29 Jun 2015 Search Experts Slap Down Getty’s Attack on Google

Last week, Getty Images announced that they’ve been granted status as an ‘interested party’ in the EU’s antitrust investigation against Google.  They blame Google Image Search for what they think is damage to their sales and website traffic.

An article on The SEM Post goes into impressive detail explaining how Getty’s complaints are unfounded, and how Getty is itself to blame for its lack of search traffic and poor visitor conversion rates.

Burying Getty in Search Results

Getty says that Google is demoting their websites’ listings in related search result pages.

The SEM Post article example shows Getty Images in first position, and Getty-owned iStockphoto in second position.

I’m no SEO expert, but the article author is, and goes into details about how Getty’s SEO strategy compares poorly to competitors like Shutterstock.

Using Getty’s Images against Getty

Getty also accuses Google of using its own images against it, by showing them in the “captive environment” that is the Google Image Search.

This is something other stock agencies have complained about, yet the fact remains there’s only two buttons on the page, and one sends the visitor directly to the exact page of the image on the Getty Images website.

Additionally, the inclusion of Getty’s images in Google’s search results is something Getty can easily turn off with a simple robots.txt file on their site, and/or using Google’s Webmaster Tools.

Website Scraping

Getty takes issue with Google “scraping” their content and using it in their search results.  But this is how the entire Google search system works.  How else will Google know what’s on a page if they don’t look at it.

Again, Getty has the option to turn off Google’s scraping of its site at any time with a simple text file on their server.

Facilitating Image Theft

Getty also accuses Google of facilitating image theft through its own image search where Getty’s images are displayed in large size with no right-click protection.  Yet Getty doesn’t have right-click protection on its own website either.

Getty also makes images available with what is a very weak watermark when compared to those that microstock agencies use, including its own iStockphoto.

iStockphoto has cheap images and a strong watermark, yet Getty Images has expensive images, a weak watermark, and a big “revenue recovery” department.  Forgive my cynicism.

Poor Conversions

The SEM Post are blaming Getty’s expensive prices and complex Rights Managed licensing for poor results converting traffic to paying customers.  This is a good point, but one without a logical solution for any Rights Managed agency.

How much of Google Image Search traffic is price-insensitive customers searching for premium imagery?

Getty Embed a Link Scheme?

Not content with dismissing Getty’s complaints, the SEM Post article goes on to raise the question about whether Getty’s recent image embedding program could be considered a link building scheme.

This is something for which Google recently banned a business from their entire search system, and a business in which Google itself is an investor!

If Getty’s offer of free image use is seen as a non-monetary payment in exchange for a keyword-rich link back to their website, they could find their Google traffic dropping to zero overnight by way of a ban.

Biting the Hand…

Getty doesn’t turn off Google’s indexing because they need the traffic Google sends, even if they struggle to convert it.

What do they actually hope to achieve by being involved in the EU antitrust case?

Such an aggressive move certainly won’t endear them to Google, and at times like these they desperately need all the Google traffic they can get.

But Getty has a lot of valuable experience being on the other end of complaints from those who they feed.  Maybe they know what they’re doing.

  • Bob Davies
    Posted at 18:18h, 29 June Reply

    20 seconds on any Getty-owned site and I can’t help but wonder if they’ve even heard the term “User Experience”. Nobody (quite literally) wants to “Calculate Price” and fill out forms that are longer than most of my yearly tax return documents, when they can just “Buy now for $5” (or less) on virtually any other stock site, many of them while providing just an email address and payment info. Bish bash bosh!

    Effectively… ‘We’re not selling enough images’ say Getty, well of course not. Because all the traffic that does get there is driven away by the terrible experience, and anyone who might have found them organically and become a legitimate customer ‘after’ having stolen images through ignorance in the early noughties was driven away forever by their long-time policy of invoicing for thousands of dollars for each ‘stolen’ image, instead of explaining that those images should have been licensed and offered friendly terms to start a relationship.

    A former colleague of mine was invoiced more than $6,000 for using a single image by accident, that he thought he’d found for free usage, around 2004, he asked my advice about image licensing (as I’m a long-time web dev) and that’s how I discovered microstock in the first place 🙂

    In their move to digital Getty seem to have missed out on two basic principles… 1) now, everyone is a content-consumer AND content-producer, fewer and fewer ‘people’ are ‘businesses’. and 2) people ‘try’ to be good, and expect to be treated like human beings, not like machines, or criminals because of their lack of experience, especially in what is essentially a niche industry requiring a lot of specific knowledge.

    Being found isn’t ‘the’ challenge (though it is ‘a’ challenge), being human-friendly once you’re found is really where the difficulty lies 🙂

  • Bob Davies
    Posted at 18:20h, 29 June Reply

    Besides… anyone who uses the term “media solutions” over the term “stock photos” are clearly idiots 🙂

  • Jon Yau
    Posted at 11:07h, 30 June Reply

    @Bob Davies – I agree! And another thing, I wish those guys that use Google also stop typing in ‘Shutterstock’, ‘iStock’, ‘Fotolia’, ‘Dreamstime’……….:)

  • DS
    Posted at 16:43h, 22 August Reply

    What Google does is a clear case of “unjust enrichment”.


    They use others’ content to make a LOT of money, which is kept offshore, thus milking the taxpayers of the world, and yet paying no tax themselves.

    Nor are Getty the first stock library to complain about Google:

    In addition, Google have made money from images in search results by selling advertising space above them:

    Or how about the money Google generates from monetising pirate content by selling advertising space on it:

    There is a case to answer.

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