All About Google Images: Complete Guide

All About Google Images Complete Guide

There are several reasons why a webmaster should use images in his/her online properties.

  • Pictures capture the attention of your audience
  • Visual appeal makes your blog posts more memorable
  • Images are a great way to break up blocks of long text
  • Visuals add emotion to the story
  • Encourage social media sharing
  • They improve your SEO efforts by adding Alt tags and keyword rich file names
  • Images support your point
  • Increase traffic from search engines and social media platforms

Why Is SEO Important

People hardly talk about Image SEO. It’s like it never exists, yet Google Images account for about 22.6% of all online searches, with Google maps coming in third at 13%.

Marketers work so hard to improve their organic reach. But will neglect the simplest image optimisation practises that could have made all the difference.

It’s simple: with SEO, your game must be up to snuff. You’re not about to leave anything to chance – and one of the key things to prioritise on is image optimisation.

What’s Image Optimisation?

Image optimisation refers to all the activities that could potentially help your images rank high on Google’s organic search listings.

It’s the same thing with ranking pages – search engines also try to make sense of the images your upload on your site. As a marketer looking to draw in your fair share of organic traffic, it’s your job to help these search engines with the make-sense part.

Luckily for you, we plan to show you how and walk you through everything else you need to know about image SEO.

Why You Should Start Caring About Image SEO

Here are two reasons you should start caring about image SEO:

  1. Images drive more than a quarter of online traffic. And now that Google recently removed the “view image” button, that means they’ll be directing more users to your webpage.
  2. By optimising your images for SEO, you’ll also be optimising your webpage for screen readers. That means visually impaired people will have an easy time using and understanding your website.

Understanding the Basics of Google Images: How Does It Work?

Contrary to what most people think, Google Images can’t analyse images or the pictures on webpages. Instead, they try to look into the context of the image and its attached text to determine its relevance in relation to a queried search.

That’s right: Google might be super-advanced, but it’s certainly not advanced enough to interpret photos by just looking at them.

So, it will look at the webpage surrounding the image, the alt HTML parameters attached to it, and (most importantly) the image caption to categorise it and rank it appropriately in the search results that show.

Google Images isn’t perfect, but it does a surprisingly good job analysing images contextually. However, if these contextual images are missing, or if your image is placed alone with no surrounding text, then Google Images has no way to tell what the image is all about.

How Google Crawls Images

It’s the same thing with crawling regular webpages. Google scans tons of webpages every day to extract available images. It does this by searching for the HTML Tag for images. It also has to look for the “alt,” and “src” attributes to index them right.

How Google Indexes Images

After crawling or scanning websites, the next thing Google does is organise the scanned or crawled images into relevant categories. This is what is referred to as indexing in the world of SEO.

How Google Ranks Images

When an online user searches for an image, Google has to look into their indexed images and display them in order of relevance.

Their goal is to return the best possible images in order of their relevance for any search query. Typically, these images are displayed with more information sourced from the respective metadata of the images.

How to Access the Google Image Tool

There are several ways you can access the Google Image application. They include:

Using the Google Image Link: You can access the Google Image tool by entering Google’s image link in your address bar. Here’s the link: www.images.google.com.

Using Google’s Toolbar: For those who have installed the Google Toolbar, just click on the Google button to access the flyout menu.

From the menu, click on the flyout menu, choose Google links, and then proceed to open Google images.

From the Google Homepage: Go to the Google homepage, and click on the image link.

Still on the Google Homepage: There’s a second way to access the image app from Google’s homepage. On the website, click on “more link.” You’ll be directed to Google’s Services and Tools page. You can click on the image icon shown, and that’s pretty much like it.

What Influences Google’s Image Ranking?

Here’s a whole list of factors that play right into how Google ranks your images.

Image Discoverability

If people understood how Google Images works, then perhaps we wouldn’t have had to explain this.

It’s simple: if search engines can’t discover your images, then there’s no way they’ll be able to rank them.

