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    Optimizing images for Image Search and Blended Image Results in Google


    This is my 100th post on SEOchat and I wanted to make it special by contributing something to the forum which has contributed a lot to my understanding of SEO. I have made a lot of friends here whom I will cherish all my life.
    ________________________________________
    A few days ago I was searching for some keywords in Google and I saw a lot of image results coming blended with the other search results for almost all the keywords I googled. These questions started popping into my mind. When and why does Google decide to blend the image results into the "universal search" results? How do we optimize images so that they may to appear in the "universal" SERPs?

    Whenever you type in the name of any movie star into Google search box, the SERP looks like this:
    a) The first result is IMAGES.
    b) The third result is VIDEOS.

    Type in the name of any movie star to see for yourself; well, I searched for Angelina Jolie, to be honest! ;)

    Why does Google think that the images and videos deserve rankings ahead of the other results in this case? Well, my take on this is that a lot of search engine users searching for these particular keywords often include wallpaper, photos, images or videos with them, i.e. most users search for ANGELINA JOLIE IMAGES/VIDEOS and not simply for information regarding ANGELINA JOLIE. This leads Google to think that the user is highly likely to search for images of Angelina Jolie, and that’s why the image results come first, above all other results. If Google has the data of the number of image or video downloads for each particular keyword, then this might be playing a role in getting image results at position one, above the other results, for a particular search phrase.

    Now let us leave the movie stars alone and look at some general terms . When we type “Christmas Gifts” into Google, the image results come at position 4, not 1. Why? If we apply the same logic here, many searchers often search for Christmas images and wallpapers, but, compared to movie starts, the percentage is not enough to push the image results up into the highest spot. Similarly,when you search for DOGS, the image take up the top spot, because many searchers search for images of dogs; but when you search for ANTS, the image results are at position 4, because fewer users search for images of ants (at least I would never search for such a thing).

    Is this actually helpful to searchers? This may be a moot point, but I think that it depends on this specific case. Those image results for CHRISTMAS GIFTS look forced and not relevant. What is the use of those images to me if I am doing some Christmas shopping?

    Now to the most important question. How to optimize images to appear in the universal search results?The images that are blended into the universal search results are the same images that appear at top positions when you search for the same keyword in Google Images. The order of images may differ but they are nevertheless same.

    This mean that we optimize images for universal search results in the same way as we do for Google image search. If the keyword has enough search impressions for images then your optimized image will automatically show up in the universal search results, if it appear at the top in Google's image results.

    Search bots are not humans, they can't distinguish between the image of an elephant and that of an ant. Instead, search engines rely entire on the webmasters to show them what the image is about. If we can define image on our website clearly and attract some quality links to it then it is very much likely that your image will top the Google rankings.

    Some tips on how to optimize images for Google search results:
    1. Use a unique, attractive image which can earn natural links from other websites. Just copying an image from another website and optimizing it properly may not help you all that much.
    2. Put relevant keywords in the file name of the image.
    3. Describe your image via the ALT tag, including relevant keywords. It i best to describe the image with some text around the keyword, to make it look more natural.
    4. Create text content around the image which is relevant and contains keywords relevant to the image.
    5. Optimize the page containing the image. I f your page is well optimized for the targeted keyword, then your image has a better chance of appearing in the search results. For best results, make sure that the targeted keyword appears in the page title tag.
    6. Try to acquire quality links, with correct anchor text, both to the image and to the page itself.
    7. Don’t make your image too large or too small
    8. Use a PNG, JPEG or GIF format.
    9. Make sure that your URL is not in any way suggestive of "adult" themes. E.g. if you want your image to be optimized for Women's Gifts and you have just the keyword women in the URL, this may give Google that the idea that your website is somehow related to porn, which may cause it to be filtered it and from the safe search results. You can read more about this issue here.
    10. Create an image sitemap and follow all other guidelines and best practices provided by Google for image optimization. Last but not least, share your image on various social media platforms such as Twitter and Flickr, to give them more visibility in Google's eyes.

    Comments on this post

    • googler agrees : Nice post
    • Chris Nelson agrees
    • pro_seo agrees : Brilliant post GP - Sorry outta rep for you
    • manray agrees : Great Contribution!
    • PhilipSEO agrees : great generous post
    • terriwells agrees : Very well thought out; thanks for sharing.
    • THE BERG agrees : Good observations
    • michaelj72 agrees
    Last edited by gurvinderpal; Sep 18th, 2010 at 11:33 AM.
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    Firstly let me say thank you for the post as this is very informative. Although I appreciate the depth of your post I have to disagree to a certain extent (I just like initiating a good debate!!).

    You say that when people search for a movie star image results are usually displayed, possibly because people tend to search for 'angelina jolie images', 'angelina jolie wallpapers' etc but this does not happen when you search for 'christmas gifts'. In context these are two very different search terms.

    To a certain extent I agree with the logic behind the movie star searches but your logic contradicts itself when it comes to the latter. I highly doubt there are high search volumes behind 'christmas gifts images', 'christmas gifts wallpapers' etc so, using your logic, why would Google favour images over natural SERPS? Do you see what I am getting at?

    You also have to remember that Google uses geographic location as a function to determine the relevancy of SERPS. I see you are based in India therefore maybe you see a different priority of universal search results? If I perform a search for 'dogs' the images results are 4th in SERPS, not the top spot as you see them. Is geographic location a potential cause of this? I'd be very interested to see if other geographics affect this?

    Finally you state 'Search bots are not humans, they can't distinguish between the image of an elephant and that of an ant'; well although that is strictly very true, Google is continually increasing its efficiency to recognise colours and shapes by analysing images therefore it's not too far out of the question for Google to hazard a guess!!

