Last week, we reported that webmasters and SEOs saw huge declines in Google image search traffic specifically from international versions of Google - i.e. not the US. Well, it turns out the speculation was right.
The issue was assigned to Google bringing over the 2013 image search design to Germany and France and potentially other countries. When the design change hit the US market 4 years ago, webmaster complained but Google told them it is better for you now than before.
In short, Google said the traffic you thought you were getting in the old design was not real traffic. It wasn't someone clicking over to your site. So now that this new interface rolled out to other countries, they are experiencing this huge traffic drop as well - or what appears to be a huge traffic drop.
Google updated the data anomalies page from what we first saw to specifically call out Germany and France, saying:
The design and behavior of Google image search results was standardized to match the design and behavior in all other locations. As a result, there may be an adjustment in click counts for image search result data for searches from Germany and France.
A Google spokesperson also told me Google has "recently rolled out the updated UI for Image Search to some other countries."
They would not tell me why they waited 4 years between the US roll out and this roll out. They also wouldn't tell me what other countries were impacted but it seems like it is only Germany and France?
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.