Google mobile search is a powerful traffic source for any website. The number of mobile Internet users in the world is steadily growing, so each website owner should monitor how his/her website is shown in search engines not only on computers, but also on smartphones.
Google understands that mobile search is not exactly the same as desktop, so they add here some special features that are not available on PC. Pictures in snippets became one of them: after long testing in 2016, they finally took roots in mobile search. A high-quality, bright and thematic image undoubtedly helps to increase the click-through rate (CTR) of a website in the search results.
This is how images look like in Google mobile search results
This is especially relevant for those websites that have already managed to take high positions on the first page of search results: in this case, any available means are used to make the snippet more attractive to users. While most webmasters know about Title and Description optimization, many of them still ignore the opportunity to add a picture to a snippet.
Find your website and similar competitors’ pages on Google’s mobile search results. Have you seen that at least one competitor has a picture, but you don’t have it yet? Then it’s time to act!
What are the requirements for the image?
Arto Web Agency team faced a situation where our client (a car rental website) did not have a picture in the mobile search results for the main page, although there were some images on this page. We were interested in what influences the display of images in mobile search results, and made a little research: we analyzed competitors’ pages and some other websites. Here’s what we found out.
The first thing we noticed was the aspect ratio of the picture. As it turned out for the car rental niche, the search results mostly included images with a width/height ratio from 1.4 to 1.9 (not very wide horizontal ones). Square or vertical pictures (with a ratio from 0.7 to 1) appeared much less frequently. On average, this number was 1.7.
A similar situation also was seen for informational websites. However, among online stores, square images were most often found (the ratio was close to 1).
Narrow vertical images (aspect ratio less than 0.6) and very wide horizontal images (ratio more than 2) were not seen.
On the other hand, the actual size of the image in pixels can be varied: in the search results, we found images with a size of 150 or more pixels by the smaller side. The main thing is to make sure that the picture matches the place on the page where it is posted.
Please note! No matter what the size of the image is, it is cropped to the square in the output. Therefore, make sure that the most important thing in the picture is centered.
Conclusion: to "push" a picture into the search results, you can use the aspect ratio (width to height) of 1 for online stores and 1.7 for informational or service websites as a reference point. Too wide (with a ratio bigger than 2), narrow (less than 0.6), or very small images (less than 150 pixels) are not likely to work.
Everything is simple here: images in JPEG and PNG formats have an equal chance of success. The modern WEBP format also appears sometimes (perhaps it is inferior to the first two options only because of its low popularity).
Location on page
Most often, Google selects the images that are located closer to the top of the page. If a snippet contains a picture that is below the others, this usually means that the previous images did not meet some other requirements.
Position in code
Between the two main ways of placing images in the code of a web page – via the img tag or using styles – the first option is preferred. Images from CSS can appear in snippets, but this usually happens when the page does not have any img tags.
Topics and clarity
It is likely that Google prefers images that are relevant to the topic of the page. The subject in the photo should be clearly visible, even if the image size is greatly reduced.
Online stores rarely have problems with this (there are plenty of product photos on their pages), but service websites should take care of it. For example, if you offer car rental, use images where the vehicle is clearly visible; if you provide beauty salon services, add photos of your room and service process to your landing page.
- Optimize file size. Even if the search engine processes your image that is several megabytes in size, it will still slow down the page loading. This can negatively affect not only user experience, but also search rankings.
Interesting to know! Want to know more about optimizing website loading speed? Read about how to check it and draw the right conclusions on our blog.
- Add an alt attribute. Thus, you will not only help the search engine to understand what exactly is in the photo, but also get more chances for an additional display in the image search. The attribute text should be short but precise.
- Use unique images if possible. Photos taken in your company will be a great bonus and increase user confidence, although this is not an indispensable condition.
Interesting to know! Do you have not enough of your own photos and are you looking for quality pictures for free? Then read our article about photo stocks.
In our situation, there was the car rental website’s main page, which ranked well for targeted queries, but did not have a picture in the mobile snippet. This page contained the following images:
- banners in the slider (above), that were embedded via the img tag and had aspect ratio about 2.7;
- preview pictures of services (in the center), that were embedded using styles and had ratio about 1.6;
- infographics (bottom, img tag, 1.7 aspect ratio), cumbersome and incomprehensible without text that is not part of the image.
As you can see, each of these files had some inconsistencies with the requirements that we have given above. Therefore, we added another image that met all the criteria:
This picture also served as a preview for the video, which further increased the value of the page. After a few days, we saw the result:
Want an image from your page to appear in your mobile search snippet? Then place a picture:
- at the top of the page;
- with a width/height ratio from 1 to 1.7;
- in JPEG or PNG format;
- using the img tag with alt attribute;
- with an optimized size, but not less than 150 pixels;
- thematic, understandable even in small sizes and, if possible, unique.
Also, remember that users will see your photos not only in the search, but on the page itself too. The match to site’s design and UX is just as important as the criteria above!