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Is it worth changing domain to boost Image Search rankings?
webwonderment



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 3:42 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have a domain that's about 6 years old and features mainly images. It did OK getting decent visitor numbers through organic image search but this as of the end of last year and all this year it's dropped to about 20% of what it used to be in terms of visits. Is is worth doing a full domain change and rebrand? It still pulls in some ad revenue but only a fraction of what it used to. I've also done a search for site:domain.com on Google Image Search and most pics are not there.

 

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 5:09 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

IMO, your problems lie more with content (or lack thereof), not with the domain. I'm by no means an expert in the competitive image search area... but image sites I've seen where there have been drops in ranking generally provide absolutely no text clues to Google regarding what the content is about.

Images that rank seem most often to rank because they're included in pages that rank because of text content. I have seen exceptions to this, and haven't fully identified the reasons... except to say that these sites seem to have a following beyond Google traffic, and that their links are natural.

Beyond this, their structures appear to provide enough clues to Google that Google can figure out what types of sites they are. Image galleries, with nothing else to drive them, though, have generally fallen.

Conjecture here... that the quality and uniqueness of the images also has something to do with it. There does seem to be a popularity factor that pushes up the images that rank well over time.

webwonderment



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 5:59 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

There isn't much text content - mainly just a one-liner that describes the pic. Surely that's all that is needed to search for because that's all it is.

Images that rank seem most often to rank because they're included in pages that rank because of text content


Either that or they're a big authority site - like a big newspaper/media outlet. Images should be ranked by popularity surely? Unique & popular - high ranked. I've seen images that are rubbish for a term but high ranked because they're on a big media company website. It just isn't fair.

I don't see the point in filling the pic page up with some pointless article just to boost the image. IMO people are not remotely interested in the text of these pages when they search for an image.

Image galleries, with nothing else to drive them, though, have generally fallen.


Search engines turning into content providers? Don't rank a gallery - because our search is an actual gallery. Not fair.

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 6:08 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

Nobody promised fair.

If you change the domain name and nothing else, you probably will end up with the same issues you're having now.

I dunno, Google Image Search has always seemed so scattershot and discombobulated to me that it's hard to think it would be something you could depend on to drive traffic. But I'm no image expert either.

What do the users do when they come to your site via image search? Download? Buy? Submit their own images?

webwonderment



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 6:28 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

What do the users do when they come to your site via image search? Download? Buy? Submit their own images?


They view/download the image. Maybe look at others.


What is a bigger ranking factor? Domain or content? I'm starting to think domain, that's I'm why considering the shift. The usual suspects are always top ranked - to me that says domain. The content on these pic pages of 'authority' domains is usually drivel but that's just my opinion.

RedBar

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 6:33 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

and all this year it's dropped to about 20% of what it used to be in terms of visits.


Of all the gallery owners I've contacted and articles I've read this is about the average drop since Google's image grab of January 28th 2013.

Check your logs and see if that's when you first started to notice the reduction in visitors, if so, there's your answer.

Do you have your images watermarked? A few months ago Google's image SERPs started deleting/not ranking many images with watermarks.

The good news is that this week's Panda roll-out seems to have changed the image SERPs as well as the regular SERPs, I've not been able to do a full analysis of it yet but I have definitely seen an improvement with image rankings however I have thousands of images and need a good few days to check my gut feelings about this.

With this in mind I am launching a site over this weekend with a couple of hundred images just to see precisely how they perform, if at all.

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 9:10 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

What is a bigger ranking factor? Domain or content?


User experience is the new black.

webwonderment



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 9:27 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

Do you have your images watermarked? A few months ago Google's image SERPs started deleting/not ranking many images with watermarks.


Nope, no watermarks.

The images simply dropped in the ranks, then now there's very few in the index.

Winds me up when I see sites like fansshare.com getting added 24/7 when they use watermarking, probably have copyright issues and get ranked high with some images. It makes a joke of legit sites.

