This post was most recently updated on September 5th, 2019
It’s fairly common practice for publishers to try increasing their Google Adsense revenue by showing different images in the Google Images results than the actual images on their site, thus enticing users to visit the actual site. While this tactic might seem unique and clever, it is now a new manual action penalty in the Webmaster Tools. If Google Search results do not match the actual image when viewed on your website, you could be temporarily suspended from Google AdSense, Ad Exchange, or other Google ad products.
In case you aren’t aware, manual action is a penalty imposed by Google’s human reviewer. Image mismatch will negatively impact SEO. You can find any “Manual Action” violations on your dashboard with the message: “This site may not perform as well in Google results because it appears to be in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”
Further down, you will see a message that says “Images from this site displayed differently on Google search results pages than they are when displayed on this site.”
These messages are very bad because it means your site is being penalized for violations of Google’s terms of service.
Is it worth throwing future Google ad revenue for a few more hits on your website?
We didn’t think so.
It makes perfect sense why Google would start cracking down on this form of image cloaking. They want their search results to be useful and relevant, and if the results are filled with pictures that say, “Click here to view the image of Kim Kardashian’s baby”, people will stop trusting Google Images when they’re looking for images.
Google’s looking out for its own interest; if you occasionally benefit from its interests, then good for you. But Google simply can’t allow people to exploit loopholes in its image search algorithms just to goose their traffic a bit.
Be careful of “anti-hotlinking” tools, since Google believes that they may cause this type of image mismatching. Run through your website’s code and eliminate these issues. We also recommend that you ensure that your website displays the exact images as shown in the search results, whether or not you’re using these tools. If any of the images on your site are even slightly different than those in the search results, you’ll be penalized.
And if you’ve been penalized already, then you should submit an appeal for reconsideration. You should then keep on the lookout for a message in your Webmaster Tools account. Google will inform you when they’ve reviewed your site. If their team determines that your site is no longer in violation of its guidelines, it will revoke the manual action against your site.
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