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21,000 image hits per day and almost no traffic

     
11:55 pm on May 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I have a heavily image based photography site and I serve all images from a subdomain so it's easy to separate hits to images from hits to pages. I am getting about 21,000 hits to my images per day, with 76% coming from Google Images (90%) and Bing (10%). As far as I can tell, almost none of these hits on the images of my site are resulting in visits to the pages where the images are shown. I know that after the Google redesign a few years ago my image traffic dropped off a cliff, about 90%. Recently my very good image traffic from Germany and France also vanished when they rolled those same changes out there....but can it be that Google is effectively stealing all the traffic without referring anything? It must be 1% or less. Does anyone else have this same experience? Is there any way to grab some of those image hits and turn them into traffic again?
1:12 am on May 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Sorry, that should read 76% from image search (90% from Google, 10% from Bing)
1:23 am on May 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Sounds about normal for a heavy image site. Getting all these hits from image scraping bots doesn't hurt you... this is what these bots do.

So you need to decide whether allowing the various image directory bots access is something that benefits you or not.

If you decide you do not want your images in the various image directories, you can block them with various techniques.
1:30 am on May 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@keyplyr It's funny to hear Google Images referred to as "these image scraping bots". It used to be a serious component of my business and I could not afford to ignore it. Now Google Images basically provides not much traffic and very little real business. Is there any way to grab some of that traffic back and force them to my site? There were some Wordpress plugins that forced them to visit the site to see images without watermarks if I remember, but the plugin seemed heavy handed.
1:44 am on May 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It's funny to hear Google Images referred to as "these image scraping bots".
Well that's what they are.
Now Google Images basically provides not much traffic and very little real business.
Yes it changed for everyone a couple years ago. Google changed the way they display the image. The only way for traffic to come your way is that small "image source" and "visit website" links at Google & Bing image directories.
Is there any way to grab some of that traffic back and force them to my site?
No way to force traffic. You could annotate your company name on all your photos, but while that is a good thing and may discourage image theft, it would not help bring traffic to your site very much (a little maybe.)

The internet is alway changing. At one time image traffic was pretty good, not any more and it will likely never recover.
2:24 am on May 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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All the images are watermarked with URL and logo. FYI, Nothing really discourages image theft, they crop off the logo and use it anyway. These days I have two copyright infringement firms working full time on catching infringements, and to be honest I am probably making more money from that than the original traffic would have brought in sales. There is a perverse incentive to let them steal the images these days as it's so easy to catch them now. Technology is taking with one hand and giving with the other.
3:43 am on May 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Just one other point, are you sure these bots are really who they say they are? Anyone can fake a User Agent. Googlebot and Googlebot-Image are the most faked UAs of all.

UA: Googlebot-Image/1.0
Host: crawl-66-249-73-217.googlebot.com
66.249.64.0 - 66.249.95.255
66.249.64.0/19

An authentic Googlebot-Image will only come from the above verified crawl range.

There is another busy image scrapper named: com.google.GoogleMobile that has nothing to do with Googlebot-Image but may show up in a stats report as Google.
4:17 am on May 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@keyplyr Thanks I will check my raw log files for the image subdomain, should be easy to spot
11:47 am on May 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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You can serve a 403 http code, when the referrer is empty or not your own site. This is not perfect, but at Google image search, this will display only their cached thumbnail, instead of your full size image. This might encourage more people to click on the image, to see your page. I doubt that Google will complain or penalize you from doing this. Google policy is that you must not serve a different image.
11:54 am on May 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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You can serve a 403 http code, when the referrer is empty...
Not a good idea. Many requests do not send a referrer, especially with mobile. Blocking those requests will end up giving site visitors a page with all the images missing.