From today, Google's search algorithm will be prioritising websites based on their use of visual content, particularly those using images, videos and GIFs.
Google analyst Zineb Ait Bahajji announced the update on the official Google Webmaster blog, and said it will be rolled out over the next few weeks. The impact is due to be “significant”, with Google claiming it could have as big an effect on rankings as the previous Penguin or Panda updates.
The update will be page-by-page and happen in real time. Pages will be given a text to visual ratio, based on the number of pieces of visual content in relation to the number of words.
Google hinted at a focus on images, in particular GIFs, last week, when instead of responding in the expected fashion when a journalist asked for comment, they simply replied with this GIF:
The journalist originally dismissed this as a sassy, non-committal response, and posted the article without the GIF. But Google later got in touch and specifically asked for the GIF to be included as their comment.
This was Google's first subtle hint that images were about to get more significant.
We already know that blog posts with images get 94 per cent more views than those without, so it was only a matter of time before Google started to use images as a ranking factor to encourage views.
How to use more images
While there are still over 200 ranking factors that Google takes into consideration when ranking pages, with relevance and authority still playing a big part, there is no harm in including more images in your posts to maximise your chance of better search results.
1.Ensure every page on your site has at least two images
The update will calculate the average number of images per page across all pages on the site, so it’s important to ensure every page on the site has at least two images. This includes contact pages, services pages, FAQ pages and any other pages you have on your site. Be creative with images as much as possible, as well as with your alt tags: when Google crawls your site it will only see that something is a video or an image, but not what it is a video or content of.
2. Prioritise GIFS where possible
If images are good, GIFs are even better when it comes to the update. It has been rumoured that different types of images are prioritised on a “points system”, with small, static images receiving the lowest number of points, and GIFs and videos receiving the highest number of points. Giphy is the best place to go for GIFs online, and it even has a Chrome extension.
Happy April Fools' Day! Unfortunately, Google won't be prioritising websites based on the number of images but visual content is still very important to your content strategy. Our last two points still stand - they're both great ways to generate more interest in your content.
3. Go beyond stock photos
There is no issue as far as Google is concerned with stock images, but they can get boring and repetitive. Take a look at our post Beyond stock photos for some great resources on where to find more interesting images. Because even though this update is all about Google, you shouldn't forget the actual people looking at your content.
4. You don’t have to be a designer to create great unique images
We love Buffer’s tool Pablo for creating images for blogs and social media, like this:
Want to read about all of Google's previous algorithm updates? Make sure you check out our post on Google's algorithm updates. And if you need help with understanding SEO and the importance of images, get in touch today.