In other words, it’s your job to help search engines discover your images through image XML sitemaps.

How To Make Your Images Discoverable

The easiest way to make your images discoverable is to include them in your XML Sitemaps.

There are two ways to go about:

  1. You can create dedicated XML sitemaps and include your images
  2. Include the images into already existing XML sitemaps

Both of these methods work. But creating dedicated image sitemaps is the most recommended option because it’s easy to analyse your photos and see which ones have been indexed and which ones have not.

Some Basic Guidelines Around XML Sitemaps for Images

  • Each <url> tag can define up to 1, 000 images or image tags.
  • Use Image: caption to define your image caption
  • Use Image: geo_location to define your image location
  • Use Image: title to define the title of your images
  • Use image: license to define your image license

Make Sure Your Images Can Be Crawled and Indexed

Your images can only be indexed after Google has successfully crawled them.

You have to make sure nothing is preventing the Googlebot and the Googlebot-image from accessing your images, mostly due to an incorrectly configured robots.txt file.

Any image that uses the robot’s no-index directive cannot be indexed. It’s the same for images that contain the X-Robots-Tag HTTP Header, or those that aren’t canonicalized with the HTTP header.

The Authority of the Pages the Images Are Posted On

Your page authority matters. We previously mentioned that search engines don’t rank images. They instead rank pages, where the images are featured on.

That means images from high authority pages will be ranked atop. In other words, they feed off the authority they get from those pages.

Topical Relevance of the Page

The content you post alongside your images will also determine how the pages are ranked. Your text adds relevance to your images. Search engines can connect the dots and tell what your image is all about.

For WordPress, with each image you upload, the CMS creates a dedicated image attachment page. We suggest you disable this feature since it adds no SEO value to your images – just eating into your crawl budget.

Image Popularity

Images are also ranked based on their popularity. The more people use a particular image, the more it’s likely to rank high in the SERPs.

It’s for this reason that you’re advised to consider embedding images that other people are already using on their sites.

You don’t have to use the image exactly as it is. You can play around with its size, dimension, or even use a different format of the images. Google will still understand it’s the same image and rank it accordingly.

Related Images

Including Related Images with the same content is another common trick that webmasters use to get their images ranked high.

Try finding other images that relate to the one you have and try posting them all on the same page.

If you’ve been keen to observe, this is one reason Pinterest is one of the biggest drivers of image directed organic traffic. The platform host millions of images that are neatly categorised by users.

Image Captions and All the Surrounding Text

The text you post alongside your images helps to bring about relevance. It’s meant to help both users and search engines to understand your images better.

There are three types of texts that you can post alongside your images:

  1. Image Captions: Describes your image for the users reading it.
  2. Alt-text: Describes your image for search engines. Not visible on the website or to the actual viewer of the image.
  3. Surround text: The main content posted alongside the image.

Image Attributes

The image tag is the HTML tag used to display or add an image in a webpage or post. It’s an empty tag that can be filled with a wide range of image attributes.

Here’s an example of an HTML tag:  

<img src=” www.abc.com” alt=” how do you want search engines to interpret the image” “title=” the title that the image should appear with (or the caption)/>

This image tag contains the direction to locate the image, the format of the image, and the attributes that provide its context.

Search engines can pick clues from this image HTML tag, especially from the alt text.

However, you do not want to overdo it.

Don’t make the common mistake people make all the time, where they overstuff the alt and title attributes with keywords.

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How to Name Your Images for SEO

How you name your images or write the alt and text attributes can be a game-changer on how well the image performs.

The best way to name an image (both in alt text and title attribute) is to try and describe the image.

Examples:

Google Title: “Barack Obama While Still in College.”

Wrong Title: “Barack’s Photo.”

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Image Format

Your image format also matters in this. You’re not just randomly choosing a format – the format you choose will vary depending on the type of image you plan to post.