    One last thought on point 3 of your image optmisation list "3. Describe your image via the ALT tag, including relevant keywords. It i best to describe the image with some text around the keyword, to make it look more natural.";
    Bear in mind ALT text is designed for accessibility usage - do not write an entire paragraph about your image. Keep it very concise.


    Great post though and I hope you appreciate my thoughts.

    Chris

    Comments on this post

    • gurvinderpal agrees
    Last edited by chrisains; Sep 3rd, 2010 at 04:42 PM. Reason: typo
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    Once again we see that relevancy, research, and honesty really helps out when optimizing. If the image is what the alt and image name says it is, the text around the image on the web page it is from should reflect that as well - relevancy. Good notes here.
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    Well Chris thanks for the insight, I will try to reply all your queries one by one.

    1. If you search in google for CHRISTMAS SERP appear like this with Images occupying the first position in the SERP. I think there are a large number of image searches and downloads done for the keyword CHRISTMAS and now if you type the keyword GIFTS in google these results appear with images on occupying the 6th position. I think not many image searches are done for this keyword. But when you search for both these keywords combined like CHRISTMAS GIFTS the SERP looks like this with images on the 4th spot. I hope you got my point.

    2. Geographic location do affect the SERPs. See for a particular keyword the image searches done for it may be more or less than the image searches done for the same keyword in the other country. So the position of image results in SERP may vary. Consider the case of an Indian actor Hrithik Roshan. When I perform google search for him in google india, the images occupied no. 1 spot. But when the same search is done in google uk the image results occupy 4th postion in this case becoz he isnt popular there in UK and hence less image searches and low rankings for images.

    3. For now the bots cant distinguish between images. Yes search engines are working on it but right now they just cant, so this is a topic for the future.

    4. I am not saying entire paragraph but some text surrounding the keyword. This video of Matt might give you some idea...
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    @gurvinderpal

    Thanks for the reply. It is certainly an interesting theory and I'll certainly look a bit deeper into it.

    Originally Posted by gurvinderpal
    For now the bots cant distinguish between images. Yes search engines are working on it but right now they just cant, so this is a topic for the future.
    It will be interesting if Google do manage this!! :-)

    Chris
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    Does anyone have any idea how long it takes for images to be indexed and displayed in google image search?

    Goggle bot seems to visit my site on average about three times per day. The site has been up for about five months but only a handfull (maybe 5%) of the images have been indexed.

    Any insight or help would be great. Thanks.
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    If Google Bot is visiting your website daily doesnt mean that all your pages will get indexation. The number of pages/images indexed on a website is directly proprotional to the trust of the webite in the eyes of Google. Since your website is just 5 months old, so there wont be any authority associated with your domain and hence less indexation
    Originally Posted by otoasto
    Does anyone have any idea how long it takes for images to be indexed and displayed in google image search?

    Goggle bot seems to visit my site on average about three times per day. The site has been up for about five months but only a handfull (maybe 5%) of the images have been indexed.

    Any insight or help would be great. Thanks.
    Last edited by gurvinderpal; Sep 6th, 2010 at 07:51 AM.
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    Originally Posted by gurvinderpal
    If Google Bot is visiting your website daily doesnt mean that all your pages will get indexation. The number of pages/images indexed on a website is directly proprotional to the trust of the webite in the eyes of Google. Since your website is just 5 months old, so there wont be any authority associated with your domain and hence less indexation
    Thanks for your reply. So the older my domain becomes and the more backlinks (exposure) I get, google will start to index more of my images?

    Will image indexing happen faster for this domain as it increases it's authority?
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    yeah you got it right
    Originally Posted by otoasto
    Thanks for your reply. So the older my domain becomes and the more backlinks (exposure) I get, google will start to index more of my images?

    Will image indexing happen faster for this domain as it increases it's authority?
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    Originally Posted by gurvinderpal
    yeah you got it right
    Okay, thanks. I'd better get busy.
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    Great Post!


    Another reason that Celebs might have image results as #1 could be because they have a disproportionate amount of photos and video online compared to copy. (You have the morons at TMZ to thank for that.) It would make sense for Google to promote their image search tool by offering up queries with a lot of material.

    Also, These videos and photos are probably better optimized with similar keywords in order for their sites to move up for those queries (much more than other keywords.) There's a lot money to be made off of traffic for celebs pics (Ask Perez Hilton.)


    5. make sure it's on a page that Google recognizes as an authority for that particular phrase that the image depicts. My most successful images are high in the SERPS because the pages they're on are also #1 in SERPS organically. (Ex. I have a page that's #2 for "Blue Widgets". An image on that page optimized for "Blue Widgets" is among the search results as well.)

    15. Have other pages/sites use this image source for their on-page photos. Not sure if this works, but I imagine that Google would see the popularity of 1 image source as significant.

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    I pretty much got a hang of what you were trying to say. Have on question though, what are SERPs?
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    SERPS are search engine result pages, where your pages and sites get displayed when someone searches for something.
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    Nothing much has changed in the past weeks, other than images that were displayed by google vanish, some come back a few days later some never return. So it's two steps forward, one step back. Can anyone explain what's happening. Thanks.
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    Originally Posted by otoasto
    Nothing much has changed in the past weeks, other than images that were displayed by google vanish, some come back a few days later some never return. So it's two steps forward, one step back. Can anyone explain what's happening. Thanks.
    From my experience, to make sure your images don't just just vanish, also try to upload images in Picassa with reference to your link (Google loves their own). Plus, this Google dance could be happening because of Google Instant. Make sure to always use all the possible services by Google, if you're optimizing for Google. Notice the SeRP and see which it prioritize, one of them is Youtube for Videos since its also from Google. Hope this helps.
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