Google Image Search

Using a photo for your website? Then it is first important to check whether this photo is royalty-free: using Google Image Search is therefore an absolute must. What is Google Image Search and how exactly do you use it? You have come to the right place on this page for clear explanations.

What is Google Image Search?

Google Image Search is a service that allows users to search for specific images on the Internet. This service makes it possible to make the origin of images clearer, making it easier to detect misuse of photos.(1)

Using Google Image Search

It is quite easy to use Google Image Search. All you have to do is drag an image to the Google images search bar. Here it does not matter where the image comes from: from the browser or from your computer’s desktop. Then press search.

Another option is to search by URL of the image. Google Chrome and Firefox are two Web browsers that have developed special plugins to make using Google Image Search even easier.

The impact of Google Image Search on SEO

Google Image Search does not directly have much impact on the SEO of a Web site or page. However, it may be a way for people to find a website based on an image. The use of this service today is mainly for detecting misuse of photos: it is therefore important to use only your own or royalty-free photos. (2)

How do you get more out of Google Image Search as an SEO specialist?

WayExplanation
1. Use relevant, high-quality imagesGoogle prefers high-quality images that are relevant to the associated content.
2. Use descriptive file namesThe image file name helps Google understand the content of the image, so make sure it is descriptive and relevant.
3. Optimize your alt textsAlt texts are essential for Google to understand what an image is about, and can help rank your image in image search.
4. Make use of image titlesImage titles can provide additional context for an image and can help it rank in Google image search.
5. Use image sitemapsAn image sitemap can help Google find and index your images, which can lead to increased visibility in image search.
6. Optimize the dimensions of your imagesImages that are too large can slow down the loading time of your site, while images that are too small can be of low quality, both of which can negatively affect your ranking in image search.
7. Compress your imagesCompressed images load faster, contributing to a better user experience and higher rankings in Google image search.
8. Use structured dataStructured data, such as schema markup, can give Google more information about your image and can help improve your ranking in image search.
9. Use relevant captionsCaptions can provide additional context for your images and can help rank your image in image search.
10. Make your images shareableImages that can be easily shared on social media can generate more visibility and traffic.
How do you get more traffic from Google Image Search?

Google images vs. Google Search

Indeed, the algorithm of Google Images works somewhat differently than the algorithm of Google Search (Google Search), although both aim to deliver the most relevant and useful results to users. These differences are mainly due to the unique nature of visual content and how users search for it.

Google search vs. Google Images: Key differences

  1. Content Interpretation: Google Search focuses primarily on textual content and uses algorithms to assess the relevance of Web pages based on keywords, quality of content, user experience, and other SEO factors. Google Images, on the other hand, must interpret visual content, which requires a different set of technologies, such as computer vision and machine learning, to understand and categorize an image’s content.
  2. Search intent: The intent behind searches may differ between Google Search and Google Images. Users searching for images are often looking for visual content that represents a specific idea, product, or concept, while text searches may be broader and focused on information searches, purchase decisions, or navigational goals.
  3. Ranking factors: Although there is overlap in ranking factors between Google Search and Google Images, such as website relevance and authority, Google Images places more emphasis on factors specifically related to the image itself. This includes the file name, alt text, the context in which the image is used (for example, the text around the image on a web page), and image size and format optimization.
  4. Use of meta data: Metadata plays a crucial role in how images are indexed and ranked. Well-optimized images with relevant alt texts, titles, and descriptions can perform better in Google Images.
  5. Image recognition technologies: Google Images makes extensive use of advanced image recognition technologies to analyze image content. This allows it to find and categorize similar images based on visual characteristics, even if the accompanying text or metadata is limited.

In what ways does Google analyze images?

Google goes through a number of steps when analyzing an image (on a technical level).

  1. Optical Character Recognition (OCR): Google uses OCR technology to detect and interpret text in images. This technology can recognize text in different fonts and styles, even within complex graphics. OCR in Google’s context is not just about identifying letters and words; it also includes understanding the context of the text in the image, allowing the system to provide relevant search results based on the text analyzed.
  2. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: Google applies advanced machine learning models and AI to analyze images. These systems have been trained on huge datasets of images and their descriptions, enabling them to recognize patterns, objects, scenes and even actions within images. Google’s Cloud Vision API is an example of how this technology is being used to analyze images for various applications, including the ability to assign labels to images, perform face detection, and even interpret the emotional state of individuals in images.
  3. Image recognition and classification: In addition to OCR, Google uses image recognition technologies to identify and categorize an image’s content. This process includes detecting objects, recognizing landscapes, identifying animals or people, and more. The technology can also interpret the general context of the image, which helps improve the relevance of search results.
  4. Metadata analysis: Google also analyzes image metadata, such as file names, alt text, and surrounding text on the Web page where the image is hosted. This information helps Google better understand the relevance and context of an image.
  5. User interaction and feedback: Google also uses data on how users interact with images in search results, such as click rates and how images are shared or embedded on the Web. This user feedback helps refine and improve the search algorithms.

By combining these technologies and methods, Google is able to develop a deep understanding of images and effectively integrate them into their search results. This not only improves the user experience by providing more relevant search results, but also makes information more accessible that would otherwise remain hidden within the confines of non-text file formats.

So can Google read the text in an image?

Yes, Google has the ability to recognize and interpret text in images, which is part of their broader vision of analyzing and understanding images. This process, often called Optical Character Recognition (OCR), allows Google to “read” text within images and use this information in their search algorithms. This helps improve search results and make information embedded in image formats more accessible.

Does Google recognize duplicate images?

