Google’s featured snippets are a great way to engage a user who has searched for a query in the form of a question. They serve to highlight that a website has a meaningful answer to a user’s question and prominently place an excerpt of the site at the top of a users search results along with an image. Recently, however, website owners have noticed that Google has been engaging in a practice that often marries up the text that answers the question with an image from an entirely different source.
This happens because Google programmatically employs a two-pronged approach to providing featured snippet results when a user asks a question, returning both the most relevant text content whilst simultaneously searching for a high ranking image for the search term independently. John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, recently acknowledged that this is intentional and provided some clarification as to why this is, stating simply “Sometimes there are really useful images from one site, and great snippets from another, both help the user find out more (& pick where they want to go from there).”
All well and good, but what if you have content on your site that is being used to highlight someone else’s image? It makes sense to capitalise on the exposure that the snippets feature provides without giving the user the option of an alternative source that is promoted by your great content. In this instance, it pays to be vigilant with SEO.
Here are a few tips to help you secure that snippet:
1. Source unique and relevant images to complement the text on your site, these should be placed prominently, preferably with the most important at the top of the page.
2. Include descriptive titles, file-names and Alt text. Google’s search algorithm uses this information to garner important context on the image and to make a decision on its relevance.
3. Use structured data, this enables Google to display rich snippets. When using to contextualise an image it can result in the image being given a badge. (Badges display information similar to a snippet in Google Image Search results when a user highlights the image).
4. The pictures should be high quality, blurry images are unattractive to users whilst sharp images have been shown to significantly increase traffic from thumbnails.
If you have a site that already has content being used in a featured snippet then it is already optimised to provide rich, detailed results at the top of a users search. Working on the same principles with images can yield similar results. It is worth spending some time optimising your images, especially as Google has no plans to change this practice in the near future.