Google wants to see images on your site follow certain characteristics and optimization factors – so it can index the images and your page as providing higher value to visitors.
There is no doubt that they are measuring and checking on the images you embed in your site – and assigning a quality score metric to your pages and site based on what they find.
It’s important for you to ensure that your images follow these basic guidelines and you need to actively ensure that you optimize the images in the proper manner.
Your very first step when optimizing images for your post or page is to make sure that you have “Unique Images” that are “Relevant to the Content” on the page it is embedded within.
Once you have ensured that is done you can proceed with optimizing other things like ALT tags, filenames, placements etc.
With the new Artificial Intelligence driven algorithm Google is able to easily decipher the content within images and even their context.
Not only are they now able to tell if you image is unique or not (copied from somewhere else and which is not difficult to do) – but the AI can now actually “read and index” what the contents of the image are without having to rely on things like filename, image ALT tags, captions or text description surrounding the image.
So, the actual categorization of image content is happening independent of any tagging of images by users. It’s taking place with the AI actually identifying what an image contains through deep learning methods.
[pullquote align=”left”]With the new algorithm Google can now take a new image, one that it has never seen before – and decipher what its contents are – and thus profile the image and its contents.[/pullquote]
Scary? You bet, and you better get used to it. AI is here to stay. Try uploading or seeing and searching within some of your Google photos – you will notice that Google automatically tags them – without any human intervention.
So, if you actually go to images.google.com
and search for “dog parrot cat” you will be amazed to see how Google actually pulls out images with these parts / keywords.
How Does Google Know What An Image Is About?
Google has managed to decipher contents of images using AI and by initially having massive amounts of seed data sets of various images tagged and labeled by real humans – either contracted or employed by Google or at the time of solving re-captcha puzzles.
Once they had the large seed data sets that fed the deep learning algorithm – it was not difficult for the algorithm to learn and adapt the seeds so it can then decipher future images – and keep bettering the algorithm as the database grows.
Infact, the algorithm can even start understanding and forming database entities of more complex images with multiple information in the image – just like the Panda algorithm forms database entities of pages and sites.
How Does Good Image Selection Help with SEO?
Well for starters, because Google can “read” the content of your new and unique image that you embed into your post – it implies that your image needs to be relevant to the content of your page for you to get a better content relevancy score.
So for example, if your page is talking about a swimming pools – then you should have images of swimming pools embedded within your content.
[pullquote align=”left”]This helps in increasing your “content relevancy” and your page will automatically get a higher “quality score” – and thus rank better.[/pullquote]
However, its important to note that if you use a duplicate image that you lift off from another site (and that has already been indexed by Google) – then you don’t get any SEO benefit.
Infact if you have a high percentage of duplicate images – you may trigger some form of duplicate image algorithm that could work against your page or site while calculating its quality score.
Simple Tricks to Get Unique Images
Thankfully, this one is not too tricky and is easy to do, and does not require you to go out and shoot new images with your camera or phone.
There are multiple ways in which you can get Google to see your images as unique even though you have actually taken them from some other place.
Find and Edit Other Images That You Find Online
The first and most common method is to simply visit images.google.com
or any of the free stock photo / royalty free image sites and do a keyword search. Then look at the results and simply download the image and edit it to a high degree.
There are various ways to edit the images as listed below. You should mix and match multiple edits to each image so there is no real trace of the image being connected to the original image once you post it and Google indexes it.
Here are some image editing options –
– horizontal mirror flip
– vertical flip
– adding lighting into the image
– changing colors / making it black and white
– tiling the image
– making a collage of multiple images together
– making a tiled collage of multiple images
Take Screenshots from Video Frames
Another popular and interesting way of getting unique images is by grabbing screenshots from any video on Youtube or any other video site that has your relevant image in a specific scene.
Step 1 – Search for a video that may have the relevant image you seek
Step 2 – Forward to rewind to around your selected scene, and hit the pause button to freeze the frame at your desired location
Step 3 –
Hit print screen and and take a screenshot at your desired frame (you can use a free tool like Lightshot
to do this fast)
I use this method very frequently – and you could also mix and match it with the other image editing options I mentioned.
