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People looking for images on Google often want to browse through many images, looking both at the images and their metadata (detailed information about the images). Based on feedback from both users and webmasters, we redesigned Google Images to provide a better search experience. In the next few days, you’ll see image results displayed in an inline panel so it’s faster, more beautiful, and more reliable. You will be able to quickly flip through a set of images by using the keyboard. If you want to go back to browsing other search results, just scroll down and pick up right where you left off.

Screenshot of new Google Images results using the query nasa earth as an example


Here’s what it means for webmasters:
  • We now display detailed information about the image (the metadata) right underneath the image in the search results, instead of redirecting users to a separate landing page.
  • We’re featuring some key information much more prominently next to the image: the title of the page hosting the image, the domain name it comes from, and the image size.
  • The domain name is now clickable, and we also added a new button to visit the page the image is hosted on. This means that there are now four clickable targets to the source page instead of just two. In our tests, we’ve seen a net increase in the average click-through rate to the hosting website.
  • The source page will no longer load up in an iframe in the background of the image detail view. This speeds up the experience for users, reduces the load on the source website’s servers, and improves the accuracy of webmaster metrics such as pageviews. As usual, image search query data is available in Top Search Queries in Webmaster Tools.
As always, please ask on our Webmaster Help forum if you have questions.

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Webmaster level: All

Creativity is an important aspect of our lives and can enrich nearly everything we do. Say I'd like to make my teammate a cup of cool-looking coffee, but my creative batteries are empty; this would be (and is!) one of the many times when I look for inspiration on Google Images.


The images you see in our search results come from publishers of all sizes — bloggers, media outlets, stock photo sites — who have embedded these images in their HTML pages. Google can index image types formatted as BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG and WebP, as well as SVG.

But how does Google know that the images are about coffee and not about tea? When our algorithms index images, they look at the textual content on the page the image was found on to learn more about the image. We also look at the page's title and its body; we might also learn more from the image’s filename, anchor text that points to it, and its "alt text;" we may use computer vision to learn more about the image and may also use the caption provided in the Image Sitemap if that text also exists on the page.

 To help us index your images, make sure that:
  • we can crawl both the HTML page the image is embedded in, and the image itself;
  • the image is in one of our supported formats: BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP or SVG.
Additionally, we recommend:
  • that the image filename is related to the image’s content;
  • that the alt attribute of the image describes the image in a human-friendly way;
  • and finally, it also helps if the HTML page’s textual contents as well as the text near the image are related to the image.
Now some answers to questions we’ve seen many times:

Q: Why do I sometimes see Googlebot crawling my images, rather than Googlebot-Image?
A: Generally this happens when it’s not clear that a URL will lead to an image, so we crawl the URL with Googlebot first. If we find the URL leads to an image, we’ll usually revisit with Googlebot-Image. Because of this, it’s generally a good idea to allow crawling of your images and pages by both Googlebot and Googlebot-Image.

Q: Is it true that there’s a maximum file size for the images?
A: We’re happy to index images of any size; there’s no file size restriction.

Q: What happens to the EXIF, XMP and other metadata my images contain?
A: We may use any information we find to help our users find what they’re looking for more easily. Additionally, information like EXIF data may be displayed in the right-hand sidebar of the interstitial page that appears when you click on an image.

Q: Should I really submit an Image Sitemap? What are the benefits?
A: Yes! Image Sitemaps help us learn about your new images and may also help us learn what the images are about.

Q: I’m using a CDN to host my images; how can I still use an Image Sitemap?
A: Cross-domain restrictions apply only to the Sitemaps’ tag. In Image Sitemaps, the tag is allowed to point to a URL on another domain, so using a CDN for your images is fine. We also encourage you to verify the CDN’s domain name in Webmaster Tools so that we can inform you of any crawl errors that we might find.

Q: Is it a problem if my images can be found on multiple domains or subdomains I own — for example, CDNs or related sites?
A: Generally, the best practice is to have only one copy of any type of content. If you’re duplicating your images across multiple hostnames, our algorithms may pick one copy as the canonical copy of the image, which may not be your preferred version. This can also lead to slower crawling and indexing of your images.

Q: We sometimes see the original source of an image ranked lower than other sources; why is this?
A: Keep in mind that we use the textual content of a page when determining the context of an image. For example, if the original source is a page from an image gallery that has very little text, it can happen that a page with more textual context is chosen to be shown in search. If you feel you've identified very bad search results for a particular query, feel free to use the feedback link below the search results or to share your example in our Webmaster Help Forum.

