5 Image Related Google Search Quality Highlights

Google announced on their blog today that 40 Search Quality Highlights had been made for the month of February 2012. While I am very much interested in the improvements to ranking for local search results (btw: I love Venice as a launch codename), I noticed 5 of the 40 updates are image related.

My interests in photography may be no secret but my study of how Google handles images is something I have not typically blogged about (I’ve covered image search in WordCamp & PubCon presentations). For me, image search is fascinating, and I was very pleased to see the 5 image (or at least 4) related updates Google announced.

I’d like to share my thoughts and you’re welcome to ignore them or disagree.

1) More consistent thumbnail sizes on results page.

We’ve adjusted the thumbnail size for most image content appearing on the results page, providing a more consistent experience across result types, and also across mobile and tablet. The new sizes apply to rich snippet results for recipes and applications, movie posters, shopping results, book results, news results and more.

My thoughts: Setting and following standards for image resizing and cropping (on your site/blog) is more important than ever. My advice is to stick to standards similar to those on your digital camera and/or camera phone. Google will adjust images regardless of how you size them but why not shorten the steps it takes to do so?

2) Expand the size of our images index in Universal Search. [launch codename “terra”, project codename “Images Universal”]

We launched a change to expand the corpus of results for which we show images in Universal Search. This is especially helpful to give more relevant images on a larger set of searches.

My thoughts: Image Search will increase so watch analytics for changes (increase or decrease) in image related traffic and make adjustments accordingly.

3) Improved detection for SafeSearch in Image Search. [launch codename “Michandro”, project codename “SafeSearch”]

This change improves our signals for detecting adult content in Image Search, aligning the signals more closely with the signals we use for our other search results.

My thoughts: Hurrah Google! Allow me to share a real world example as to why this is important by sharing a photo I took recently of Actress and Model Capri Cavanni while in Las Vegas.

Capri Cavanni

I would argue that this Capri Cavanni photo (one of many I shot while in Las vegas) is safe for work and should therefore be OK to appear in a SafeSearch Google image search. However, an image search for the name Capri Cavanni most certainly doe not display safe images (trust me on this) even when settings are set to strict.

I have an image search keyword query theory on this best saved for another day. I could share numerous examples (not today) where unsafe images get triggered when searching peoples names. I’ll watch to see what improvements take place algorithmically and hopefully there’s good news to report in March.

4) Fresher images. [launch codename “tumeric”]

We’ve adjusted our signals for surfacing fresh images. Now we can more often surface fresh images when they appear on the web.

My Thoughts: This should greatly improve the user experience. A good recent example were images that appeared when searching SOPA. While I did not take a screen shot, searching SOPA (up until recently) would exclusively return images related to soup (spelled sopa in Spanish). Today I see Stop Sopa and Blocked Content images prevail.

Stop SOPA eat SOPASOPA Image Mix Disambiguation

5) SafeSearch update.

We have updated how we deal with adult content, making it more accurate and robust. Now, irrelevant adult content is less likely to show up for many queries.

My Thoughts: Although not related directly to image search I’m including this since I think it’s closely related to number 3. I think most of us would agree that adult content (when not specifically searched for) shouldn’t be appearing in regular search results (images, text or video). Searches for bananas should be safe for all to view, even when the search query is food porn.

On the topic of food and photos, checkout this mean cheeseburger I stacked up in Hawaii. Cheers!


  1. […] blogged the other day about new image related search quality highlights being rolled out by Google. One of those changes was improved detecting of adult content in image […]