|Food Recipe SERPs and Thumbnail Photos|
If I do a Google search for a popular cooking recipe, I notice that anywhere from 2-7 results on the first page include image thumbnails. I maintain a few cooking-related websites, so this brings up a few things I'm confused about.
1. If the first ten results have a relevant food photo, how does Google determine which ones consistently get a thumbnail image?
2. Some websites allow recipe reviews/ratings (5 stars, etc). Does Google factor in the number of reviews or rating quality (4.5 stars) when determining how well a recipe page should rank?
3. If a well-ranked recipe has not had a photo for years, and one is added, will Google eventually notice and add a thumbnail for that result as time goes by?
4. Some recipe websites use original food photos, others use images already on the web (stock, etc). Is Google less likely to provide a thumbnail if an image isn't original?
A lot of the answers lie in Rich Snippet markup for recipes. See Rich snippets - Recipes [support.google.com]
However, predicting what Google will do with images is dangerous ground. There are so many challenges with how Google actually indexes images that I wouldn't even guess.
DXL, your question reminded me of a discussion we had several years back about getting Google to pick up thumbnails in its News results....
Google News help - how to get thumbnails in news feed
I made some observations that the images used tended to be tightly composed close-ups. There was discussion in the thread about other image and page properties that appied to News thumbnails, which might also apply to recipe thumbnails. Size range of the original image, eg, mattered, as did position on the page.
Because recipe photos, by their nature, tend to be close-ups, I thought, therefore, that closeness might not be a distinguishing factor. I just did some recipe searches, though, and see that the thumbnails used were pulled from what I would call the most graphic and tightly composed of the images used on recipe pages. I'm guessing that photographic factors, like lighting, which might affect popularity in Image Search, are also thumbnail factors.
In the recipe thumbnails pulled, Google tends also to go for finished dishes, rather than for images of preparation.
The above noted from brief searches only, but I'm thinking it would hold.
I'm reminded of another thread touching on the question of three images in the middle of the default ten-result SERP. The tentative conclusion was that if you're potentially in the top ten both ways, they'll show either an image or a page snippet but not both.
Granted, that was several black-and-white animals ago...
|Google tends also to go for finished dishes, rather than for images of preparation |
Well, they're prettier. (Also easier to set up, since the finished product is less likely to melt, burn or curdle if you turn your back on it-- which in turn means you're more likely to achieve a pretty picture.) Though on rare occasions a video is useful: "Yes, it really is supposed to look like that at this stage."
|A lot of the answers lie in Rich Snippet markup for recipes. See Rich snippets - Recipes |
Great stuff. Odd that I never stumbled across that page when doing a Google search on the topic.
It seems just a tad complicated. I took a peek at the source code for a site that shows up as a rich snippet, and it looks a little time-intensive. I suppose it's worth the payoff, though. I may end up hiring someone to do it once to serve as a template.
|In the recipe thumbnails pulled, Google tends also to go for finished dishes, rather than for images of preparation. |
Is the algorithm that thorough that it can make the distinction?
I don't think G can recognise a finished recipe picture from one that is not just from the picture. But it is very clear that they almost always show pictures of completed recipes.
I went into this in lots of detail a couple of years ago and it seems to me that there are two key factors. First the alt tag must clearly identify what the picture is of. For example if the recipe is for beef casserole then a picture with the alt tag "beef casserole" will definitely help G to identify it as such.
If you have multiple different pictures, make sure only one has the alt tag "beef casserole". Other pictures should be clearly distinguished as not being of the subject. An example might be an alt tag of "mixing flour and water for the gravy". That way G is not confused as to which picture to use.
It also seemed to me that a key factor was that the image should have size properties - no size properties, no thumbnail.
Is it all worthwhile, because yes, it requires lots of effort? I think most definitely it is worthwhile. So many recipe sites have no pictures because they have just ripped of the recipe from another site. The public is wise to that and love to see what the finished article will look like.
|I don't think G can recognise a finished recipe picture from one that is not just from the picture.... |
You don't think the algo tastes the pictures along the way? ;)
In the news image thread, several comments suggested the image to be thumbnailed should be at the top....
|Keep the image near the top of the article. On our site we put the images right next to the Headline and the story summary, with the article appearing below the image. |
This appears to be part of the formula among the images I've seen returned. Does the presence of additional step-by-step photos make Google less likely to pull from that page... or do the alt tags and position on page suffice?
Results I've checked suggest that if an image is too large, Google won't use it as a thumbnail.
PS: Interesting to note that the thumbnailed results on some searches I've been checking are not static... and I'm seeing that Google has gone in and cropped a wider shot that was too wide as a thumbnail but was otherwise clear graphically.
|I'm seeing that Google has gone in and cropped a shot that was too wide as a thumbnail but was otherwise clear graphically. |
Count your blessings. At least that means they're playing with their own gstatic.com files instead of hotlinking to yours.