Google Manual Action Penalty: Image Mismatch

We all have to play safe in the digital world. Hotlinking can lead to a lot of theft and confusion in the market. Google announced webmaster tools manual action penalty in November 2013. This was after a lot of instances of hotlinking and tampering of search engine tools was observed.

Google is the best search engine and optimizing for Google search results is important when it comes to online marketing. Once your website is up and running, it definitely isn’t the end, but a start of your struggle to prove yourself to be the best and keep up being among the top lists. Hotlinking and spamming makes it even more difficult. Ever observed an instance when you searched for an image on and after clicking on the image you were redirected to a page where the image was not found? This image you clicked on was hotlinked. With “Image mismatch”, Google is trying to avoid this spamming of images.

Google’s Manual Actions on Webspams

Google’s Manual actions page showed a message:

If you see this message on the Manual Actions page, it means that Google has detected a pattern of unnatural, artificial, deceptive, or manipulative outbound links. Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to the affected portions of your site. Actions that affect your whole site are listed under Site-wide matches. Actions that affect only part of your site and/or some incoming links to your site are listed under Partial matches.

This is what Google has to say about it on webmaster tools. This is also where Matt Cutt talks about unnatural and natural (organic) and links. After Google announced manual actions against spammers, Matt Cutt posted 7 different videos on the Manual Action Webmaster Support page, explaining all the different types of spams and actions taken against them.

So, basically when the images on your site do not match with Google’s indexing patterns, is what Google terms as Image Mismatch. Also, they are pretty serious about taking these links down or demoting them. The example Matt Cutt gives is of a person searching for his own name and ending up being listed under off-topic porn. The man then complains to Google and is unhappy about it; Google would take the site down or probably demote the site. This kind of search engine optimization is illegal. Many SEO companies tend to tweak here and there in order to gain the highest optimization for their websites. Though, this way they grab a lot of business, but may later have to suffer with spam traffic. If it is not something what you have done, then you have an option to submit your website for re-consideration. This requires looking into your site’s server code. Google takes its sweet time to consider your website and to get back to you.

When Google takes manual actions or decide to pull down/demote a site, they look into the following three categories for reasons:

  • Spams
  • Legal reasons
  • Security reasons

It is important to avoid any deceptive, manipulative and malicious behavior to fool search engines and rank your pages and sites high. It is illegal and hence, Google has planned to take actions.

Knowing If Your Image is Being Hotlinked

You can track the images on your site to find out if they are hotlinked or not. If the source code goes as follows the image is clean:

<img src="image1.jpg" height= “200” width="300">

The image is not clean, if the source code goes as follows:

<img src= height="300" width="200">

From the second source code it is very evident that the image is not matching and you get the following error:

404 Error

About Image Mismatch

When Google came up with different manual actions guidelines, it also came up with an Image Mismatch guideline. What Google has to say, is as follows:

Image Mismatch

How your site’s images are visible to the visitors now depends upon manual action. The Partial matches section explains how just parts of your site are affected. The suggestions that Google gives to avoid these errors are as follows:

  • You need to make sure that your site shows exactly the same images to users on both your site as well as within Google image search results. If they are not, then this may require looking through your site’s code on the server.
  • Once you have rectified it, request reconsideration of your site to Google.

Google also adds that this could be caused by “anti-hotlinking” tools. If anything weird is observed on your site, you will receive a message on your Webmaster tools account.

Manual actions are then taken on these incidents. These manual actions are like penalties which lead to reviewing your website by a reviewer who will check if you violate Google’s website guidelines.

Effects on SEO companies

Your websites are developed and built by webmasters who also have a role to play in making sure if your software, hardware, your servers and all the aspects of your website are up and running. They need to maintain these details in order to provide you a good experience. Another thing which they are responsible for is the search engine optimization. An SEO company is the first one to get affected by the manual actions. They are the ones who bring you a set up and arrange the working of your website. So if they do anything wrong with positioning or ranking your company under SEO, they have to be prepared for the consequences too.

The Manual action guidelines are not that bad for business either. Think about it this way. Someone has broken into your house, so the first thing that you will plan on doing is how you can throw this someone out. That is exactly what Google has been trying to do here.

Step 1: Identify the spam
Step 2: Identify the cause of spam
Step 3: Identify the spammer
Step 4: Bring it down
Step 5: Verify whether the cause is genuine
Step 6: Final verdict

Google follows these 6 simple steps in order to bring discipline to its search results. If you identify an abrupt halt or decrease in the number hits or traffic on your website, it is best to get it reconsidered by Google and also to check your source code. In November 2013, many users observed a sudden rise in their traffic. They should be thankful to Google for that.