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Make Sure Google Understands Your Images Correctly

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Make Sure Google Understands Your Images Correctly

With today’s high speed Internet connections, web publishers can afford to use as many images on their sites as they want to. While making web pages attractive and attracting visitors’ attention, images help a lot in promoting the content throughout social media.

Still, judging from recent discussions webmasters should bear in mind that images should also be treated with care. What should always be taken into consideration is that images can bring your site outside the safe search Google filter even when your overall site content (including imaginary) is completely family friendly:

  • Image content is harder for the machine to “understand” than text;
  • When it comes to images and safe search, search engines seem to prefer to err on the conservative side;
  • Once your images get into safe search filter, that effects the whole site and this label ca be very hard to remove.


So the first thing a webmaster should take care of is to ensure that he provides search engines with sufficient information on what his images are about:

  • if a webmaster fails to explain a search crawl what the image is about, a search engine will have to guess;
  • those guesses will not always be correct and hence will not always impact your site correctly.

How can a search engine guess?

A Google patent application covered by Bill Slawski “comes up with a method of annotation by comparison to similar images found on the Web, and the text surrounding those similar images”. Put very simply, the process of understanding the image content looks as follows:

  • Google comes across an image but fails to find any text content explaining what the image is about;
  • The system extracts image features (shapes, colors, and textures) from the image;
  • The system then identifies other images which have similar image features;
  • The system next obtains text associated with these other images, and identifies intersecting keywords in the obtained text;
  • The system annotates the image with the intersecting keywords.

All in all, an image is associated with keywords found with other similar images. Thus, if you want to avoid any misunderstandings, make sure you provide enough information not to let Google guess.

How can a webmaster explain what the image is about and avoid any bad associations?

  • Mind the image alternative text: an alt text should be concise and descriptive (not merely consisting of keywords);
  • Stop hotlinking: someone hotlinking to your images from an adult website can get your images filtered by safe search;
  • Make sure none of your image are described (with alt text, title text or surrounding text) with “bad” words (check Urban Dictionary for any keyword negative associations);
  • If your site lists both adult and family-friendly images, separate them with two different subdirectories, e.g. www.site.com/adult-images/image1.jpg
    www.site.com/images/image2.jpg
  • [never tried the method myself and also doubt it effectiveness] some webmasters report that ICRA labels are still used by search engines especially in niches that are “on the edge” (can be both adult and family-friendly).
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Ann Smarty

Brand amd Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas

Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as ... [Read full bio]

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