Here are popular image formats and the type of photos they’re best suited for:

Image Format

Best Suited With

Jpeg

Photos

PNG

Logos, or anything with a transparent background. You can also use them for sharp images, to retain the sharpness, especially in screenshots

GIF

Animations

SVG

Works for images that scale without getting pixelated

WebP

It’s a format that was recently developed by Google. It’s an excellent alternative to JPEG and PNG, and that’s because it’s easy to compress. The only downside is that it’s not compatible with the Safari browser. However, this image format has great potential. You can use Squoosh and Webpurr to convert your photos to WebP.

Image URL Path

Just as important as the format you use for your image is the URL path for the photos.

Try to keep the URL path short and logical.

You also want to make sure that you’re not using the chronological folder structure like the one used on WordPress.

Your images are timeless, so the last thing you want is for people to think they’re outdated.

Good URL path: /images/barrack-obama-in-high-school.jpeg

Wrong URL Path: /wp-content/upload/2015/09/Images/barrack-obama-in-high-school.jpeg

Image srcset Attribute

Don’t just upload images without considering how they appear in the various devices. Consider Google’s mobile-first and the role of speed as one of the ranking factors.

While at it, don’t forget the fact that Google primarily uses a mobile user-agent to crawl websites. For this, you want to make sure you’re serving the right image to the right device.

Thankfully, you can define all that in the image tag (using the srcset attribute).

<img src=”/images/barrack-obama-in-high-school.jpeg” srcset=”/images/ barrack-obama-in-high-school-400.jpg 375w, /images/ barrack-obama-in-high-school-800.jpg 768w” alt=”Barrack Obama in high school” title=”Barrack Obama on High School Hanging Out with his classmates” />

With this attribute, you can serve multiple image sizes to users, with each device receiving a specific image size from the batch you upload.

Even better, there’s a trick for making your images appear sharper on retina screens. All you have to do is serve them with double the pixel density.

For instance:

barrack-obama-in-high-school-800.jpg

Now assuming this image size is 600 x300

You can double the pixel density by adding @2x to the image URL, so it becomes:

barrack-obam[email protected]

This should double the image dimension to 1200 x 600 (double its original size).

Image Alt Attribute

This is the attribute that search engines use to make sense of your image. It’s not shown on your website, but can be read by search engines.

It’s used to draw context.

Image Title Attribute

From an SEO standpoint, the image title attribute is less important than the alt attribute. And that’s because they’re created for the user. Instead of giving context to search engines, they give context to the user when they hover around the image.

Search engines can still use them if they contain relevant content. However, they just aren’t as effective as alt attributes.

Image Load Time

Page speed is still one of the most critical ranking elements for images. The faster your images load, the higher they’ll be ranked. It’s not just about speed and all that. Remember: these images are sharing the same crawl budget with the rest of the content or page assets.

How to Make Your Images Load Faster

  • Be careful with the image format you choose. You want to make sure you’re working with the right one.
  • Choose the right image size and make sure the images are responsive or use the srcset attribute to serve the right image size to each device it’s viewed on.
  • Remember to compress your images.

How to Compress Images

Image compressing is the process of decreasing the size of your image files. There are several ways to go about it:

Lossy Compressing: This is where your image files are decreased significantly, losing their quality in the process. If you do not care about image quality and just want your images to load faster, this might be the option for you.

Lossless: This is where the images are compressed moderately so as not to lose their quality. More priority is directed towards image quality. Meaning, it won’t do you much help if you plan to make the images load faster.

Glossy: Glossy is where lossy meets lossless. It’s a strike of balance between the two, and the most recommended of the three options. You want to reduce your image size and make them load faster. At the same time, you do not want your images to lose their quality, so you find the middle ground.

Tools You Can Use to Compress Your Images

Online apps:

Tools that integrate with WordPress:

Tools you can integrate with Magento

Desktop app for Compressing Your Image Files

Page Speed Practices That Can Still Work With Images

Some of the practises you use to optimise your site for speed can also be used to optimise your images for the same. We have identified a few of these practises, and we plan to cover them in this section of the post:

Serve the Images Through a CDN

You can make an image-laden webpage load even faster by serving its content though a cloud delivery network such as Cloudflare. There are so many advantages associated with this – and the fact that CDNs serve users with content from the server that’s closet to them means your content will be delivered faster.

