3

I have many webpages which Google has been indexing since 2019. These are product pages which have an image that is displayed prominently and also set as the image in the <meta name="thumbnail"> tag. Here is an example of one of my pages, and here is the thumbnail image.

Since June 2022, my search rankings have been significantly impacted as Google has started thinking that the aforementioned image on this page is actually a video. Because my webpage ranks for a lot of shopping queries, Google pushes the video search results lower in their rankings. Additionally, they stopped showing the image in the search result, which makes a significant impact on the likelihood that it is clicked. Not to mention that telling the user there is a video when there is not is obviously bad.

There are a few reasons why I could think that Google believed the image to be a video:

  1. Originally, the image was lacking an extension (.png, .jpg, etc). While Google can still know it is an image by looking at the metadata (and again, this worked fine previously), I thought perhaps there was a change which now required an extension. I set up a 301 redirect for the old images, to the image with the extension. You can test this redirect here (notice the same URL, but lack of extension).
  2. Something else is wrong with the image metadata. The image is being generated using AWS Lambda (specifically to handle the dynamic image resizing using the d=300x300 URL parameter), and maybe there is a wrong header there or something. As far as I could tell looking at the image metadata myself, I could find nothing wrong though (and again, the image worked fine before June 2022).

In the ~2 weeks since implementing the redirect, I've noticed that Google has stopped putting my search result in their video results section, but it seems they still think that the page contains a video, as seen by inspecting the URL in Google Search Console. The error is No thumbnail URL provided or Video not processed. So it seems that Google has gone from thinking that my page contains a valid video, to my page contains an invalid video.

I have been unable to find any other mention of this problem on the internet. How can I get Google to recognize the image properly again? Is there anything else that I can try?

6
  • Is that thumbnail meta data used by anything? Could it be removed entirely? Oct 7, 2022 at 14:57
  • @StephenOstermiller According to Google, the meta thumbnail is used to indicate the image for the search result: support.google.com/programmable-search/answer/1626955?hl=en
    – Charles
    Oct 8, 2022 at 0:43
  • Does it actually show up in the search results for your site? I don't think I've ever seen such an image in the Google search results. Oct 8, 2022 at 8:58
  • The documentation you linked to is for the programmable search engine (for site search) and not for general web search. Oct 8, 2022 at 8:59
  • I see, so you're saying it's not actually possible to specify the thumbnail that Google uses (if any). That makes sense, but it still seems like Google thinks there is a video on the webpage. I have attached a screenshot of the live test I just ran indicating this: imgur.com/a/IlmRVLQ
    – Charles
    Oct 8, 2022 at 15:40

1 Answer 1

3

I've figured out the issue. Turns out it was because our site deals with watches, and the path for each watch page started with /watch/. It seems like Google is hard-coding this path as a video result, assuming the word watch always means to "watch" a video.

I realized this using the live test feature in Google Search Console, when it still thought the page contained a video even when I served a completely blank web page. I suspect this change must have happened along with the rollout of Google's May 2022 core algorithm update.

A huge oversight by Google in my opinion, and something that has cost us significantly in terms of traffic and rankings. But at least we've gotten to the bottom of it, and redirected/renamed those pages to something else.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.