Google removes ‘Tagged for reuse’ options from image search tools
In a quiet move, Google removed both the Labeled for reuse and Tagged for reuse with modification features of its image search tools.
Removing a whole subset of images that, on the advice of Google itself, people should use, is disarming.
It’s long been known that Google prioritizes unique content, and stock images can often negatively affect your website’s search visibility.
The new option, among others that have been removed from the image search tools usage rights, is Creative Commons licenses.
At first glance, this seems like a good update.
Aaron Swartz, the late co-founder of Reddit and pioneer of a decentralized, open source internet, played an important role in the early stages of the development of Creative Commons.
However, unlike the Labeled for reuse, and Tagged for reuse with modification options, each Creative Commons license requires you to provide attribution to the original creator as well as a link to the original work.
While all Labeled for reuse and Tagged for reuse with modification the images still required further investigation to determine if the license required attribution, most images in these categories were not.
Related: Google shows ‘licensed’ badges in image search results
What does this mean for advertisers and marketers?
- We will see a massive influx of SEO professionals adapting Creative Commons licenses in order to build links. Big brands like Boxed Water and The Honest Company have already adapted these strategies on websites like Unsplash and Pexels, but even on those platforms you are allowed to reuse and modify the image, with just suggested attribution, but not mandatory.
- Some content from creators is now apparently completely de-indexed, unless it has a Creative Commons license. You know that animal name directory that was built in 2009 using Dreamweaver and Artisteer whose optimized alt text unknowingly had the images ranking on the first page for big budget keywords? Faded away.
- Image rankings are going to take a huge hit, so keep your finger on the pulse, start creating your own content and CC-licensing it if you want to anticipate the impact.
We all know the business owner who is still hurt by that $800 letter of demand from Getty Images for using the photo “group of palm trees in a circle, about to rev up and break for the culture building pizza night, TEAMWORK”.
And Google has also had its share of old copyright alerts.
In 2004, Perfect 10 v. Google alleged that Google was illegally distributing thumbnails of the company’s models.
The court ruled in favor of Google, citing that it was fair use and a “considerable aid to the public”.
But why now, without a single lawsuit since, does Google commit to legally protecting every image it provides to the user?
The future of Google image search?
Just last month, we squirmed when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, and Apple CEO Tim Cook suffered a historic hammer blow from Congress on antitrust laws related to (mostly) privacy, data and monopolies.
One of the problematic points with regard to Google is that Google is undoubtedly creating and offering its own products and features in order to drive users away from other websites (although former senators have continued to calling Google features, such as GMB, Shopping, rich snippets, etc., “websites”, they meant features and products).
So what does this have to do with the removal of LFRU and LRFUWM?
Ironically, this move uses what is supposed to be a free and protective measure for creatives to siphon off a huge chunk of content from other types of unlicensed work.
What this signals is the first change in what I predict will be a complete overhaul of the Image Search UI, to undoubtedly keep users on the platform longer.
In this one move, users no longer need to leave Google to check the license, as every Creative Commons license requires attribution and the link and owner’s name appear, in the search result itself.
While Google is the most visited website in the world, its average visit time is 8 minutes and 17 seconds, and falling.
Compared to social giants like Instagram, whose average visit time is 53 minutes per day, Google has made significant changes to its user interface over the past five years that are directly aimed at keeping users on the website longer. .
Many of these updates have proven valuable to marketers.
GMB’s “new” features, such as virtual tours, text messaging, and post updates, have helped websites gain visibility and leads.
Featured snippets have proven to be a great opportunity to get a website indexed to the top of Google for providing answers to valuable questions, and marketers have now been able to index websites for voice search. Google, as well as take advantage of almost every new feature for the benefit of their customer or business.
While the marketer may find new opportunities to build links, rank images, and find success with this update, it’s small businesses with no budget, creators with no digital acumen, and people who may have be the most in need of visibility who will once again feel the effects of this change.
As for what to do to prevent this silent update from affecting your SEO, start now.
If you already have an image library for a client, be sure to start licensing them now.
If you were using other content such as Unsplash or Pexels, switch to a low production budget.
And finally, if you design your website images digitally, be sure to license it the same as you would a pre-existing library.