Google’s John Mueller provided a detailed answer about how Google chooses to rank images and videos in the search results.
The question was about how Google chooses to show images in the search results pages (SERPs).
Here is the question:
“I’ve seen a lot of times I got some image results when I search for a search term. How does Google identify that images is good for showing in the results?”
John Mueller didn’t mention search intents. It was kind of implied in the answer. What was really interesting is his description of how Google’s system takes a query and processes it.”
“In general, what happens when we show multiple kinds of search results on a page, such as kind of that image box and the normal text results, sometimes the video results as well, that comes in kind of…
so essentially what happens when someone types in a query on Google is we send that query to a lot of different indexes a lot of different search systems within Google.
And we try to send it out to as many of these systems as possible on the one hand so that we get answers from them.
On the other hand, that we also get quick results… the web results come back really quickly and images take a longer time because I don’t know, somehow images are a bit slower today. Then at least we have the web results that we can show.
But essentially we send it out to all of these different systems and the systems tell us how relevant the results are that they have.”
I just want to pause right here and highlight his use of the word relevant. Sometimes we think in terms of keywords when thinking of relevance.
But clearly in the context of this next part of his answer, relevance means what the user is actually looking for (an answer, an image, a video, etc.).
“So the image search system might come back and say, oh… Image results are, hmm… kind of important for this query and here’s a set of images that I have for that.
And if we get the web results back and the web results say, oh, web results are super relevant for this query, then we might show the web results and not the image results.
On the other hand, if we hear back from these different systems and they say, oh, image results are super important for this query and the web results are kind of okay as well, then we will almost certainly show kind of an image one-box somewhere in the search results.
It might be on top if we think that’s super critical, it might be somewhere in the middle, anything like that.
And the same thing happens for video and I imagine for the different other types of one-boxes and things that we have as well… I don’t know, maybe Top Stories, I don’t know how all of that flows in.
But essentially all of these different systems come back to that one central place and say, here are my results and here’s how relevant I think they are.
And based on that we try to figure out which of these elements we should show.
So that’s kind of how the images flow in there. It’s not that someone is manually saying, oh we should show images for this query and not for that one.
It’s really these systems are trying to understand how relevant the results are that they can bring back and based on that we try to make an automated decision.
And that’s also why this can change over time, where if you search for something now, then maybe we won’t show images. And if we recognize that everyone is actually looking for images for this query, then over time we will start showing images in the web search results as well.”
How Google Ranks Web Pages, Images and Videos
Mueller makes it clear that if people show preference for images, that’s what Google is going to show. And that act of showing people what they want to show, that’s the context of his use of the word, relevance.
Also, of interest is how all these different algorithms are working independently on answering the query and then labeling them with a relevance score which is used to determine where on the search result page to show these different kinds of results.
Watch John Mueller Answer How Google Ranks Images and Videos in Search