Reverse Image Search on Google: how it works, better alternatives to track your content

Image tracking technology

June 8, 2021

Reverse Image Search on Google: how it works, better alternatives to track your content


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Everyone has used Google Images before: this image search engine is very useful for finding visuals or inspiration. But professional use of this tool, like reverse searching your own images to find who’s stealing your content, can quickly be disappointing!

Quick read:

Why use reverse image search in your business?

How does search on Google Images work?

Using Reverse Image Search to track your own content online

What are the best alternatives to Google Reverse Image Search?


Why use reverse image search in your business?

Reverse image search engines are typically used to find content related to a specific image, gauge the popularity of an image, and find out which websites it ends up on. But reverse image search has other lesser-known benefits in digital marketing and branding:

Measuring the impact of your content marketing

Reusing your images is a sign that your content has had enough impact with your audience that they decide to integrate it into their own content. Press or communication professionals also use it for their "media watch" or "earned media": by looking for their own visual content they find the publisher sites that have used their content.

Identify copyright infringement or linking opportunities

The reverse image search results page is a list of websites that have included your image, with or without your permission. This is an opportunity to build backlinks from the site that uses your image to your own site, crediting you of course. You are perfectly entitled to apply for the credit in the form of a hyperlink. Spending the time necessary to verify these results to make sure that the credit has been granted where it is due is tedious, however. We will talk about that later.

Protect your intellectual property

Reverse image search is also very useful in identifying who has used your images on their website. The results pages also contain a series of images visually similar to yours. Among these similar images, some can be yours but slightly modified. This happens especially when someone uses your image, but adds their own logo to it in order to pass it off as their own. It is an intellectual property violation. It may also be a sign of an illegal or counterfeit trade, if the image in question is in the product you are selling.

Discover competitors, monitor distributors

Typically, a reverse search would help businesses like online stores or real estate agencies find out who is stealing their content. Sometimes the self-produced content is so good that competitors use it on their own websites, which obviously is a big savings, but still a theft! Another case: you are reselling products and want to know where they are also on sale and at what price.

Protect your brand

Brand protection specialists have a lot of advantages to using reverse image search. By finding the images of his products on the internet, he can identify gray markets, illegal resellers or non-compliant distributors, counterfeiting or scam websites.

Find a high resolution version

If you are using images that are not copy protected, reverse image search allows you to find a higher resolution version of the image for your design work.


How does search on Google Images work?

Google Images is a huge database storing all the references to images found by Google's bots while crawling the internet. You can search this database to find images, using two different types of queries: text search, and image search (or reverse search).

Text search


Most often, people use this search when their content needs an illustration. They just need to type a keyword (or a brand name) and the related images will show up.

How, from this "text" request, does Google find all these results? 

SEO experts know this very well: the indexing of these images is done by Google from a clever mix of data, collected by its robots in the context of the image. These data are:

  • the metadata (META) of the HTML page containing the image,
  • subtitle (LEGEND),
  • legend (FIGURE),
  • alternative information (ALT),
  • some of the metadata of the image itself (IPTC), etc.

Reverse image search (or search by image)

google image reverse search

Reverse image search allows you to search the Internet using images rather than words. By submitting a specific image to your search engine, you will get more images in response.

How, from your image query, does Google respond with image results? 

By similarity, or visual recognition. In short, algorithms trained in image recognition compare your image to those in the Google database. When a similarity threshold is reached, the database image is displayed in the search results.

So you will obtain results as a list of several pages, structured as follows: 

  • the image found in other sizes, 
  • articles related to the content of your image, 
  • a "Similar images" section 
  • and finally a "Pages containing identical images ".

Automotive CTA


Using Reverse Images Search to track your own content online

Is Google Image the appropriate tool?

Now, here is why these results are not suitable for professionals who want to find their content on the internet.

False positives


Many so-called identical images are in fact similars, and you will have to manually verify that they are yours. We have testimonials from customers who want to follow their product photos on the web: tires, electronic components, spare parts ... it's impossible with Google Images, for whom a tire is a tire, and not "your" tire.

Non-exhaustive results

The list of results rarely exceeds 300 items, which seems to be a limit imposed by Google.

No automation

To process this list automatically, you will have to create clever scripts to "scan" the pages and extract the content to be used (URLs, dates, thumbnails...)

Single queries

You will have to launch your query each time you want an updated result, for each of your images.

What are the best alternatives to Google Reverse Image Search?

Google is not the only reverse image search tool. There are a number of additional reverse image search engines including TinEye, Yandex Images, Bing...

But actually, very few really have their own database. Did you know, for example, that Qwant, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo queried Bing's image database? They are even less likely to offer search by image. 

The constitution of a sufficiently large image base is one of the main obstacles to the development of competing services, because it represents a very large crawling and storage capacity.

However, what is most sought after in marketing is the ability to automate searches and organize their results for intelligent and responsive interpretation.

In addition, some uses require focusing on certain types of sites and are less affected by random search.

It is for these multiple reasons that more and more companies are turning to Imatag's solution, which hybridizes the techniques of reverse search on Google Images, watermark identification, custom site crawling, and finally consolidation of results in intelligent reporting.

Want to know more about how it works? Read this article : Here's how not to lose sight of your company’s images on the Internet

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