GoogleBot-Image is visiting the pics but nothing is being added to index. I have added images to GWT sitemap - still nothing added. What the heck is going on? It's beyond frustrating. There used to be thousands in the index, now there's a handful - anyone have any idea why?

piatkow

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Msg#: 4673517 posted 10:01 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

Checking the image search results for one of my mail photo galleries I found that they no longer seemed to rank images in blocks from the same site. As I was ranking quite well on that search before I found one photo had moved up and the rest moved down.

webwonderment



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 10:50 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

User experience is the new black.


Very subjective that one though.


Is there anyone on here who knows anyone at Google who can help me with this? I've put so much work in and I'm at a complete loss.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 11:56 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

Is there anyone on here who knows anyone at Google who can help me with this?

ROFL. ;)

This is probably Matt Cutts' most recent video on the topic... and while I don't think you'll find it immensely helpful, it does clarify the basics that images need text to rank, and that your pages need to look good....

Does Google still need text to understand my site?
Matt Cutts - Mar 20, 2013
trt 2:14

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji05CqWi3ws [youtube.com]

There isn't much text content - mainly just a one-liner that describes the pic. Surely that's all that is needed to search for because that's all it is.

I'd say more text rather than less. A lot depends on what kind of site it is. If you have a site with, say, photos of famous people, and you're simply adding their names and place, that isn't telling us much that would be considered unique and useful. Every competing site is going to have that much.

You've got to go way above and beyond, IMO, in terms of the kind of site you have and how the text and images work together. I think that either the text provides a commentary on the image... or the image provides kind of a commentary on the text... or perhaps they're equal... but IMO the text has to contribute substantially to page, and the combination needs to engage the visitor.

Some types of sites feature amazing images that create social buzz... but even in those cases there's anywhere from a paragraph to a page about the image, and the site often has a social following. For images I don't search for but rather "discover", I'm essentially finding them via shares on Facebook or Twitter... occasionally via emails from friends.

JD_Toims

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 12:22 am on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

Beyond text, alts are important, especially when the image is the content of the page -- Google is essentially a screen reader, so IMO the best way to find a good alt is to think about describing the image to someone who cannot see the image.

http://www.w3.org/html/wg/drafts/html/CR/embedded-content-0.html#alt

lucy24

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 12:55 am on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

The usual suspects are always top ranked - to me that says domain.

Well, sure, but you're not planning to change your sitename to Amazon or wikipedia are you?

Is there anyone on here who knows anyone at Google

Heh. Netmeg, remember the guy from Saudi Arabia or something like it that was asking how much it would cost to buy google?

GoogleBot-Image is visiting the pics but nothing is being added to index.

How do you know? (That was a serious question.) indexed != ranking. What comes up when you do an exact-match search?

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 2:12 am on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

Heh. Netmeg, remember the guy from Saudi Arabia or something like it that was asking how much it would cost to buy google?


ork ork, yes.

But seriously, webwonderment, in case you didn't know, there's no support like that at Google. You can go over to the Google webmaster forum and maybe get the attention of someone, but it's unlikely. Google just doesn't work like that. Everything they do has to scale for a gazillion people, not just one.

It's unfortunate that you've put so much work in, but that's one of the big issues with search engine traffic - no matter how much or how little work you put in, ultimately you have pretty much no control.

tangor

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Msg#: 4673517 posted 3:23 am on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

Images sites have a tough row to hoe. The images either need to be VERY SPECIAL and NOT FOUND ELSEWHERE to rank (which won't last long as every other pic site out there will rip you off), or will need to be a very different version of the same thing others might have. ie. Not the Mona Lisa, but a pic of DaVinci PAINTING the Mona Lisa. Again, that won't last year end year out.

Image sites that do seem to maintain and hold fair ranking/visits have more text description and/or full articles written about a group of related images (think NASA or Museums, etc.)

Everyone is really interested in what G does, because they are so large, but have you looked at your Bing traffic? Any changes there? If no change then the difference is at G... and as noted above, image and watermark took a G hit last year.

webwonderment



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 12:15 pm on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

This is probably Matt Cutts' most recent video on the topic... and while I don't think you'll find it immensely helpful, it does clarify the basics that images need text to rank, and that your pages need to look good....


