Beneath the Surface: Google’s Explanation for Image Absence on SERPs

3 min read

Google’s John Mueller proposed a solution to address the enduring issue of missing images in search results for recipe sites. However, recipe bloggers appear to remain unconvinced or unsatisfied by his suggestion.


Persistent Issue: Missing Image Thumbnails in Recipe Search Results


For the past few months, numerous recipe bloggers have raised concerns about the absence of image thumbnails in their websites’ search engine results pages (SERPs). They had previously enjoyed the visibility of thumbnail images but noticed that, at some point, Google stopped displaying them. Despite bringing this issue to the attention of SearchLiaison and John Mueller, the problem persists.

One of the initial posts in this discussion, which Mueller addressed, dates back to January 29th. A recipe blogger observed that a thumbnail image ceased to appear for their site in the search results. They tweeted:


Hi. I noticed today that Google is not displaying any of my featured images, not even one. This includes the most popular recipes as well as random ones I checked.

Even if the picture is visible in the Carousel (below the first one), it does not appear in the list (second link). Help!”

Google SearchLiaison responded, stating that they had forwarded the concern. Casey Markee, the founder of Media Wyse, provided additional context about the issue, suggesting that it might be widespread. He tweeted:

“FYI, Danny, this is not an isolated problem. We are witnessing it across dozens of recipe sites.

Furthermore, as a secondary issue, sites have been reporting difficulties getting new recipes into the carousel for over a month!

I will ensure that the sites tag you with specific examples whenever possible.”

Google SearchLiaison acknowledged the report and said he had passed it on to the search team. Additionally, he mentioned discussing Casey’s feedback internally.


Widespread Concern: Missing Images Not Limited to Food Bloggers


The discussions regarding missing images persisted from February into March, with concerns expanding beyond the food blogging community. A tweet from @Sleblanc921 highlighted the issue’s impact on individuals in the home improvement and DIY space:

“It’s not just food bloggers. I’m in home improvement/DIY, and mine are gone, too.”

These reports of absent images in search results also extended to include travel bloggers.


Unexpected Response: Mueller’s Explanation of Missing Images


In response to the recent tweet, Mueller assured everyone that he had forwarded the feedback to the search team:

“We did pass these on, and folks have been looking into the report…”

However, his tweet also included a disclaimer regarding image thumbnails, stating that they might not appear for all sites:

“…but in general, we don’t guarantee that images are shown with search results, so sometimes things are just shown without them.”

Following this, travel blogger @flyingwithbaby expressed concern about the disappearance of images on their site affecting their search results. Mueller reiterated his previous response, offering a potential reason for the absence of images:

“As I mentioned, every post/search result is not expected to have an image next to it. I imagine things would look pretty cluttered if that were the case.”

@flyingwithbaby responded, expressing frustration over the sudden disappearance of images despite previous visibility and the uniqueness of their content:

“I get that – but from my experience, it was all showing before, and I’m unsure why my entire site is being singled out. It seems that others are having the same issue. It always showed before… I’m unsure how helpful this can be with personal experience, unique photos, and content. Now, even the image is wiped off next to the search results. It’s crippling John & so frustrating.”


Ambiguous Responses Fuel Uncertainty Amidst Search Result Changes


John Mueller’s response subtly suggests that Google’s search results function as intended.

However, his statement’s ambiguity leaves room for interpretation. It doesn’t outright deny the existence of a bug or outage.

There could be reasons beyond Mueller’s control for this lack of clarity. There may be restrictions on disclosing specifics, or he might not recognize the need for a more explicit statement denying an outage.

Nonetheless, Mueller’s response implies no outage and that reducing image thumbnails is the new norm. Recipe bloggers voiced their concerns to Google SearchLiaison and John Mueller regarding the disappearance of image thumbnails that once accompanied their search results, highlighting how their visibility has been affected. These images typically enhance search results and attract clicks.

Food and recipe websites invest considerable resources in photographing food and refining recipes. Consequently, the sudden absence of image thumbnails is disheartening.

The issue extends beyond recipe blogs, affecting home improvement and travel sites. This widespread impact suggests a broader underlying problem.

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Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]