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Google Explains Why Images Are Gone From Some SERPs

Google's John Mueller offers an explanation for why some image thumbnails have disappeared from the search results

Google's search results are missing image thumbnails

Google’s John Mueller offered a suggestion about a long-standing problem with missing images in search results for recipe sites but recipe bloggers don’t seem convinced or satisfied.

Missing Images In The Search Results

Several recipe bloggers have for the past few months brought up the issue of image thumbnails that stopped appearing in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for their websites. They previously enjoyed thumbnail images displayed but at some point it appears Google stopped showing them.

The recipe bloggers feel this is a problem that needs fixing and brought it to the attention of SearchLiaison and John Mueller but the problem keeps happening.

One of the first posts in the discussion that Mueller answered dates back to January 29th when a recipe blogger noticed that a thumbnail image stopped showing for their sites when ranked in the search results.

They tweeted:


Hi. I saw today that Google is not showing any of my featured images, not one. From the most popular recipes to any other random one I checked.

Even if the picture appears in the Carousel (below the first one), it doesn’t appear in the list (second link). Help!”

Google SearchLiaison responded that they had passed it on.

Casey Markee, founder of Media Wyse, offered some background information about the problem, explaining that the problem may be widespread.

He tweeted:

“FYI Danny, this is not a unique issue. We are seeing it on dozens of recipe sites.

Also, second issue, sites are reporting they can’t get any new recipes into the carousel in over a month!

I am going to have the sites tag you with specific examples where possible.”

Google SearchLiaison responded that he’s passed the report on to the search team and reassured that he would also discuss Casey’s feedback internally as well.

Missing Images Not An Isolated Issue

The tweets about missing images continued into February and into March when someone from the home improvement space tweeted that the missing images in the SERPs issue was affecting them as well.

@Sleblanc921 tweeted:

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

The reports of missing images in the search results even affected travel bloggers.

The Answer That Probably Nobody Wanted

Mueller responded to the latest tweet by assuring everyone that he too had passed the feedback onto the search team.

He tweeted:

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

But his tweet also contained a caveat about the image thumbnails, saying that the images don’t show for all sites.

His tweet continued:

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

The travel blogger, @flyingwithbaby, tweeted:

“Hi @JohnMu it seems to be affecting my site ( family travel) for every post- everyone else’s has an image next to theirs but mine have gone. Content is super helpful according to readers , own photos etc. and it’s harming what little has been left :-(“

In response to the travel blogger, John Mueller reiterated his previous response with a possible explanation of why the images are no longer appearing.

He tweeted:

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

@flyingwithbaby responded:

“I get that- but from my experience, it was all showing before and I’m unsure why my entire site is being singled out. Seems that others are having the exact same issue. It always showed before. …I’m not sure how more helpful this can be with personal experience, unique photos and content ( which others have copycatted) and then now even the image wiped off next to the search results.

It’s crippling John & so frustrating “

Indirect Statements Perpetuate Confusion

John Mueller’s answer implies that Google’s search results are working the way they’re supposed to work.

But the problem with implying is that it doesn’t explicitly say that there is no bug, it doesn’t explicitly say that there is no outage.

It might not be Mueller’s fault that his language is not more explicit, there may be a prohibition on mentioning specifics. Or it could be that he doesn’t even realize that a more explicit statement that there is no outage is what users might need to hear.

Regardless, Mueller’s statement does imply that there is no outage and that the decrease in image thumbnails is the new normal.

Recipe bloggers raised concerns to Google SearchLiaison and John Mueller about the image thumbnails that used to appear alongside their search results, advising that their images completely stopped showing and that it was affecting their visibility. Images in rich results draw attention to a search result and helps them attract clicks.

Food and recipe sites invest time and money into equipment for photographing food to accompany their articles as well as in researching and testing recipes. That explains how disheartening it must feel to see those image thumbnails disappear.

The issue with the missing image thumbnails in Google search results extends beyond recipe blogs and also impacts home improvement and travel sites as well, which may indicate that the problem is widespread.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

Google Explains Why Images Are Gone From Some SERPs

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