There isn’t much information about image search (apart from how to optimise images, but this is usually for on-page rather than the SERPs,) so this episode comes with great anticipation.
Roxana Stingu heads up SEO at Alamy, a mammoth stock photo website.
For image search in particular, there are a lack of tools. There are tools that show rankings for images in the SERPs but no visibility of the rankings in image search / tab. Google Search Console therefore became the main tool for impressions and clicks and that’s scary because it’s an estimate or aggregated data that cannot be measured properly and you don’t know how much to rely on it either.
The lack of information on image search means Roxana was searching the web for university papers and thesis’ that mention image search which she can adapt for experiments and apply it in an SEO way. She shares how she found a paper from Beijing Technology University looking at eye tracking experiments (contact me and I’ll let you know where you can find it.) It explains how most of the world reads left to right and that it’s expected to see most clicks on the left side mostly but it’s interesting that for images, this falls onto the middle. Roxana wanted to test this for herself because position 1 in image search may therefore no longer have the best weighting in terms of clicks, like the first position in a classic link. After some tests, Roxana found that this wasn’t the case for her, perhaps because although people do look in the middle, they still tend to click on the first image first.
As mentioned above, it’s hard to track one image or separate keywords so Roxana tends to look at a group of keywords and aggregated topics. She can’t track 1 image because Alamy hit over millions of images so Roxana looks at a collection for example. Invest in tools because Roxana has asked for amends from Sistrix, SearchMetrics and SEMrush. You can currently see rich packs and image thumbnails within the search engine results pages (SERPs) but not the image search itself but she’s hoping that it’ll come soon!
There are theories out there that may be all right BUT in different circumstances. Speak to your web developers to see what’s possible and what AB testing is available to you. Can you test in sections or are you able to make amends with one page? Etc.
In August 2020 an update meant a small tag in the corner of an image now appears which means the image that you’re looking at requires a license to be used.
This is done with structured data or direct code embedded in the image. It’s more for users and publishers so that they can see the website that the image is from. From a Google point of view, they’re protected and educating users how they can use imagery.
Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.