Google has updated its image publishing guidelines and website owners and web designers should take note as Google image search can boost web traffic.
Google remains a mainly text based search engine. It will continue to crawl and index the keywords on your web pages and meta-tags and that’s the core feature. However the use of images has become increasingly important, not only when they enhance the impact and overall user experience of a web page but also as a source of web traffic from Google image search.
If you provide the right context associated with your images then Google can index and display them in Google image search results. This can generate traffic directly but also has a positive effect on site authority measures that again help rankings and web traffic.
So when Google announced recently that it had updated its image publishing guidelines it’s important that we take note and adjust what we do so we can boost our chances of getting featured.
The new Google image publishing guidelines
Google say this about images:
…adding more context around images, results can become much more useful, which can lead to higher quality traffic to your site. You can aid in the discovery process by making sure that your images and your site are optimized for Google Images.
When Google talk about ‘context’ they mean any associated text that can help their crawlers make sense of what the image shows. Remember, while the Google algorithm is very sophisticated it still can’t quite ‘read’ an image. You need to supply that information and contextual text.
Here is a summary of the image publishing guidelines:
- Provide good context – make sure your images are relevant to text and add something to the user experience. Irrelevant images and too many unoriginal stock images are discouraged.
- Optimize placement- if possible, place images near relevant text. Also consider placing the most important image near the top of the page.
- Don’t embed important text inside images – Avoid embedding text in images, especially important text elements like page headings and menu items, because not all users can access them (and page translation tools won’t work on images). To ensure maximum accessibility of your content, keep text in HTML, provide alt text for images.
- Create informative and high quality sites – Good content on your webpage is just as important as visual content for Google Images – it provides context and makes the result more actionable.
- Create device-friendly sites – Users search on Google Images more from mobile than on desktop. For this reason, it is important that you design your site for all device types and sizes. Use the mobile friendly testing tool to test how well your pages work on mobile devices, and get feedback on what needs to be fixed.
- Create good URL structure for your images – Google uses the URL path as well as the file name to help it understand your images. Consider organizing your image content so that URLs are constructed logically.
What is means for web designers, SEOs and website owners
Here are some of the main implications for anyone editing, updating or design web:
Title, meta tags are important
Google uses a number of different sources for this information, including descriptive information in the title, and meta tags for each page so these should be unique and relevant.
Use high quality images
High-quality photos appeal to users more than blurry, unclear images. Also, sharp images are more appealing to users in the result thumbnail and increase the likelihood of getting traffic from users.
Use descriptive titles, captions, filenames, and text for images
Google extracts information about the subject matter of the image from the content of the page, including captions and image titles. Wherever possible, make sure images are placed near relevant text and on pages that are relevant to the image subject matter. Also the filename can give Google clues about the subject matter of the image. For example, my-new-black-kitten.jpg is better than IMG00023.JPG.
Use descriptive ‘alt tags’
Alt text (text that describes an image) improves accessibility for people who can’t see images on web pages, including users who use screen readers or have low-bandwidth connections.
Google uses alt text and the contents of the page and to understand the subject matter of the image. Also, alt text in images is useful as anchor text if you decide to use an image as a link.
Here are some examples of good and bad practice in writing alt tags:
Bad (missing alt text): <img src="puppy.jpg" alt=""/>
Bad (keyword stuffing): <img src="puppy.jpg" alt="puppy dog baby dog pup pups puppies doggies pups litter puppies dog retriever labrador wolfhound setter pointer puppy jack russell terrier puppies dog food cheap dogfood puppy food"/>
Better: <img src="puppy.jpg" alt="puppy"/>
Best: <img src="puppy.jpg" alt="Dalmatian puppy playing fetch"/>
Optimise for speed
While you need high quality images they should be optimised for speed. Make sure to apply the latest image optimization and responsive image techniques to provide a high quality and fast user experience. Analyze your site speed with PageSpeed Insights and visit our Web Fundamentals page to learn about best practices and techniques to improve website performance.
There are further tips on available on Google’s updated image publishing guidelines: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/114016?hl=en