Browser Caching

Your content doesn’t have to load anew every time a user tries to load it up online. You can cache some of this content and allow them to be stored in your users’ browsers to speed up everything. Cache the images that appear in many of your site’s pages so that they don’t have to reload with every new page that a user opens.

Image Lazy Loading

Lazy loading doesn’t exactly speed up image loading. However, it’s one of the few ways you can optimise your images for SEO, just not from the page speed angle.

You see, not every single one of your site’s users need to see your images. So instead of serving the images to everyone who opens your webpage, you defer the loading to only when it’s necessary or until all the critical elements are loaded.

What to Take Note of When Implementing Lazy Loading on Your Images

You’re not to use lazy loading on the images that are critical to the normal functioning of your page. You have to include all the essential images and only implement lazy loading to the images you’re sure your website can at least function without.

Use Schema to Communicate the Context of Your Images

Any image that represents your content should be marked up using schema. This is meant to help search engines understand the image and its context better. It also increases your chances of you winning a featured snippets spot with that image.

Plus, having your image on a featured snippet will make the snippet to stand out and attract more clicks.

A few pointers to observe:

Make sure the images you’ve referenced in your Schema Mark-up can actually be crawled and indexed.

  • The images must be relevant to the surrounding text or the rest of the page content
  • The images must be in the right format – png, jpeg, or gif
  • The images must have a high resolution – with the following aspect ratio 1×1, 4×3, and 16×9.

Tools That You Can Use to Analyse the Optimisation Potential of Your Images

There are lots of tools that you can use to weigh in on the optimisation potential of your images. These tools can help you analyse the current state of your photos and even point out a few areas that call for improvement:

List of tools:

These tools are useful, but their analysis isn’t always the plain truth. Learn to take every suggestion with a flat of salt, and only run with those that make sense to you.

It’s the same case with most of the suggestions given in the world of search engine optimisation. You have to remain critical and have some perspective when soaking up some of these suggestions and pointers.

What’s Google Image Reverse Search?

You’ve probably heard of Google reverse image search, one of the most powerful Google Images feature.

So, instead of entering a text search query, what this feature does is that it allows you to search the internet using an image. You simply upload an image or enter its link, and Google will bring all the information surrounding that image. 

Typically, there are two sets of results that Google returns in a reverse search:

  • The Source Website: The first set of results that Google returns for every reverse search is a list of all the websites where the image is uploaded. This is usually accompanied by the name of the image and the description text associated with the image.

This piece of information can come in handy if you’re interested in tracking down the source of an image or where the image was originally posted.

  • Similar Images: The second set of results that Google returns is a list of all similar or related images. For instance, you can use the reverse image search to find more pictures of a particular celebrity or attraction site.

How to Use Google Reverse Image Search

Using Google reverse image search is a no-brainer. Here’s a simplified guide to walk you through the process:

  1. Head to Google Images page (images.google.com)
  2. Click on the camera icon shown in the search bar. A new window labelled “search by image” will open.
  • You have three ways in which you can proceed with the search:
  • The first one is by copy-pasting the image URL in the search box. With this option, all you have to do is paste the image URL and then proceed with the search like you usually do.
  • The next option is where you upload the image. Click on the option to upload your image, and you’ll be directed to your gallery to choose the photo.
  • The last option is where you drag and drop the image. Simply open your gallery and drag the image that you want to search to the search bar provided.

Why You Should Consider Using Images in Your Blog Posts

You’ve probably heard the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In a generation where scanning or skimming has become the order of the day, you have even more reasons to want to embrace “the 1000 words.”