Thats video is more about OCR though. But I take your point that text is ultimately how they rank.

I'd say more text rather than less. A lot depends on what kind of site it is. If you have a site with, say, photos of famous people, and you're simply adding their names and place, that isn't telling us much that would be considered unique and useful. Every competing site is going to have that much.


To me that's just like spam. It's bulking up an image with saturated fat. Images can only be described so much - the image itself explains itself (if that makes any sense :) )

Beyond text, alts are important, especially when the image is the content of the page -- Google is essentially a screen reader, so IMO the best way to find a good alt is to think about describing the image to someone who cannot see the image.


ALT and TITLE are always filled with "[what the pic is] pic".

How do you know? (That was a serious question.) indexed != ranking. What comes up when you do an exact-match search?


What do you mean by exact-match? The <title> in quotes? When I do a site:domain.com search for the last few months, nothing comes up.

But seriously, webwonderment, in case you didn't know, there's no support like that at Google. You can go over to the Google webmaster forum and maybe get the attention of someone, but it's unlikely. Google just doesn't work like that. Everything they do has to scale for a gazillion people, not just one.


I understand they need to appear formal and impartial. Just wish they'd rank things on merit and be a bit more transparent.


It's unfortunate that you've put so much work in, but that's one of the big issues with search engine traffic - no matter how much or how little work you put in, ultimately you have pretty much no control.


Yep the SEO lottery. I've been doing this for about 11 years now - at times it's well worth it - and it's those times that makes it worthwhile continuing. But at the moment, with no images even being indexed, my Admob disabled for no reason (largely pointless making apps there now), and bills to pay, it's fair to say I'm a bit peeved. Especially when all I've done is work hard. Then add the salt to wound of cheats getting probably 100's of clicks - some off my own work & hotlinkers, it makes it all hard to stomach.

Image sites that do seem to maintain and hold fair ranking/visits have more text description and/or full articles written about a group of related images (think NASA or Museums, etc.)


I think that's more to with the domain than the text. Authority sites get a big boost regardless. I think everyone should get an equal chance and not just because they're a name.

Everyone is really interested in what G does, because they are so large, but have you looked at your Bing traffic? Any changes there? If no change then the difference is at G... and as noted above, image and watermark took a G hit last year.


Bing has indexed many and they are in there and well ranked. But Bing traffic is a small percentage of Google, plus they're not as generous with the 'view page' functionality. No there's no watermarks at all.

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 1:13 pm on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

Are your images pretty much unique to your site?

webwonderment



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 2:13 pm on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

Are your images pretty much unique to your site?


Yes.

roshaoar



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 2:56 pm on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

I don't think it's worth changing domain. For my sites, images tend to be ranked in image search largely according to the strength of the page they're on, a strength based on all the usual things like backlinks etc.

Images aren't well done by Google. Google doesn't understand images in the way it understands and computes links, titles, backlinks etc, and Google's image search has never made a great deal of sense to me really.

FranticFish

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 3:39 pm on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

I stress that I have no direct experience, so part or all of what follows might be useful (as in it'll work) or useless. I was asked to read up on image SEO fairly recently and here are my notes on things to do...

Basic Attributes / Properties

1) alt text (and title text)
Last I tested myself Google notices alt text; title is another accessibility attribute that can be used on other elements. Cannot hurt.

2) file name
This should be similar or identical to the alt tag, with perhaps a product code at the start (if you are using these).

3) file size vs quality
Load time may be a factor in the algorithm (although not likely a major part). Specifying a width & height can speed up load time.

Image vs Page / Site Optimisation

1) caption / title next to image (HTML5 has specific markup for this), and
2) context / position on the page
Closely related; it's important that the image be surrounded by text that places it in the appropriate context, and a caption or title (or both) is recommended. Belt and braces approach: a title or name visible immediately above or below it, and a caption that becomes visible when image is moused over.

3) directory structure
If images are named usefully and descriptively, they should also be stored in folders with appropriate and helpful names.

