Google Webmaster Tools Adds Manual Action Penalty: Image Mismatch

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August 30, 2018

Google has always been user oriented, and this is the reason it has always enjoyed posing several hurdles in the path of bloggers to provide quality content for the visitors. The new news comes from the section of the images. The use of images in a page not only provides for a better overall visual appearance, but it also helps in explaining the textual knowledge in a simple manner. Google always recommends to use valid images with every post to improve the overall informational content of the article, but real problems start building when the images indexed by Google, and the images hosted on your site seem to be different due to any unknown reason.

Google rolled out a new update with Google Webmaster Tools according to which the site owners would be informed via special messages whenever any action for violation for guidelines has been taken against them by the company. The new methodology has been developed under a special category of Image mismatch. This thing looks quite similar to the traditional cloaking technique which is a part of Black Hat SEO strategies. The terms “cloaking” has however not been mentioned by Google anywhere in this regard. In a more sophisticated manner, this is not simple complete cloaking where a user designs two completely different pages for search engine bots, and human visitor, but a type of partial cloaking where the images indexed by Google under “Image” section do not match the images hosted by user on his site.

What exactly is “Image Mismatch”?

Instead of going on the with the wide application term “cloaking”, Google has preferred to use a specific version “Image Mismatch”. When the Google bots navigate to a site and browse through its contents, they collect the textual as well as visual information from the site. The text is used for raking the articles under “Web search” hub, while the images under visuals are taken along with their descriptions and then placed in “Images search” hub.

Every experienced blogger recommends optimizing site’s images because once you have the proper descriptions done it would be much easier for Google to understand the concept of the photograph posted which would further help it in classifying the image as per the topic. A few times, it happens, especially with users availing anti-hotlinks that the images which are available for Google bots and those for human beings are slightly or completely different. This is a direct violation of Google Webmaster guidelines, which states that the content posted for visitors and bots should in no case be different. This is what “Image mismatch” is all about.

Image mismatch penalty

How Do I Know If I Am Suffering From Image Mismatch?

Though Google has always been known for first penalizing the owners and then explaining them the reason for penalties, things are a bit different here. If one day you check your webmaster dashboard, and find an unread message urging for an action from your side with wordings like:

This site may not perform as well in Google results because it appears to be in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Reason: Images from this site are displayed differently on Google search results pages than they are when displayed on this site

Manual Penalty in Action GWT

I have even posted a screenshot of what you might find under the Image Mismatch alert notification here:

If you have something similar in your dashboard, it’s time to get on your toes and treat your site before any further damages are done.

Google also explains to the owners that because their images do not match, it has applied a few manual actions on the site. Under these actions, a few affect the whole site, and they are covered under “site wide” matches while a few affect only limited sections of the site, and they are covered under “partial matches”. By such a message, Google gives a gentle reminder to the blogger and advises him to go through the site stats on his own for his betterment and improved site rankings.

What to do now?

Once you have the alert described above, it’s time to get back to work. Follow these two steps to treat the sickness.

Analyze your site

You need to verify what type of problem is being caused, and what could be the expected reasons. If you have done it intentionally under your black hat SEO methodology, you know what to do. Else if you simply do not know what is turning these wheels against you, you must know that several “anti-hotlinks” tools may arise similar types of problems without the will of the user. You need to check your site for the same, and go through the code on the server.

Submit your site for reconsideration

After you have remedied the problem and you are sure that the images being under both the places are the same now and you have verified it yourself, you may proceed on to requesting Google to reconsider your site. For this, Google has already provided a button in the message which it uses to notify the site owners.

After this, simply wait for the next review from the search engine giant.

Google understands that once the images at two places do not match, it would lead to an overall poor search experience for the user, and this is something which it never wants. This step might not at all be welcomed by all the anti-hotlink tool companies, but Google is not company oriented, rather it is always user oriented and it never compromises with the quality of service being offered to the visitors.

On the contrary, if you choose to ignore an image mismatch notification, then results you receive are sure to submerge your expectations from your blog. This would directly affect the total SEO of your site, and Google may proceed onto blacklisting your site if you do not take the necessary actions needed. In case you have any other query on treating image mismatch problems, feel free to drop them in the comments section

Anil Agarwal

Anil Agarwal

Anil Agarwal who owns, is a full-time blogger and SEO expert who has been helping people build profitable websites for over a decade. Bloggers Passion has been featured on premium online sites like, Huffingtonpost, SEMrush, Problogger, Crazy Egg, The Next Web and so on.

One Comment

  1. Sagar Rai says:

    So stopping hotlinking now violates google’s guidelines.

    Makes sense.

    They already hotlink our text, videos and images and any tabular/structured data. Shortly it will be a violation to have somebody actually *visit* your site.

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