The 5 month Google Images sabbatical

How long does it take Google Images to update…

Around September 1st, pretty much when Google Images implement their image labeler my Google images traffic plummeted on my tattoo site.

Unlike many others, I always benefited pretty well from the traffic that Google images supplied, probably because my site is image based, that traffic converted well into Adsense earnings and library subscribed members so I quickly felt the pinch.

The traffic briefly came back and then flatlined, nothing on site had changed.

Now since the websites inception the coder that initially designed the script had all images named as a long number, for example 544589762.jpg, I always knew this was inefficient but always ranked well in Google images and used to get tens of thousands of visitors per month, if it ain’t broke I wasn’t going to touch it, for years this worked, but in September it broke.

Adsense Images

I left it for 2 months until just before November, at which point my Google images traffic was still at around 100 per day instead of previously generating around 1500 per day. I knew I had to make a move and get all my images renamed to more natural words that described the images better, my coder was called upon and managed to complete the job very efficiently.

The next step was to watch the images disappear from Google images, they were not ranking anyway so no loss but from everything I had read I presumed a 3 month exile before they would get spidered again but there was nothing clear or definite about the time lapse. For the first month I kept track of the results of my images being de-indexed.

Amount of images Google has indexed
Nov 1st 3610
Nov 2nd 3410
Nov 3rd  3050
Nov 4th 2800 
Nov 5th 2630
Nov 6th 2520
Nov 7th 2460
Nov 8th 2450
Nov 9th 2390
Nov 10th 2390
Nov 11th 774 
Nov 12th 757 
Nov 15th 731 
Nov 16th 718
Nov 20th 689

Traffic was unaffected as it was minimal and I waited, and waited.
It was February the 11th before I started to see signs of life, at last!

Feb 5th   791
Feb 18th 8590

Images back in play

My exile from Google images was completed and Feb 18th brought 1432 visitors, a little shy of how it was in August but there or there abouts.

So leaving everything to happen naturally, letting Google de-index my images after a name change I can say it does take around 3 months for Google images to update, Adsense is up around 10-15% and a more normal service has been resumed – it’s good to be back!

About Scott Jones

Scott hails from the north east of Scotland and started earning online at the end of 2000 building websites for local businesses during which time he won an award from Lord Alan Sugar for Excellence in Enterprise. After having quite a bit of success with domaining Scott mainly runs educational evergreen websites which generate over 3 million visitors per month but is always on the lookout for a fresh thinking out of the box way to turn a buck. Follow on Twitter.


  1. Glad to hear you got the traffic back 🙂

    Weird how the timing was at the same time as the introduction of the image labeler, unless they also brought out new algorithms then too.

  2. What you should have done was install a fancy htaccess solution to 301 redirect the old images to the new location. Pretty sure this would have sped the process up a lot.:-)

  3. Ramon Leon says:

    Dude, please stop calling your programmer a coder, it’s insulting to many programmers and probably turns off some readers, myself included. Call him your developer, or programmer, but not coder.

    • I think we need a poll on this 🙂 I honestly didnt even know there was a difference between a coder and a programmer. Is there?

      • I didn’t know either – more so I am confused as to why it would be ‘insulting’ perhaps annoying if there is a key difference but surely it’s not that offensive? I’ll have to ask him.

        • It might be worth sending the email to CodeMasters too and asking them to rebrand as DeveloperMasters or something 😉

        • )) Matthew 10 out of 10!! )) I guess CodeMaster will grasp the idea))

          I wonder if Ramon Leon will anser. I do not understand why it is offensive as well.

        • Ramon Leon says:

          Look, this isn’t a debatable point, I’m telling you, there is a group of programmers who find this term offensive, it implies they’re stupid interchangeable code monkeys. CodeMaster and coder are different words with different connotations, so that’s a non sequitur. I didn’t say every developer finds it offensive, I said many do, myself included.

