In a new video released by Google in January 2020, John Mueller explained how image search rankings work. He also provided a list of technical factors that can help Google better rank your images.
The first tip was to provide high quality images. But, what is meant by “high quality”? And, why did Mueller put this tip first versus how to get “found” in image search?
“High Quality” defined
A good website image is more than one that “looks good,” as high quality involves a number of factors.
When designing new websites or pages, we always ask for high quality images straight from the camera versus photos that have already been cropped, compressed, resized, etc.
Images need to be at least one megabyte (MB) and at least 2400 px wide. We prefer to work with large sized files because they allow for greater adjustments, then upload them at the correct optimized size for your website. (Google doesn’t want to see a page with five or ten MB images.)
Photographs should be in the jpeg format, which allows us to adjust the compression in order to achieve a good balance between fast loading and image storing.
In addition to these technical factors, you also want to consider the image itself. Factors that go into a high quality image include:
Avoid distractions in the background or items that make the image (or the person or your company) look bad. Even the clothing people wear, such as plaids or stripes, can be distracting.
Other distractions include dust, lint, hair, etc. on people’s clothes or reflections on eyeglasses or display monitors.
People in photos should look natural not staged, and images shouldn’t be overly photoshopped. (Of course, if someone has a blemish or wore a shirt with a spot on it, you can and should remove these distractions.)
Correct lighting can go far in making an “ok” photo subject look great. Over or under exposed images make it difficult to clearly see the subject; flash can add harsh shadows or unnatural colors. And, in the manufacturing environment, ceiling or machine lighting can change the color spectrum, giving your photos a green or yellow tint.
High quality photos align with your brand. If your message states you provide cutting edge technology, then your photos need to reflect this versus showing dated offices, facilities, etc.
High quality images build on Google’s E-A-T
Google recommends using original images. Why? Because they help communicate what Google calls E-A-T: Expertise, Authority and Trust.
If I come to your website and can see your expertise because you’ve cared enough to use original photos to show you’re real, that means a great deal. I want to see what you’re making and know that you have the expertise to tackle my project.
Your website does more than sell your products, services and your business – it also sells people on the reasons why they should do business with you. Original, high quality images build this trust in a way stock photos cannot.
Manufacturing is all about trust and relationships. If people can see what it’s like to work with you and the people behind the products, they feel confident in contacting you.
Image Do’s and Don’ts
- DO ensure your website uses responsive images. This means that the site will serve the correct image size and format depending on the screen size.
- DO hire a professional industrial photographer to take your photos. A professional photographer can ensure all the things you can’t: correct lighting, composition, staging, etc.
- DO work with your website designer / marketing consultant to create the shot list a few days before the photographer arrives. You’ll save time and money and ensure your photos communicate your message.
- DON’T embed text inside of an image. The search engine bot can’t read it and it scales down too small to read on phones. And, if you want to change the image or text, it’s more work. Instead, overlay text on an image using code.
- DON’T place text over busy backgrounds as the text can become difficult to read or gets lost in the busy-ness.