the psychological game hoping that when they see a 404 page they'll go off elsewhere and find another image etc or take note of their mods.

If they decide to stay on mysite and use the re-named image then it'll either be the flourescent or a cracking offensive one.

Over a beer last night someone suggested that I replace it with a HUGE MB image so that those using smart phones etc would have all their bandwidth hammered etc...maybe even crash their phones and make sites really slow to load? Of course it would hit my bandwidth but I can afford that, it's merely the principle of it all.

The 404s are running into the tens of thousands now. Anyone know how to monetise unwanted traffic?

7:41 pm on Nov 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

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joined:June 3, 2007
votes: 0

Ah well...the flourescent lime green images have gone up! If that hasn't destroyed so many poncy damned social networking site designs wait until the really offensive image of Jedward goes up...that's a Brit joke at the moment:-)

Why have I done this?

Well, I guess that most people haven't even noticed the image is missing therefore it is throwing me a 404, one site alone has had 10,000+ 404s today, so they'll notice the image now...if not then a Jedward image should make them well and truly sick.


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