We suggest you start adding more pictures to your blog posts, and here are the reasons to support this piece of advice:

  • Pictures are an excellent way to grab the reader’s attention. You want to capture their eye and keep them glued to your content until they finish reading.
  • Images can help you differentiate the content you publish from other similar content on the web.
  • Images are a great way to create visually memorable experiences for your readers.
  • Images can help you strengthen the content you publish. They’re essential for communicating further and explaining some of the things that are difficult to articulate with text.
  • Drives image-related SEO traffic. Don’t underestimate this: close to a quarter of online organic traffic comes from images.

Legal Issues Surrounding the Use of Images in Singapore

Be careful with how you use images online to avoid a fall out with the law.  

Unless you’re a photographer yourself, the odds are, many of the images you’re planning to use on your blog posts are not taken or created by you. You found them somewhere online, and unless you know which ones to use and which ones to steer clear from, you’re courting trouble with the law.  

The point is to make sure that none of the photos you’re using is protected or has a copyright claim to it.

Here’s how you avoid copyright-related issues when dealing with other people’s images:

  • Play safe by always assuming every image you find online is protected. For this, you want to make sure that you’re not rushing into using it until you have established nothing will be crawling back to you to haunt you.
  • Read the terms and conditions of the sites that claim to upload royalty-free images. Make sure you understand their fine prints to avoid incriminating yourself in the future.
  • If someone raises a complaint about an image you’re using on your site, don’t be tough-headed to want to argue with them. Remove the image immediately before it escalates into something serious. Plus, removing it can help you avoid liability – according to DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).
  • If someone raises a complaint on an image you’re using, be sure to investigate the issue. Ask them to show you the copyright proof.
  • When you’re no so sure if a particular image is protected, then just reach out to the owner and ask for permission to use it.

What is Copyright?

Any content published without permission attributes is theft and is illegal. Renaissance musician David Byrne said it best on his blog, “one is supposed to pay for such use and not paying is, well, theft – it’s also illegal because one has to ask permission and that permission can be turned down.

In a nutshell, copy-pasting images, photos, videos or any content without permission or even trying to manipulate the same for use in your website is copyright infringement.

The Legal Department of Getty Images demands nearly $1000 for any copyrighted image. However, some instances allow copyrighted images published under specific circumstances. Let’s dive right in and look under what circumstances the law has been “bent.”

Google images

Fair Use

Fair Use allows limited and reasonable use of an image if it’s not for commercial purposes. However, if you have a blog that you earn revenue from, Fair Use doctrine may not help you in the case of infringement.

Permission

The other instance that you can use an image is Permission. Here, some terms and conditions apply to the use of Google Images. These provisions are under the Creative Commons (CC) license attached to the image you want to use for your blog post.  The CC license will allow the use of an image without first requesting permission.

However, you can only use the images for non-commercial purposes, and you may also need to acknowledge the owner.

Free and Low-Cost Stock Images on the Web

There are many sources of free and low-cost stock images that you can find online. Here is a list of image sources online:

Best Practice For Legally Using Google Images In Your Blog?

Determining whether an image you want to use in your blog post is protected by copyright or not can be hard. When you’re using images from any online source, research early and don’t assume that it’s not copyrighted just because you don’t see indicated copyrights.

Here are six best practices you can apply when using images in your blog.

Assume that the image has protection from copyright law – When you assume that all images are copyrighted, you’ll be safe from any infringement as you’ll not use an image without a second thought.

Capture and use your images –Today, you can use a mobile device to capture high-quality images or screenshots that you can use in your blog post. It’s the best way to stay safe. You’ll also need to remember to copyright your images.

Linking – If you really must use an image, you can connect your page with that particular image. That way you’ll be playing safe from getting fined heavy penalties for infringement. Set out the URL instead of embedding it.

Utilize images form stock photo agencies – Some stock photo agencies offer images, photos, vector images, graphics and so forth at a fee. Once you purchase these images read the guidelines for using them.

Use CC licensed images – CC images are free to use but require attribution from the owner. Some terms and conditions apply to CC-licensed pictures. 

