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Massive shift in image search terms in the last year?



7:55 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I am using GA to analyze the keyword searches hitting my site in fall 2011 vs. fall 2010. The changes are astonishing! My site is a fairly large established photography site and overall traffic is up according to Google about 20%. However, I am seeing 50%-90% drops in search terms that used to bring in a lot of visitors. For example searches for "cityscape photography" and "pictures of new york city" have fallen 70%-90%, while non-specific terms like "panoramic view" and "memorial" have shot up 7,000%. Almost every term that used "photos", "pictures", "photography", etc plummeted. I searched for those dropping terms in Google, while setting my location to different places, and my site is still ranking very well for those terms. I can only think that people are now just entering specific image search terms and skipping searching for web sites with relevant content altogether. Has anyone else seen this massive shift?


6:36 pm on Nov 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

There has been a massive shift in image search this year. Clearly the interface itself has gone through a top to bottom rethinking, and I'm certain the algorithm has had several massive shifts, too. One change was how the "types" of images (face, photo, clip art, line drawing) are featured in the Image Search interface.

However, I'm not clear whether you are looking at organic search for websites, or Universal Search (where images are integrated in the standard SERP), or Image Search itself. Is it possible that some of the shifts you are seeing are happening in that area?


6:38 pm on Nov 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm not sure but I think when Google started integrating images at the top of every page of SERPs is when it really started to change. I have been seeing an increase in traffic from image search for several years and a decrease in keyword searches. If you use Google trends you see a drop in the number of searches every year for these terms as well, but it's no where near the drop reflected in Google analytics or my own stats page. Google has made so many changes in the last two years that it's hard to know where the shift is coming from. I do think that more people are becoming accustomed to using image search frequently though, and maybe are just skipping looking for image web sites first. The ones who remain are the serious customers, while the rest are just "grazing". It's nearly impossible to optimize for image search so it's not a good trend for owners of image sites.

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