You Need Both Unique AND Relevant Images
While publishing images to your page, you need to make sure that both these conditions must be met…
(A) the topic of your content needs to be within the image and prominent enough that the algorithm understands it
(B) the image needs to be a unique image as seen by Google
How to Test If Your Image is Seen As Unique by Google
There is a simple way to test and see if Google sees your image as being unique – after you upload it OR if you only have it saved locally on your PC.
Here’s what you need to do –
Step 2 – Click the camera Icon you see in the search box on the right. (when you hover your mouse over it, it says “search by image”)
Step 3 – Next if your image is already uploaded into your post you need to get its URL and paste it into the box that says “paste image URL” or if your image is still in your PC then you can choose the other option to “upload an image”.
Then, simply hit “search by image” blue button and Google will show you a series of image results.
Now, this is where it gets interesting.
There are two conditions you need to look out for…
[Condition 1] If Your Page and Image Is Already Indexed
If you have already submitted your page (and image) and its indexed by Google – and you are checking to see if the image is unique by entering its URL (as above) then… Google has indexed all the contents of that page including the image.
In this case your URL and page with the image has to show up as the very first result – IF it is considered to be unique by Google.
This is key…
[pullquote align=”left”]If your page with this image does not show up as the first result – then Google is not attributing your page to have the original image – but believes some other site (that shows up as number one) is the site / page with the original image. [/pullquote]
I often do this trick when I am auditing new Client websites to check if they have used duplicate images from stock photo sites or not – and if they have gone through the trouble of editing the images to make them unique.
[Condition 2] If Your Page and Image Is Brand New and Not Published / Submitted for Indexing
If you have not yet submitted your page for indexing and this is a new post with a new image or if your image has not been uploaded and is only available locally on your PC – then, when you submit the image to Google (through the above methods) – then, if your image is unique – then Google will return results that say say no matching images were found. And, Google will show other similar images in the search result.
For example – if you uploaded an image of a Cat and it shows other Cat images – then you can also now be sure that Google has actually understood the content of your image.
[pullquote align=”left”]Eventually, you want to see that your image is unique and is being recognized for its content – after your page is indexed.[/pullquote]
This means, you may have to come back to your page after you publish it and its indexed to check if your image is indeed being seen as unique.
Optimizing All Other Core Image Elements
Once you have the above understood you can ensure all the image optimization elements below are also met.
Image File Name
Naming your images with the exact primary keyword or secondary related keywords as the content is still important ans is considered good and not keyword stuffing. For some reason they want your to do this and reward you for it.
Image ALT Tag
Having your ALT tag with primary or secondary keywords is also still good and not considered spammy as yet.
Putting a caption below the image is under used trick in the SEO industry and it works really well. WordPress or simple HTML markup code allows you to insert image captions and you should do this where possible, as Google is seeing this and it adds to your content relevancy. While making captions – dont keyword stuff, but try to describe the image or write a quick caption about it.
You could add a link to the image if you want, to another internal page on your site that is related, or you could link out to an authority site / page in your niche. Linking is not really required, but its a good mix to have and its perfectly fine to do maybe 10% of the time to your images.
Make sure your images are all not too small or are not tiny thumbnail images! Having nice big images that span across atleast 50% of your page width is a good benchmark.
Quantity of Images
Its always better to have more images within your content. The benchmark that is working best is to have around 6 to 8 images for every 1000 words or so of content. Not only is this directly beneficial as a signal, but it keeps the users engaged a bit longer with your page that gives a feedback loop of better dwell time that eventually also helps with your quality score signals.
Couple of Quick Tricks
You can add text inside your images as well. This engages users more and keeps them on the page a bit longer, and the time adds up when you have multiple images.
You can also use gif animations from a site like giphy.com
to engage users a bit longer, but unless your gif animation are unique I would not put more than a couple per page.
I hope you enjoyed this post! Simply follow these instructions and you will be perfectly optimizing your images for their fullest potential for SEO.