          It’s rarely a term used by programmers themselves, usually it’s something non-programmers tend to say. It’s akin to calling a writer a typer and not realizing that writing is a lot more than just typing. Programming is a hell of a lot more than just coding. The actual writing of the code is but one small part of developing solutions.

          Google “coder vs programmer” and you’d find many many debates about the topic, that it’s debated *at all* clearly indicates some people find the term derogatory, so unless you’re trying to offend *some* people, stop using the term.

        • Would you say a “coder” is of less skill or importance then a “programmer”? If so, I am sure some coders would disagree and feel insulted that a coder is less then a programmer or looked down on for being a “coder”.

          I just don’t see why they would find it offensive. My job title is a “network specialist” and often I get referred to as the support guy, tech guy, fix it man, or many other terms. I don’t give a monkeys what people call me as regardless of if the term means someone of a lower skill. If they call and need my help I will give it, if not I will direct them towards someone who can.

        • Ramon Leon says:

          It doesn’t matter if you don’t see why it’s offensive, you can’t argue such points. People are either offended or not, you may as well be trying to argue that the confederate flag shouldn’t offend black people, it’s just a flag after all.

          You may not give care what people refer to you as, great for you, but many programmers *do* take offense, and you can’t talk them out of being offended with logic, it doesn’t work that way.

          I know of no programmer who’d offended by being called a programmer or a developer, but there is a minority who is offended by being called a coder, the solution is simple, use the terms programmer or developer and you won’t offend anyone. Use coder, and you’ll be offending some people on purpose.

        • Perhaps those who are offended by the name ‘coder’ should stop being so uptight and just get over themselves?

        • Ramon Leon says:

          Perhaps that’s just not how the world works. Being polite isn’t about saying only things *you* don’t find offensive, it’s about not offending others, regardless of what they find offensive. Personally I don’t find curse words offensive, but I’m polite enough to realize that doesn’t mean shit to someone who do so I don’t use that language just anywhere.

          Some people don’t find the N word offensive, that doesn’t mean it’s just OK for them to use the word anywhere they like, they’ll get their asses kicked if they do, and rightfully so, it’s an obscene word. I’m not saying one must be PC all the time, but it’s ignorant to just think the offended party should just get over themselves.

          I could care less what’s written on this blog, I just thought I’d point out that *coder* is seen as offensive by some, any intelligent and reasonable person who was unknowingly using offensive language would want to be informed of it, it’s that simple.

        • Programmers and Coders are the same. If you’re a “Developer” then you’re on a different level. The highest level to attain is that of a “Software Engineer” 🙂

        • hehe what about ‘Chief Software Architect’ (what Bill Gates was until recently)… makes him sound like the guy from the Matrix 😀

      • I don’t see this as insulting. I’m a programmer, developer, coder. What do programmers do? They write lines of code to develop a program. Yes, in many cases they architect the application, but in this case he wrote code to rename the images.

      • Well I’m a programmer and a coder. Call me either 🙂

  4. Scott, glad to see that your traffic is back up. I dream of numbers like those!

    I noticed when clicking the Tattoo Community link on the site that this message comes up: “Unable to load system/cache/pictures/ /HaCked BY MhRfL.htm.tpl”.. you might want to check that out!

  5. I never knew that images could bring in that many visitors. Impressive! Luckily I don’t have that many pictures on my site but I will be sure to name them cleverly in the future. Thanks for the heads up!

    • For some people image search is just a drain on bandwidth Mikael however my traffic gets monetised pretty well so I earn from it.

  6. I had no idea that Google Images took that long to update. I’ve been waiting a while and wondering what I did to anger the Google Gods and now you say that’s just the way it is. That’s a relief.

  7. The same happened to a blog I run. I received like 2000 UV per month (60/70 per day) from image search, but then I had the bright idea of optimizing the images names and alt tags.

    The traffic from images suddenly dissapeared at all, and started to come back about 2 months later, but it never reached the previous values (I’m only getting 6 visits per day)

    Scott, do you think it would be a good idea to rollback and change image filenames as they was before, even though they were not optimized at all?

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