4) strictly limit other graphics in the page
Any decorative / template images that only provide a framework for the content should be loaded via CSS, and any buttons should also be styled in CSS rather than being images.

5) avoid serving images from a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
... if this means that the images are not seen to belong to the root domain – N.B. this is a very contentious point.

The majority of above points are directly confirmed in Google’s own guidelines - https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/114016?hl=en [support.google.com]

Advanced attributes & other stuff

1) longdesc
This is a pretty much forgotten attribute that is deprecated in HTML5, but I can see scope for using it. As the name implies, you insert some code into the image tag that links to a page where the image is described in detail. More information at [d.umn.edu...]

2) EXIF and other types of image metadata
Far from certain that adding metadata to images will help in Google. Although Google has started displaying metadata next to images in some instances, testing results I've seen didn't support the viewpoint that there's an advantage to be had by including descriptive text and keywords. However it does allow 'digital watermarking'.

3) Off page and off-site activity
Just like links to pages help those pages in Google, links to images do the same. DOn't wait for teh scrapers, share low-res / smaller versions widely on Flickr etc, and using metadata for the images might help Google see who the owners of the high quality versions are.
.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 5:37 pm (utc) on May 24, 2014]
[edit reason] made Image Guidelines link clickable [/edit]

lucy24

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 7:10 pm on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

What do you mean by exact-match?

Drag the image itself into the image-search box, or use the Upload button. If your identical image is indexed, it will come up.

ALT and TITLE are always filled with "[what the pic is] pic".

The identical text? Why?

Both are for users, and they're mutually exclusive: "alt" is displayed when the image isn't visible; "title" is for when it is visible. It is rarely appropriate to have the same content for both.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 8:35 am on May 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

FranticFish - great post. Thanks for sharing that research.

ALT and TITLE are always filled with "[what the pic is] pic".

One important difference between the "alt" and the "title" attributes that affects this discussion.... While the "alt" attribute is used to some degree by search engines, the "title" attribute is not (at least, not the last time I tested it).

The weight that the engines give the "alt" attribute is ambiguous. Some years back alt text was so widely misused that Google went through a period where it didn't use alt text at all. This changed after a while, and it was again noticed that "alt" text was having an effect... in image links... similar to the effect of text link anchor text, but not as strong. Folk wisdom put the weight of image link alt text as roughly half that of a text link. The weight of unlinked image alt text at the time was even less.

The "title" attribute can be used in a variety of elements. I used to use it for users as kind of a tool tip for text links, to help motivate click throughs... but there's no SEO gain expected.

Note, though, that the title attribute appears to be falling out of favor with W3C, as currently posted here....

http://www.w3.org/html/wg/drafts/html/master/dom.html#the-title-attribute

Note: Relying on the title attribute is currently discouraged as many user agents do not expose the attribute in an accessible manner as required by this specification (e.g. requiring a pointing device such as a mouse to cause a tooltip to appear, which excludes keyboard-only users and touch-only users, such as anyone with a modern phone or tablet).

Again, it needs to be said that onpage text is likely to do better than either of these attributes.

webwonderment - I appreciate your idealism about not padding your images with text, but regarding your assumption that Google should be able to rank images without it...

the image itself explains itself (if that makes any sense

It makes sense, but, within the capabilities of current technology, it's not remotely possible. It was big news about two years ago that Google took a network of 16,000 processors, turned them loose on ten million YouTube thumbnails for three days, and that, unprompted, they self-trained to identify the face of a cat. This was "hailed as a triumph in machine learning".... [theatlantic.com...]

If your images are "pretty much unique to your site", as you say, the problem is most likely harder. When you say that you "just wish they'd rank things on merit", I'm wondering what you expect them to accomplish without text... or at least without text that's visible and on the page.

webwonderment



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 12:05 pm on May 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

Drag the image itself into the image-search box, or use the Upload button. If your identical image is indexed, it will come up.


Ahh I've done that and some do show up - but why aren't they in the site:domain search?

I was asked to read up on image SEO fairly recently and here are my notes on things to do...


Thanks FranticFish that's very helpful.

