Tag Archives: Google Images

Mobile-First indexing, structured data, images, and your site

It's been two years since we started working on "mobile-first indexing" - crawling the web with smartphone Googlebot, similar to how most users access it. We've seen websites across the world embrace the mobile web, making fantastic websites that work on all kinds of devices. There's still a lot to do, but today, we're happy to announce that we now use mobile-first indexing for over half of the pages shown in search results globally.

Checking for mobile-first indexing

In general, we move sites to mobile-first indexing when our tests assure us that they're ready. When we move sites over, we notify the site owner through a message in Search Console. It's possible to confirm this by checking the server logs, where a majority of the requests should be from Googlebot Smartphone. Even easier, the URL inspection tool allows a site owner to check how a URL from the site (it's usually enough to check the homepage) was last crawled and indexed.

If your site uses responsive design techniques, you should be all set! For sites that aren't using responsive web design, we've seen two kinds of issues come up more frequently in our evaluations:

Missing structured data on mobile pages

Structured data is very helpful to better understand the content on your pages, and allows us to highlight your pages in fancy ways in the search results. If you use structured data on the desktop versions of your pages, you should have the same structured data on the mobile versions of the pages. This is important because with mobile-first indexing, we'll only use the mobile version of your page for indexing, and will otherwise miss the structured data.

Testing your pages in this regard can be tricky. We suggest testing for structured data in general, and then comparing that to the mobile version of the page. For the mobile version, check the source code when you simulate a mobile device, or use the HTML generated with the mobile-friendly testing tool. Note that a page does not need to be mobile-friendly in order to be considered for mobile-first indexing.

Missing alt-text for images on mobile pages

The value of alt-attributes on images ("alt-text") is a great way to describe images to users with screen-readers (which are used on mobile too!), and to search engine crawlers. Without alt-text for images, it's a lot harder for Google Images to understand the context of images that you use on your pages.

Check "img" tags in the source code of the mobile version for representative pages of your website. As above, the source of the mobile version can be seen by either using the browser to simulate a mobile device, or by using the Mobile-Friendly test to check the Googlebot rendered version. Search the source code for "img" tags, and double-check that your page is providing appropriate alt-attributes for any that you want to have findable in Google Images.

For example, that might look like this:

With alt-text (good!):
<img src="cute-puppies.png" alt="A photo of cute puppies on a blanket">

Without alt-text:
<img src="sad-puppies.png">

It's fantastic to see so many great websites that work well on mobile! We're looking forward to being able to index more and more of the web using mobile-first indexing, helping more users to search the web in the same way that they access it: with a smartphone. We’ll continue to monitor and evaluate this change carefully. If you have any questions, please drop by our Webmaster forums or our public events.


An update to referral source URLs for Google Images

Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Google Images to visually discover and explore content on the web. Whether it be finding ideas for your next baking project, or visual instructions on how to fix a flat tire, exploring image results can sometimes be much more helpful than exploring text.

Updating the referral source

For webmasters, it hasn't always been easy to understand the role Google Images plays in driving site traffic. To address this, we will roll out a new referrer URL specific to Google Images over the next few months. The referrer URL is part of the HTTP header, and indicates the last page the user was on and clicked to visit the destination webpage.
If you create software to track or analyze website traffic, we want you to be prepared for this change. Make sure that you are ingesting the new referer URL, and attribute the traffic to Google Images. The new referer URL is: https://images.google.com.
If you use Google Analytics to track site data, the new referral URL will be automatically ingested and traffic will be attributed to Google Images appropriately. Just to be clear, this change will not affect Search Console. Webmasters will continue to receive an aggregate list of top search queries that drive traffic to their site.

How this affects country-specific queries

The new referer URL has the same country code top level domain (ccTLD) as the URL used for searching on Google Images. In practice, this means that most visitors worldwide come from images.google.com. That's because last year, we made a change so that google.com became the default choice for searchers worldwide. However, some users may still choose to go directly to a country specific service, such as google.co.uk for the UK. For this use case, the referer uses that country TLD (for example, images.google.co.uk).
We hope this change will foster a healthy visual content ecosystem. If you're interested in learning how to optimize your pages for Google Images, please refer to the Google Image Publishing Guidelines. If you have questions, feedback or suggestions, please let us know through the Webmaster Tools Help Forum.