Earlier this year we wrote about manual actions rolling out in Google’s Webmaster tools. Basically, these manual actions were notices that a website had been penalized, usually for SEO reasons, and alerted the administrator of the problem, as well as the steps needed to fix it. Since the introduction, it’s been pretty quiet, but this week Google rolled out a new kind of manual action penalty that’s actually pretty interesting. It’s called the “image mismatch” penalty, and we’re going to take a look at what it is and how to avoid it.
To explain what a manual action penalty is, let’s go to Google:
If you see this message on the Manual Actions page, it means that some of your site’s images may be displaying differently on Google’s search results pages than they are when viewed on your site.
As a result, Google has applied a manual action to the affected portions of your site, which will affect how your site’s images are displayed in Google. Actions that affect your whole site are listed under Site-wide matches. Actions that affect only part of your site are listed under Partial matches.
To make sure you don’t have this problem, you should go through the images on your site and verify they are displaying correctly. The most common culprit is “anti-hotlinking” tools, which you may have seen even if you haven’t heard them called by name before. Essentially, when you click on a picture in image results and it won’t let you save it because it’s copyrighted, that’s usually an anti-hotlinking tool.
If you’ve been hit with one of these penalties, don’t panic. Resolve it as fast as possible, and then, according to Google:
Watch for a message in your Webmaster Tools account — we’ll let you know when we’ve reviewed your site. If we determine your site is no longer in violation of our guidelines, we’ll revoke the manual action.
It’s hard to say who will be hit with this penalty without some deep investigation, so your best bet is to be diligent about monitoring your Webmaster Tools.