Google have added a new manual action penalty to their manual actions section in Webmaster Tools – it’s called image mismatch and it now joins a list of 10 other manual actions.

What is an Image Mismatch?

An Image Mismatch is, technically, a form of cloaking.

It occurs when a website displays images in Google’s search results differently than they do to visitors on their website, a technique which was abused to increase the CTR (click-through-rate) of a site’s listing.

Recommended Actions by Google

If you’ve found that your site or some of its pages have been hit with this penalty, it’s pretty easy to rectify and your site will usually return to normal within a couple of weeks. It can take longer, though.

Here is what Google suggests you should do:

  1. Make sure that your site displays exactly the same images to users whether viewed directly on your site or within Google image search results. This behavior may be caused by “anti-hotlinking” tools. This may require looking through your site’s code on the server.
  2. Once you’re sure your site’s images are exactly the same when viewed directly on your site and in Google’s search results, request reconsideration of your site.

Hotlink Protection Suffers

I’m assuming that those using hotlink protection on their websites will suffer as a result of this new penalty.

Bad for them, great for the rest of the world – unfortunately.

I could be wrong, of course, because Google are pretty smart after all. I’m sure there’s a way for them to detect which site’s are using hotlink protection to genuinely protect their images and bandwidth from being leeched, although it may be that bit of extra programming that simply isn’t worth it for them.

Great Work Google

Regardless of what you may think of Google and some of their decisions with regards to algorithm changes and data refreshes, they will always be the best search engine and you can’t deny the fact that they’re always trying to provide the very best experience to their searchers. I can only applaud and appreciate that.

As an SEO, you may be thinking that I should be horrified by all of their updates as they’re making it harder and harder for me to manipulate their results, but I’m not. I think it’s fantastic – I love adapting.

Thumbs up from me – keep up the great work, big G.