SafeSearch

Our algorithms use a great variety of signals to decide whether an image — or a whole page, if we’re talking about Web Search — should be filtered from the results when the user’s SafeSearch filter is turned on. In the case of images some of these signals are generated using computer vision, but the SafeSearch algorithms also look at simpler things such as where the image was used previously and the context in which the image was used.
One of the strongest signals, however, is self-marked adult pages. We recommend that webmasters who publish adult content mark up their pages with one of the following meta tags:
<meta name="rating" content="adult" />
<meta name="rating" content="RTA-5042-1996-1400-1577-RTA" />

Many users prefer not to have adult content included in their search results (especially if kids use the same computer). When a webmaster provides one of these meta tags, it helps to provide a better user experience because users don't see results which they don't want to or expect to see. 

As with all algorithms, sometimes it may happen that SafeSearch filters content inadvertently. If you think your images or pages are mistakenly being filtered by SafeSearch, please let us know using the following form

If you need more information about how we index images, please check out the section of our Help Center dedicated to images, read our SEO Starter Guide which contains lots of useful information, and if you have more questions please post them in the Webmaster Help Forum

Posted:
Webmaster Level: All

You can now use Google search to find SVG documents. SVG is an open, XML-based format for vector graphics with support for interactive elements. We’re big fans of open standards, and our mission is to organize the world’s information, so indexing SVG is a natural step.

We index SVG content whether it is in a standalone file or embedded directly in HTML. The web is big, so it may take some time before we crawl and index most SVG files, but as of today you may start seeing them in your search results. If you want to see it yourself, try searching for [sitemap site:fastsvg.com] or [HideShow site:svg-whiz.com]

If you host SVG files and you wish to exclude them from Google’s search results, you can use the “X-Robots-Tag: noindex” directive in the HTTP header.

Check out Webmaster Central for a full list of file types we support.

Posted:
Webmaster Level: All

Sitemaps are an invaluable resource for search engines. They can highlight the important content on a site and allow crawlers to quickly discover it. Images are an important element of many sites and search engines could equally benefit from knowing which images you consider important. This is particularly true for images that are only accessible via JavaScript forms, or for pages that contain many images but only some of which are integral to the page content.

Now you can use a Sitemaps extension to provide Google with exactly this information. For each URL you list in your Sitemap, you can add additional information about important images that exist on that page. You don’t need to create a new Sitemap, you can just add information on images to the Sitemap you already use.

Adding images to your Sitemaps is easy. Simply follow the instructions in the Webmaster Tools Help Center or refer to the example below:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
  <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"
   xmlns:image="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1">
  <url>
    <loc>http://example.com/sample.html</loc>
    <image:image>
        <image:loc>http://example.com/image.jpg</image:loc>
    </image:image>
  </url>
</urlset>


We index billions of images and see hundreds of millions of image-related queries each day. To take advantage of that traffic most effectively, take a moment to update your Sitemap file with information on the images from your site. Let us know in the Sitemaps forum if you have any questions.

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Webmaster Level: All

What's our take on watermarked images for Image Search? It's a complicated topic. I talked with Peter Linsley—my friend at the 'plex, video star, and Product Manager for Image Search—to hear his thoughts.

Maile: So, Peter... "watermarked images". Can you break it down for us?
Peter: It's understandable that webmasters find watermarking images beneficial.
Pros of watermarked images
  • Photographers can claim credit/be recognized for their art.
  • Unknown usage of the image is deterred.
If search traffic is important to a webmaster, then he/she may also want to consider some of our findings:
Findings relevant to watermarked images
  • Users prefer large, high-quality images (high-resolution, in-focus).
  • Users are more likely to click on quality thumbnails in search results. Quality pictures (again, high-res and in-focus) often look better at thumbnail size.
  • Distracting features such as loud watermarks, text over the image, and borders are likely to make the image look cluttered when reduced to thumbnail size.
In summary, if a feature such as watermarking reduces the user-perceived quality of your image or your image's thumbnail, then searchers may select it less often. Preview your images at thumbnail size to get an idea of how the user might perceive it.
Maile: Ahh, I see: Webmasters concerned with search traffic likely want to balance the positives of watermarking with the preferences of their users -- keeping in mind that sites that use clean images without distracting artifacts tend to be more popular, and that this can also impact rankings. Will Google rank an image differently just because it's watermarked?
Peter: Nope. The presence of a watermark doesn't itself cause an image to be ranked higher or lower.

Do you have questions or opinions on the topic? Let's chat in the webmaster forum.

Posted:
Webmaster Level: All

We recently introduced a new feature on Google Image Search which allows you to restrict your search results to images that have been tagged for free reuse. As a webmaster, you may be interested in how you can let Google know which licenses your images are released under, so I've prepared a brief video explaining how to do this using RDFa markup.



If you have any questions about how to mark up your images, please ask in our Webmaster Help Forum.