How I lost all my images on Google Image search: the perils of default settings

By Matt Cornock

Although I like to consider myself quite well versed in the art of SEO and visibility on the web, I did have a ‘slap-forehead-moment’ a few weeks back. I’d recently reinstalled Drupal (which this site runs on) to the latest version. However, what I failed to remember was that I’d created my own robots.txt and .htaccess files to allow Google Image search to pick up on the 500+ images stored on this site. When I reinstalled Drupal, by default it overwrote the .htaccess and came with its own restrictive robots.txt which hides the photo storage folder. Bang, Google obeyed and removed all the images from its Google Image search database.

Google giveth and Google taketh away

Google Image search reacts far slower than Google’s standard web search when it comes to adding things to its database, but acts exceptionally quickly when it comes to removing them. Furthermore, Google Image search can struggle to navigate through image links (i.e. the thumbnail images are picked up, but not the larger images which they link to). Anyway, whilst I still try my best to work out how I can get my images back onto Google’s Image search, I still am quite puzzled as to why Bing and Yahoo have practically nothing from this site too.

My site isn’t important enough

I shouldn’t be surprised I suppose that the handful of images I posted on Flickr for the Great Yorkshire Duck Race are listed. Flickr is a collosal site, with much more content, and many more sites linking to into it. It is far more important in web terms than this small-town collection. What I find interesting (and somewhat sad) is how even though anyone can create a website and post their own stuff (whatever that ‘stuff’ may be), you can sometimes be better off releasing your content in an established site (like Flickr) rather than trying to host it on your own.

Put a bit here and a bit there

How do you get your photos into Google Images? Distributed content. Well, it’s no sure fire solution, but one way would be to put the absolute best photos on sites like Flickr, Picasa, a Blogger site perhaps and any well established ‘web 2.0’ creation hubs (there’s lots for music for example, and for videos the obvious one is YouTube). Then as long as you have a consistent name/brand on those sites and your own, hopefully people will search for more of your stuff by searching for your own portfolio website and go through the standard web-search route rather than the less frequently indexed Google Images route. Perhaps a long shot, but certainly better than waiting for the next time the Google Image spider pays a visit.

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