Mountain View, California–Google has introduced a new manual penalty which targets sites displaying an image on their property differing from the image appearing in search results.
Called “image mismatch”, Google sends a message to sites in violation of its Webmaster Guidelines.
This new manual penalty for image mismatch is a result of a blackhat SEO technique known as cloaking. It happens when a site deliberately serves up one image to Google while posting a different image on its site.
Image Mismatch and SEO
Site owners ought to be aware image mismatch isn’t part of Big G’s automated algorithmic signals, like Panda and Penguin. Rather, it’s a manual action penalty, which means specific sites are struck with said penalty. The message regarding such a manual action reads:
“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.” —Google Webmaster Tools
As the message states, only the pages in violation of an image mismatch are affected, and webmasters are advised by Google to correct the problem in order for the penalty to be lifted from their site.
Addressing the Penalty
Site owners receiving a message for image mismatch violation(s) should immediately correct the problem, taking the time to ensure the image(s) being displayed on their site are the same one(s) appearing in Google search results. This might require going through the site’s code or removing so-called “anti-hotlinking” software.
After the problem image(s) have been addressed, send a reconsideration request through Google Webmaster Tools.
This of course, doesn’t guarantee the penalty will be immediately lifted or lifted at all. The extent of damage for image mismatch violation isn’t yet known because it has just been introduced.