Google’s image search

Once upon a time, Google’s image search used to be pretty good. If you did a search for a person, on the first page of results, you would get a photograph of the person if there was one on the web.

Here’s what I think Google used to do: show an image where they know the image matches the keyword you typed (good)

Here’s what they now seem to do: Find the keyword you typed on a page and then show you *any* image that shows up on the same page even if it is completely unrelated to the keyword (bad)

Huge, huge difference. And it makes a significant difference to the results.

I tried this with multiple examples, but for safety, I’m going to use the example of an image search for my name1 and there are five pages of results. Not a single one is relevant (i.e. none of them are me). They are almost all images from pages that link to my blog and therefore have “Shripriya Mahesh” on that page in text. Why does Michael Roberts’ image show up on the list? Because I wrote an HBS case with him in 1997 and so my name is on his page. Ta-da. Er… wrong!! With other examples I used, it brought back both photographs of the person and the multiple pages of random nonsense.

Is anyone else seeing this? Does anyone know if they have indeed changed how they do things?


  1. I used my full name Shripriya Mahesh. If I tried just Shripriya, I got 27 pages of results, none of them relevant 

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  • http://4thumpire.blogspot.com/ Fourth Umpire

    Yahoo’s image search, on the other hand, yields a single result, which is a picture of you. There is hope for Y! yet.

    Sell GOOG, buy YHOO, and bring me back overwater.

  • http://mcmanus.typepad.com/ Jeffrey McManus

    Was going to say the same thing! πŸ™‚

    http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images?p=Shripriya Mahesh

  • Shripriya

    @Fourth Ump and Jeffrey – well, besides the fact that I can do a vanity search on Yahoo images more effectively πŸ˜‰ (which wasn’t really the point of the post), have you guys seen a difference?

    What about for your own names?

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