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Image Search

July 11th, 2014 by Erick

Whenever we think of search engine optimization we generally think about how elements like content, links, title, and so forth affect page rankings. One of the elements that doesn’t get a lot of attention is images. For page-level searches images probably do not add very much weight. We know to add alt tags, but that is more for accessibility than SEO. There have been a lot of questions as to whether Google could pull text out of images — they are one of the leaders in OCR after all and use scanning technology extensively in their Google Books project — but all tests to date indicate that they are not incorporating text elements contained in images into their algorithm.

One piece of information in photos that does appear to be used is the Exif meta data associated with the image file. This information normally appears in photos taken with digital cameras and can tell things like date, resolution, and technical aspects of the camera and software used to produce the photo. Tools like Adobe Bridge can be used to add further meta information such as the subject of the photo, people or places shown, and an open description where you can put whatever keywords you want. We do know that Google can access this information, so we should be using it and making sure to give our pages every bit of optimization we can.

I asked our graphics specialist about whether Photoshop had the ability to put this meta information into images produced there, and he indicated that it does not. For those, then, we would need to make use of tools like Adobe Bridge and put in important contextual information. This would be especially important for things like logos and page feature photos.

Beyond what this can do for our page rankings, let’s also think a bit wider. Google also offers a specialized image search. You don’t even have to explicitly go to that function, most returns that have closely related images have prominent “Images For” link right there on the search returns page. Looking at the images returned for a search on “Texas A&M University” shows almost none of them from our sources. Many people look at images and then click through to the page containing one they are interested in, so optimizing images as well as pages, then, could give a second avenue to our content.

Friday, July 11th, 2014 Search
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2 Comments to Image Search

  1. Good discussion of EXIF as part of Google’s Image Search index! In addition to providing EXIF and good alt text (which Google does look at, somewhat, in combination with nearby page copy), it’s also worth mentioning that filenames can have an impact: Google would be happier with sunflower.jpg than 1938fsZds.jpg if someone’s looking for sunflower photos, at least in theory.

    At the risk of being pedantic, Photoshop does indeed have the ability to view and edit EXIF info: it’s under the File > File Info menu (or you can use the Option-Command-Shift-I keyboard shortcut if you’re into tortuous keyboard shortcuts :)

  2. Adam Norwood on July 13th, 2014
  3. You can also edit EXIF data in Windows under File Properties. Matt Cutts of Google has a video of how they might use the information: http://youtu.be/GMf6FmRus2M

  4. Michael on July 14th, 2014

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