In Google Images, when an image is clicked in search results, an "image preview" appears with a blurry image (basically the cached low-res version) and then an updated, clearer version is swapper in later. Does this fetch the live image?

I have also noticed on some images that the clearer image does not get swapped in, this appears to be on sites that block hotlinking.

I have an image that is #1 on Google Images for certain (fairly popular) search terms. I recently updated the image but the thumbnail for the old image still shows (and is the blurry one in the image preview). The image is hosted on the Amazon CloudFront CDN and hotlinking is not blocked.

However, when I search for my image, the image preview stays blurry and the better quality image is not switched in. Other images on the CDN work fine. Does anyone know a possible reason for this?

  • How recent is "recent"? It can take a while (weeks) for something to update in SERPs. Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 13:54
  • It was about 4 weeks ago. Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 16:47
  • Can you provide a URL to an example image?
    – dan
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 19:49

4 Answers 4


It may be because the image is being served from Google's server rather than your server in the image preview. Let me give you an example.

I did a Google image search for "scenery". I changed the search tools to only look for "large" images, and I found this:

screen shot of Google image search

As you can see it is shown in very poor quality with obvious JPEG artifacts in the sky around the clouds. Unlike other images in the page, it was not swapped out by my browser (Chrome) for a better quality image. This appears to be because the image URL used in this large preview is: https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQMlmFajhgytLiLaTr330wB4LNOFcWcKW5Pb71QpWDAGdOzUh3P which is a small thumbnail from Google's server. Other images in the search results use the site to power the preview. For example the Image next to it uses the preview image of http://www.hdwallpapersart.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Scenery.jpg.

In this particular case Google may be doing this because the site in question has some type of hotlinking protection in place. They are using redirects when you link directly from the image url.

  • When I paste http://wallpaperswide.com/download/summer_scenery-wallpaper-2048x1536.jpg into my browser, it shows me an HTML page of http://wallpaperswide.com/summer_scenery-wallpapers.html instead. I can than click on the links and the images save as downloads.
  • When I use curl, I get a 302 redirect to /summer_scenery-wallpapers.html
  • When I use wget I get the redirect to the same page, but then wget is able to download the image data from the html page and save it as a .jpg

Based on this investigation, it appears that Google has some algorithms in place to detect that images won't work (or might not work) when hot linked in the image preview. In such cases, it uses a lower quality thumbnail served from its own servers in place.

EDIT: On May 4, 2015 Google announced that they fixed a bug that was causing images to look low quality and blurry in search results. Hopefully this will no longer be an issue.

  • As I stated in the question, hotlinking is not blocked (unless Amazon CloudFront is doing something I haven't told it to). Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 16:48
  • This is the only type of example that I could find on which it happened. In your case it may be caused by something else, cloudfront is doing some hotlink magic, or Google only thinks that there might be a hotlink reason. Can you post an actual example? Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 16:56
  1. I think, the phenomenon of blurry and clear versions is generated by your Internet connection's speed.
  2. When did you change your image? I think you should not worry and give Googlebot more time to recrawl it.

The thumbnail image in Google Image results are coming from Google cache server.

However, the image preview is the real hosted image (your real live image).

The image is resized in preview mode by the HTML code width="" height=""—that's the reason why your image has poor quality, because the browser does a blurry resize on images.

Try to resize your image to fit better proportions in X and Y or try to build a JavaScript that switches directly to your image.

  • Resizing with HTML width/height doesn't 'blur' the image…?
    – grg
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 18:52

The Google servers convert the high resolution images to low resolution images during image search so as to increase the page loading time and save the bandwidth! there is nothing much you can do about it.. Sorry..

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