It makes sense, but, within the capabilities of current technology, it's not remotely possible. It was big news about two years ago that Google took a network of 16,000 processors, turned them loose on ten million YouTube thumbnails for three days, and that, unprompted, they self-trained to identify the face of a cat. This was "hailed as a triumph in machine learning"....


I've done a bit of facial detection and recognition and it's pretty complicated. I think Google do do a bit in their search - there's pics in there of people who look like the query but aren't and the query text isn't prominent in the pic's web page.

If your images are "pretty much unique to your site", as you say, the problem is most likely harder. When you say that you "just wish they'd rank things on merit", I'm wondering what you expect them to accomplish without text... or at least without text that's visible and on the page.


The pics are targeted to the phrase that they are - that's all. A pic is 'Red Widget' then I'm targeting 'Red Widget' in the SERPS. If the search engine thinks that a pic is worthy of a higher position if there's padded text in it, then I think it's daft. I've seen high ranked pics with nonsensical text - it's opens the door to spam.

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 12:35 pm on May 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

Who is ranking for your keywords if you aren't? Do you have competitors? Authority sites? It's not just unique and popular, there's also trust and authority.

webwonderment



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 1:43 pm on May 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

Who is ranking for your keywords if you aren't? Do you have competitors? Authority sites? It's not just unique and popular, there's also trust and authority.


Big media companies, spammers, some bloggers. There are some gallery type sites there - I'm getting the feeling the site is on some kind of automatic action - like GWT manual action but done automatically by software. If I could find out, that would be great - but I have no way of knowing. Why does a site drop for no apparent reason, when it's clear that the pics are good and popular?

not2easy

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 2:16 pm on May 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

It might well be related to automatic actions via algorithm adjustments like Panda. The guidelines for image sites that were posted above tell you the same things you have heard here from others....

Google Image publishing guidelines
https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1140166 [support.google.com]

The idea to change your domain name won't change the guidelines and so seems like looking for a different way than those guidelines specify. The guidelines apply to all sites, not all sites except your good and popular image site. I'm sure that if you read and follow their instructions you can regain your rightful position at the top for your images. The longer you delay implementing the changes, the longer you will wait to climb in the rankings.
.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 5:29 pm (utc) on May 24, 2014]
[edit reason] Made link clickable [/edit]

webwonderment



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 4:02 pm on May 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

Thanks not2easy thats a useful link. Most of that is already implemented but there are some very useful tips in there.

I've seen more stolen images in the search. Can it be that difficult to define an original as the first one found and all the others should be deranked? Well I write software so I know that would be straightforward. I'm starting to think something fishy is going on. So much work I've done, and thieves and hotlinkers are getting the credit. How can google possibly justify this?

not2easy

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 5:04 pm on May 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

Do you have copyrights for the images on your site? If you do, and if they are in violation of your terms posted then you can request removal via DMCA. If you have not posted any copyright terms I would start with that. A good place to look is at the wikipedia article on CC Licenses [en.wikipedia.org...] which are frequently used for online images which the copyrights holder wishes to share online. Just putting a copyright line on your page does not spell out any specific copyright terms on the images on that page. If you want to have images online and some reasonable expectation that others won't copy and use them, you do need to make that clear on your site. If you have no established copyrights and policy or terms on your site it makes trying to enforce your rights more difficult. If you are not the creator of the images you can't enforce copyright for them. Search engines don't attempt to establish ownership of images.

lucy24

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 7:30 pm on May 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

Just putting a copyright line on your page does not spell out any specific copyright terms on the images on that page.

Conversely, omitting a copyright line does not put your material into the public domain.

webwonderment



 
Msg#: 4673517 posted 1:54 pm on May 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

The images are from free-to-air TV. Going through frame-by-frame spending endless time manually editing them. The copyright is probably with the broadcaster/ programme maker but I'd imagine seeing that all they do is promote their programmes then there's no issue AFAIK. Its work promoting the programmes and the people in them. I don't mind sharing as long as theres credit. Sites hotlinking and stealing without credit AND getting ranked way above is just not right.

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