Verify who owns the image – You need to establish the right person who owns the image that you want to use in your blog post. The reason for this is because they may have assigned the image permission to someone else. Determine the copyright status and acquire permission from the right owner.

What Is Royalty-Free Images or Stock Images?

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You’ve probably stumbled across these terms or heard someone mention them but you didn’t exactly know what they meant or how it could impact how you use images online.

Here’s what is meant by royalty-free image:

A royalty-free image refers to the right to use a copyrighted image or any other intellectual property without paying royalties each time you use it, or as per the number of times used or sold.

If you purchase a royalty-free image, you only get to pay for it once, and you’re free to use it as you wish so long as it’s within the stipulated agreement or policy.

Royalty-free images can be free or sold for a one-time fee of any agreed amount, with a possible limit as to the number of times you’re allowed to use it.

10 Sites to Find Royalty-Free Images in Singapore

Here are 10 websites that you can use to find royalty-free images to use on your blog:

Unsplash

The images at Unsplash are 100% free. You can use them any way you want, except for creating a competing website. They have their own license, which means no one will ever bother you for using their photos.  

Pexels

Pexels is another site with 100% free images, with rules on what you can and cannot do with the photos. They also have their own license, which means no one will ever follow you for using their photos.

Pixabay

Their images are licensed under CCO (Common Creative Zero). You don’t have to ask permission to use the photos, but there’s a general reminder that you should always check to make sure the images aren’t infringing any right.

Free Images

Free Images has more than 300, 000 stock images that you’re free to use. They have their own license and can guarantee no one will be after you for using any of their photos.

Stocksnap.io

Uses CC0 license, which allows you to download, edit, modify, and use any of their photos for personal or commercial purposes.

Life of Pix

Life of pix boasts thousands of high-resolution images that are absolutely free. They have also partnered with Adobe Stock for paid stock photos.

Canva

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Canva is a simplified online graphic design tool with lots of free stock photos that you can use in your designs. It’s one of the tools you should check out. Plus, it’s free unless you want to upgrade to premium usage.

Flickr

Flickr is an image-hosting platform boasting thousands of photos that you can modify for commercial use. You can filter the images to those that you’re allowed to those reserved for commercial use or modification.

WOCinTech

There are more than 500 photos of the women in colour that you’re allowed to use so long as you attribute WOCinTech.

Getty Images

Most people don’t know about this, but you can use Getty Images’ photos for non-commercial purposes by embedding them. Embedding their photos is absolutely free. You’re, however, not allowed to download the photos and upload them on your site.

Wrap Up

The use of images from Google Images and other websites doesn’t protect you against copyright infringement. If you have been blindly using content in your web pages, you could be risking heavy penalties. The safest way of legally using images in the context of copyright is by using your own photos, purchasing some from stock photo agencies, linking an article or gallery posted on a specific website.

If you’re looking for safe images that will not land you into trouble, we strongly recommend allthefreestock.com. Besides, you must always verify if pictures feature Creatives Commons License. As for Fair Use images, you can find them on Google Graphics.

We also strongly recommend bloggers in Singapore to use Google Images and pictures explicitly in the public domain. Also, remember the best practice when it comes to copyright laws always assume that the images you are sourcing from the web are copyrighted. 

Get in touch with our website design team in Singapore for insights on the right images and visuals to use in your blog. Over the years, we have mastered the art of creating visuals that spark the right emotions with audiences. We can help you scale up your blog to the next level. Call us +65 6789 9852.

Author Bio

Tom Koh is widely recognised as a leading SEO consultant in Asia who has worked to transform the online visibility of the leading organisations such as SingTel, Capitaland, Maybank, P&G, WWF, etc. Recently he was instrumental in consulting for a New York-based US$30B fund in an US$4Bn acquisition. Tom is a Computational Science graduate of the National University of Singapore. In his free time he performs pro-bono community work and traveling.
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August 21, 2020

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