Google is now displaying a “Licensable” badge in image search results on photos that can be purchased for legal use on other websites.
“… with a seemingly infinite number of images online, finding the right image to use, and knowing how to use that image responsibly, isn’t always a simple task.
After collaborating closely with image creators, stock image providers and digital content associations, we’re launching several new features on Google Images to address this need.”
After selecting an image with a “Licensable” badge, Google will show a link to the license details of the image.
Google will also display a link to where the image can be purchased/licensed, as long as the provider has published such information.
Google’s ability to display image license details is entirely dependent on the publisher to provide the information using structured data markup.
This change is being made to promote responsible use of images on the web, Google says:
“We believe this is a step towards helping people better understand the nature of the content they’re looking at on Google Images and how they can use it responsibly.”
Image Licensing Structured Data Markup
Google announced it was beta testing image licensing information in search results back in February – a full 6 months before being officially rolled out.
The update was announced well in advance to give site owners time to prepare their content by marking it up with the required structured data.
In order for images to display licensing information in search results, the site where the image is published must be using image license structured data.
Site owners can add the required markup either with structured data or IPTC photo metadata.
Further instructions, and exact code snippets, can be found in Google’s official developer document.
Metadata should be added to each licensable image on a site.
Site owners can verify the markup has been implemented correctly using Google Search Console as well as the Rich Results tool.
Support for testing image license structured data was added to both tools at the end of July.
We are happy to announce 📢 support for Image License structured data 📸 in Search Console in addition to the Rich Results Test tool. Read more about Image License at https://t.co/aqMap8bEby and about the Search Console report at https://t.co/8pVYPCW6Oy pic.twitter.com/rJ8Huh33Kp
— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) July 30, 2020
How to Find Licensable Images
If you’re on the hunt for licensable images in search results, Google is making it easier to find them.
You can now filter image search results to only include images with licensing information.
You can select either images that have Creative Commons licenses, or those that have commercial or other licenses.
The new search filter can be found in the Usage Rights dropdown menu on Google Images.
See an example below:
No Impact on Search Rankings
Utilizing image license structured data is entirely optional.
Deciding to use it, or not use it, will have no impact on search rankings.
Google’s John Mueller assured site owners of this back in February:
No, this is not about SEO / ranking. The linked developer documentation has more information.
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) February 20, 2020
Google’s Danny Sullivan commented on this in February as well, saying the markup is just for letting site owners highlight licensing information. There’s nothing more to it than that.
It's about letting site owners highlight licensing information.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) February 20, 2020
So this is something extra you can add if you want, or disregard if it’s not applicable or you have more important SEO work to do.