Is Google’s New Image Search Really an Improvement?

Image is everything, as Google users have been discovering after the recent release of Google’s revamped image search tool. Users are impressed by the new navigation, but webmasters are voicing a mix of praise and criticism for the new design.

So is Google’s new image search tool really an improvement for users and webmasters alike? Let’s evaluate the changes.

The New Streamlined Look Is Excellent

With the old image search tool, when users wanted to view a larger version of the image, they’d click on the image and view it in an iframe, with the hosting website blurred in the background. Now the image appears in a stylish wide black bar that fills the bottom three-quarters of the screen. Users can use the keyboard to view additional images in the black bar or scroll past the bar to continue browsing.

The Updated Navigation Design Eliminates Phantom Views

The new navigation design is definitely an improvement for users because they have a more efficient way to search images. For webmasters, the new design has pros and cons. On the plus side, the loss of iframe views will give webmasters access to more accurate data and help them improve their online optimization strategy. But webmasters who were previously able to generate page views and ad revenue from these phantom views are now seeing a drop in traffic.

However, depending on how businesses use images to draw site visitors in, eliminating phantom views isn’t necessarily catastrophic to click-throughs.

Users See More Links on the Preview Panel

Google now includes four links to the image’s original Web page, giving users the option to click the image, page title, domain name or "Visit Page" button. In fact, Google’s announcement a few weeks ago said, “In our tests, we’ve seen a net increase in the average click-through rate to the hosting website.”

With four highly visible links available on the preview panel, it makes sense that searches would result in more click-throughs overall. If a business is using visual content to lead the user to seek more information about its products and services before making a purchase, the users clicking through to the business’s website are more likely to be legitimate leads.

For some businesses, though, the new image search design could mean bad news in terms of click-throughs. For example, if a business uses visual elements such as infographics, cartoons or photographs to draw visitors to its website, more links won’t necessarily lead to click-throughs. It’s more likely that users will view or copy the images directly from the search engine instead of clicking through to the business’s website.

Only time will tell if the addition of two source links, the opportunity for recording more accurate data and a better navigation experience for the user will justify the loss of page views and revenue that webmasters are seeing.

Do you think Google’s image search tool has changed for the better? Let us know in the comments below.