Google detects duplicate images by using sophisticated techniques and algorithms that identify not only exact copies, but also very similar images. This process helps improve the search experience by preventing search results from being flooded with identical or nearly identical images. Here are some techniques Google likely uses for detecting duplicate images:

Techniques for detection of duplicate images

  1. Hashing: Google can create a digital fingerprint or “hash” of images. By comparing these hashes, Google can quickly identify exact duplicates. This technique works well for identical images, but may miss variations or edited images.
  2. Visual analysis: Using machine learning and image processing techniques, Google can analyze visual features of images, such as colors, patterns, shapes, and textures. By comparing these features, Google can find not only exact duplicates but also images that are very similar.
  3. Perceptual hashing: A more advanced form of hashing, perceptual hashing, allows images to be compared based on how similar they are visually, rather than just relying on identical digital files. This means that even if an image has been edited (for example, cropped, changed color, or scaled), the algorithm is still able to recognize the image as a duplicate.

Ways to avoid detection of duplicate images

  1. Creating original content: The best way to avoid duplicate detection is to use unique and original images created specifically for your website or content.
  2. Customize existing images: If you must use existing images, try to edit or modify them significantly to make them unique. This may include changing the composition, adding text or graphics, or adjusting the colors and contrasts.
  3. Use watermarks or branding: Adding watermarks or branding to your images can help distinguish them from other versions that may be circulating on the Internet.
  4. Optimize meta information: Make sure you use relevant and unique alt texts, file names and other meta information for your images. While this does not directly help prevent visual duplicate detection, it does add to the unique identity and SEO value of your images.

It is important to remember that Google’s goal with detecting duplicate images is to improve the quality and diversity of search results. By focusing on creating and using unique, high-quality images, you can not only avoid duplicate detection but also improve the overall visibility and performance of your content in Google.

Duplicate content and Google Images

The impact of duplicate content, including images, on ranking within Google Images (and Google Search in general) can be significant. Google strives to provide users with the most relevant and useful results, and this includes avoiding repeated content that can diminish the search experience. The following is an explanation of how duplicate images and the use of stock photos can affect search rankings. (3)

Duplicate images

  1. Reduced visibility: If the same image appears on multiple websites, Google may choose to show only one version of that image in search results to reduce redundancy. This means that if your website is not considered the original source, your version of the image is less likely to be shown, resulting in reduced visibility.
  2. Distribution of value: When multiple copies of the same image are indexed, this may result in a distribution of value (e.g., links or traffic) across these different copies. This can lower the potential for an image to rank highly because the “votes” (e.g., backlinks) are spread across multiple versions.
  3. SEO impact: While duplicate content (including images) does not necessarily result in a penalty from Google, it can affect a website’s SEO performance. Google’s algorithms try to select the best content for display in search results, and unique, relevant content is generally preferred.

Use of stock photos

  1. Less distinctiveness: Stock photos are often used on multiple websites, meaning they offer little distinctiveness. This can reduce the likelihood that your images will stand out in search results, especially if competitors use unique, customized images.
  2. Potential impact on relevance: While the use of stock photos is not in itself negative for SEO, the use of non-relevant or generic images can reduce the overall relevance of your page for certain searches. This can indirectly affect your position in both Google Search and Google Images.
  3. Ability to personalize: Customizing stock photos (if allowed by the license) can help increase uniqueness. Adding unique elements, such as branding or text, can make the image more distinctive, which can be positive for search engine visibility.

Duplicating images with a new name and alt attribute

Simply duplicating an image and giving it a new filename and alt attribute is unlikely to have much impact on its visibility in Google Images. While using descriptive file names and alt text are good practices for SEO, Google’s algorithm is sophisticated enough to recognize that the underlying image has not changed. The key to increased visibility is the originality and relevance of the content.

How do I view duplicate content (for images)?

This can be done in the following way (I always use Google Lens for this).

Google Lens is an advanced image recognition technology developed by Google that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to identify and interpret objects, text and other visual elements within photos or via a smartphone’s camera in real-time.

Here it is possible to click on image source search. Then you will see the overview below (when (almost) duplicate images are present).

Here you can see that there are many (almost) exact matches for the image I use on my home page.

From my own experience I can say that when an image is basically a duplicate of another image, it is almost impossible to change it in such a way that it is no longer recognized as a duplicate.

I myself have tried blurring images, adding overlays, adding new colors you name it, I have not managed to pass the “Google Lens” test.

You can also see this partially reflected in this in the images to the right. I created a new image for each city along with the city’s flag “to make it unique.” This did not work out unfortunately.

My advice

Using Google Image Search certainly offers possibilities: it makes finding the origin of images a lot easier. Using a particular image on your website but first knowing the source? In this case, we recommend using Google Image Search, which makes finding this out a lot easier.

Resources

  1. Google Images. (s.d.). https://images.google.com/
  2. Image SEO Best Practices | Google Search Central | Documentation | Google for Developers. (s.d.). Google For Developers. https://developers.google.com/search/docs/appearance/google-images
  3. Bailey, J. (2019, Oct. 23). Duplicate Images and Google. Plagiarism Today. https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2019/10/22/duplicate-images-and-google/

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Google Image Search?

Google Image Search allows you to look up specific images on the Internet. This service can also be used to clarify the origin of certain images. This will also help detect misuse of photos.

What is the impact of Google Image Search on SEO?

Google Image Search by itself does not have that much impact on SEO. It could be a way for people to find a website based on an image. However, the service is primarily used to detect photo misuse. Therefore, always use your own photos or photos that do not have rights.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
Five stars
My clients give me a 5.0 on Google out of 75 reviews

I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 19 April 2024. The last update of this article was on 19 April 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.

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