Images are used on websites to provide more engaging experiences for users, while also presenting more information around a topic. While positive for user experience, images can cause issues for a website’s SEO and performance. Our Hangout Notes cover more insights into the impact of unoptimized images, as well as best practice recommendations from Google.

Regularly changing image URLs can impact Image Search

January 10, 2022 Source

A question was asked about whether query strings for cache validation at the end of image URLs would impact SEO. John replied that it wouldn’t affect SEO but explained that it’s not ideal to regularly change image URLs as images are recrawled and reprocessed less frequently than normal HTML pages.

Regularly changing the image URLs means that it would take Google longer to re-find them and put them in the image index. He specifically mentioned avoiding changing image URLs very frequently, such as adding a session ID or today’s date. In these instances it’s likely they would change more often than Google would reprocess the image URL and would not be indexed. Regular image URL changes should be avoided where possible, if Image Search is important for your website.

Images should also be redirected during a website migration

January 10, 2022 Source

John answered a question about organic search fluctuations after a migration. As well as checking the page differences before and after in regards to aspects like internal linking, content or structure, it’s also important to consider embedded content like images.

If you don’t redirect your old image URLs, Google needs to reprocess them again and will find them again as new because they don’t have the connection between the old and the new URL ones. He clarified that it can have a big effect if you have a lot of image search traffic. It makes sense to set up those redirects even if you’ve moved over a month or so ago.

It’s recommended to keep the same URL when converting image file formats

December 6, 2021 Source

Converting image formats (for example from JPEG to WebP) has the potential to impact existing rankings. Where possible, it’s recommended to keep the same image URLs and just swap out the files. Otherwise, Google will need to discover and index those new URLs in the same way it would for text-based content.

It can be beneficial to have a separate image landing page if you care about image search

November 17, 2021 Source

John mentioned that for Google Image Search, having a clean landing page where, if a user enters a URL, they land on a page that has the image front and center (perhaps with some additional information about that image included in text) can be really useful because it’s something that the Google systems can recognize as being a good image landing page.

For example, if yours is a portfolio website with 30 small thumbnails on it and the image from Image Search is hard to spot (or could have moved out of view), users may feel confused if they were sent there from the Image Search results page. Google Image Search works separately from normal web search and not all websites will care about it, so this may not be something that needs to be considered if you are only interested in web search.

Image sitemaps can be useful for sites that use lazy loading

November 1, 2021 Source

When “lazy loading” images on a page in a way that doesn’t include defined image elements, it’s recommended to have back-up in the form of structured data or an image sitemap. That way, Google will know to associate those images with the page even before they’re loaded.

Img Alt Text is Used for Both Web and Image Search

March 6, 2020 Source

Google treats the text in an image alt attribute as part of the page for web search, as well as information about the image itself, for image search.

Image Alt Text Should Only Describe What’s Shown in the Image

February 21, 2020 Source

Image alt text should focus on what’s shown in the image and not include other associated keywords which are not relevant to the image.

The URL Inspection Tool Can’t be Used to Test Images

February 21, 2020 Source

Google needs to be able to find clean image tags pointing to the image URL with a proper source attribute, which can be affected by lazy loading and responsive image loading based a device. You can’t test images directly using the URL inspection tool, but you can check the rendered HTML to see if the image links are being recognised.

Keep One Version For Image File Names Rather Than Having Multiple Translated Versions

January 22, 2020 Source

John recommends against creating translated file names for images and instead keeping one version. Image file name is used as a small ranking signal, but the text on the page it appears on is a much stronger signal.

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