The latest search results display algorithm from Google has been showing videos as part of search results for a while now, but what's happened recently is that Google's Alerts have started to show images next to the content description. From personal experience these images have been part of the content, usually found at or near the top, and been labeled as to image content in both the image file name as well as the alt tag.
See below for an example from one of our sites -
Google's Testing the Waters with Images in Search Results
As Google tends to test the waters with its sub products before rolling out changes in the all mighty search results, this testing of images in its Alerts product is a good bet that we'll soon see images next to search result descriptions. As Google did with its acquisition of YouTube where it used this huge repository of videos to populate search results, the images in Google’s image indexing are just waiting to be similarly used in its search results. However, Google has been quietly adding functionality to its image search engine that would be perfect for integration into search results, such as:
- Preview before Click, where by hovering over the search results you can quickly and easily preview the related content;
- Exploring Visually, where you see searches and concepts related to your search visually; and
- "Related Searches”, for previews of a new set of results with clickthrough to see full results for that search.
Why Images in Search Results are Important
Easy answer! Pictures are not only worth a thousand words but have been proven to be the most engaging of media when compared to text, videos or links - this means that if your search result has a picture it is more likely to be clicked on than those with only text. For example, Web Liquid's study of 16 brands with 3.5 million fans compared types of Facebook content to see which was most engaging. The conclusion: images received the most engagement, while both photos and videos drew more engagement that simply text and more than double engagement than links did!
Another example of Google’s rollout of images as part of search results is its recent showing of author images next to certain search results. The thought is that certain authors, read authorities, have gained a reputation for reputable and authoritative content, and association of that content with their picture is an easy means of visitor determination of content relevance and in turn authority … as has been said “Google is piloting the display of author information in search results to help users discover great content.” Can there be any doubt that images will be the next means utilized by Google to discover “great” content associated with those images?
Visual Storytelling is on the Rise
Visual storytelling is about the art of telling a story through the use of sequential imagery. Communicating through images predates written language and is a powerful means to convey complicated or extensive concepts quickly and clearly. Now couple this visual storytelling concept with traditional text to further explain, corroborate, convince, and you have a very powerful communications medium. Can it be any wonder then why Google would not include images in their search results, right next to the text that further explains, corroborates, convinces?
Using Images & Pictures Saves Search Time
This pairing of images and text in search results also makes sense from a clear time saving perspective - it's much easier to scan pictures and images and get a rough idea of the context of a piece of content than having to read even the headlines of search results. To a great extent Google could be going back to the tried and true precepts of journalism that utilize an enticing picture as a segway to the content that adds further context and engagement.
Now is the time to Tag your Image Content
The Opportunity is now! As many SEO (search engine optimization) experts know, getting a 1st page Google result is harder than ever. Google’s search and indexing algorithm continues to evolve and search results real estate are now showing “blended” search results with videos towards the top of the first page which in turn push down traditional web results. Although this enthusiasm for video results is making more competition for fewer traditional search results, Forrester Research found that videos were 53 times more likely than traditional web pages to receive organic 1st page rankings. A move towards image results would likely have the same effect, in pushing traditional text-only content further down and perhaps even off the page.
The essential takeaway is to have images as part of every post. But not only any images will do! Images with proper descriptions in the file name and alt tags so as to be indexed by Google and the other search engines, as reinforcing the content within which the images were found are more likely to be useful and acceptable to the Google searchbots and in term the search ranking algorithm. Image SEO is often referred to as similar to optimizing images for blind people. For instance, keywords in the surrounding text, keywords in the image file name, keywords in the “alt” tag and a decent image size of more than 300px. This would be a clear early mover advantage!