People are visual. You may have heard or seen the stat that we process images 60,000 times faster than text. While this “fact” is hard to prove, there is no doubt that humans are drawn to images. Google has also seen firsthand the power of images and they are investing largely in visual search.
People use Google images to look for ideas and Google has absolutely caught onto this. This is just a way that the search results have already shifted over the last few years. On the left side, we see we used to have these blue links. We used to have these recipes and things of that nature for ideas and then they started to add in some more information with rich snippets, where they’d put in a little picture. And now today we’ve got these rich cards, which are filled with images and they’re filled with pictures because people love to process and it’s easier for us to process information using images. We’re visual. We’re visual creatures. We love images and we’re looking for ideas online, typically, whether it maybe be for a home or maybe recipes or ideas for our new business, things of that nature, images help us get better grasp of what the ideas could be or should be.
So Google is putting an emphasis on this, so much so because people are gravitating to the image tool. Gary from Google, he was talking about this at an event that I was at last week and he said that image is now the second most used feature in Google search. So after the normal Google, like Google.com, this is what we’re talking about, the blue links, the second most used feature is the image portion of search. So before we get into how to optimize our images, we need to understand the three main components of how search works.
Search starts with crawling. This is where a bot comes to your sight and begins to crawl your page. This is where it starts at the top, starts to read all of your information. This is where it’s just getting an idea of what’s on your website and more from a broader angle. The next thing that it does is it begins to index, and this is where it starts to categorize your site and begins to put things in different places. This is where it begins to understand what it was crawling and now it begins to store that information within Google’s index, within Google’s database, to understand what the concept’s about, which results in rankings. This is how your site would show up for a particular query when somebody types it into a search engine.
For images, this is what the Google bot is looking for. It’s looking at image data. It’s looking at meta data. It’s looking at page data, and it’s looking at structured data. We’ve got four areas that we really need to make sure that we have on our sites, because this is what the Google bot is looking for.
Image data is going to be things like alt text and title text. Your meta data is going to be your descriptions, it’s going to be your titles, your page data. It’s going to be the content on that specific page. And structured data is going to be the markup. This is where we’re going to add schema structured data to different elements, including images on our site.
How can we do better on Google images? How can we make sure that our site is being found in the second most searched page on Google.com. Well, the first thing, we have to make sure that we’re not blocking the Google bot. Many people make this mistake, not on purpose, maybe they don’t have something checked correctly, whether they use a plug-in on WordPress where they just have not allowed the bot to actually have access to an image. So robot.TXT is a file that’s on your website and it basically tells the good bots, or the bots that actually listen, what they can and cannot crawl on your website. If you have it set to disallow and you’re not allowing it to crawl your images, you’re not going to have your images in the index.
The second thing that you want to do is begin to add an image site map. A lot of people are familiar with your typical site map, which is just the structure of your pages and it goes on all of your pages, the different sections of your website, and it’s building this map. And there’s also HTML site maps, right? What an image site map does, it shows the structure of your images, where your images are found on the site, and begins to give the search engines a lot more information about how to find your images and what those images are about.
The other thing is adding text around your images. This gives context to what the search engine is looking at. So they can see your alt text and your title text, but when you add text around that image and you help them to understand what’s going on on that page, the image now has more context. It’s as simple as that. They’re going to better understand what that image is and why it’s there in the first place.
Now having accurate and concise alt text. This is a product, right? This is Doritos Nacho Cheese Chips. And if you look over here, the alt text is highlighted and the alt text isn’t just bag of chips or just Doritos, but it’s specifically stating what it is. It’s accurate, it is concise, and maybe a little bit longer than you’re used to using, but this describes exactly what the picture is, Doritos tortilla chips, Nacho Cheese, 1.5 ounce, large single-serving bag, pack of 64. It’s telling you exactly what this image is. This is the way we should be writing alt text. These are going to make sure that the images are better understood by the Google bots and it can help you earn those really coveted positions in image search.
Using structured data. This is an example of organizational schema, but if you notice the logos here, the logo is an image. You can add your image and images to different parts of your schema markup. Specifically in image search, you can do it for products and recipes, but you also want to make sure that you’re marking up your images and adding your images to organizational and local schemas as well, because this can make sure that your images are also not just showing up in image search, but also in the knowledge cards that can be found on Google today.
Page meta does play a role. When Google’s looking at the page and it’s trying to understand what the page is about, it’s going to look at the title tag first. The title tag should accurately, concisely describe that page. Then it’s going to look at the meta descriptions. Again, they’re not using this as a quote unquote “Ranking signal,” but they’re using it for context. They’re using it to get an idea of what the page is about and is that site really delivering on that promise. By making sure that your title tags and your meta descriptions back up what the images and content of the page is about is extremely important, because when there is that continuity, Google really, really likes that and will award that.
Why does this matter in the grand scheme of things? Well, the second most number of searches on Google.com go through image. That alone shows you that billions of people are using image search. Now here’s another thing. Google is growing the image team. Google is putting emphasis and resources into image because it matters. If you see on the right here, I’ve got a picture of Google lens. So Google lens is using images to search for things online. Google is putting a ton of resources and energy behind image tools, behind image recognition. They have a ton of Google tools on Google Cloud. This is an area that Google’s investing in, so marketers and SEOs need to be investing in this area as well. If you have any questions on this slide deck or you want to talk a little bit more about SEO, please let me know. But until next time, Happy Marketing.