Google’s John Mueller recently offered a fascinating insight into the kinds of images that are and aren’t properly indexed by Google Image search. Getting indexed by Google search can be important for publishers because of the traffic. Others feel that ranking high in Google search doesn’t add value. Mueller’s advice offers something for publishers of both opinions, as well as interesting clues on how Google image search works.
In a Google Webmaster Hangout, a publisher asked if it makes a difference whether an image is published using a regular image tag or by displaying an image via CSS as a background image.
The images are still indexed, but they won’t be found in Google Image Search. But for publishers who do want to have their images displayed in Google Image Search, this is a wake-up call to use standard image tags and avoid using CSS to display images as background images.
Will This Harm My Featured Snippets
One thing that’s unclear is if using images as backgrounds via CSS may keep those images from displaying in Google Answer Boxes, also known as position zero. Having an image (and content) displayed in featured snippets is important and images may play a role in obtaining those coveted position zeros.
At this time it’s unclear if using images via CSS will negatively impact obtaining a featured snippet ranking position. Until we know more, prudent approach at this time would be to use regular HTML image tags if you want those images to rank in featured snippets.
Implications for Site Auditing
I don’t know how many search marketing professionals check how images are displayed, via regular HTML image tags or CSS background images, but this may be yet another issue to look into. I myself am going to pay increased attention to the default image handling by CMS themes. If you or your client want your images to be indexed by Google Image Search, then you may wish to check how those images are coded.
What is Google Image Search
Google image search is one of several kinds of specialized searches Google provides. For some publishers, it’s an important source of traffic. But for many, it’s not a big concern. You may wish to review your traffic logs and traffic analytics to see how much traffic is coming from Google Images and if that traffic is important.