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How to Create an Image Sitemap for Google?

How to Create an XML Image Sitemap?

By
James Gibbons
Image Sitemaps

Have you ever made a sitemap for your website, thinking it'll guide search engines to your content? While XML sitemaps are great for structured text content, they simply can't capture the richness of images. It can lead to high bounce rates as search engines struggle to index your visuals properly.

That's where image sitemaps come in. They act as a visual map for search engines, ensuring your visuals get the recognition they deserve. In this blog, we will learn why image sitemaps are important and how to create one for your website.

What is an Image Sitemap?

An image sitemap is a specific type of XML sitemap used to provide search engines with information about the images on a website. They help search engines understand the images on a website.

Just like a traditional sitemap directs search engines to crucial web pages, an image sitemap provides rich insights into your site's images.

Search engines, while smart, struggle to interpret images as humans do.

They rely heavily on text & metadata for context. An image sitemap helps bridge this gap by offering details like captions, geolocation data, and titles. It makes every image detail accessible to search engine crawlers, leading to better image indexing.

While most major search engines, including Google and Bing, support image sitemaps, it is important to note that not all search engines do. Therefore, you must check the documentation of each search engine you wish to target to ensure that they support image sitemaps. It will help you to tailor your SEO strategy based on the search engines used by your target audience.

Importance of Image Sitemaps for Google & SEO

1. Enhance Search Engine Visibility: Google highly values unique visual content. By optimizing your image sitemap, you make it easier for Google's web crawlers to discover & rank your website higher on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

2. Increase Organic Traffic: Images in search results boost click-through rates. An image sitemap allows Google to index your images effectively, appearing in image-based searches and driving more organic traffic to your site.

3. Elevate User Experience: An image sitemap helps Google understand your image's context & relevance and serve it to specific users. It leads to longer session times, lower bounce rates, and higher conversions.

4. Streamline SEO Strategy: A well-structured image sitemap helps fine-tune your SEO strategy by feeding Google with additional image details like captions, geolocation info, and titles. Regularly updating your sitemap keeps your visual content fresh, relevant, and optimized for SEO.

Image Sitemap vs Regular Sitemap

Regular sitemaps & image sitemaps serve different purposes and provide different information to search engines. Let us learn how they are different:

Feature Image Sitemap Regular Sitemap
Focus Provides information about the images on the website. Provides information about the URL structure of the website.
Purpose Helps search engines understand the content of images on the site. Helps search engines crawl and index web pages.
Structure Uses XML format with specific image tags. Employs XML format with URL tags.
Elements Contains information such as the image URL, title, caption, and geographic location. Includes information such as the URL, last modified date, and priority of each web page.
Benefits for SEO Improves image ranking in image search results. Ensures efficient crawling and indexing of web pages.
Suitability Ideal for websites with many high-quality images. Essential for all websites regardless of image content.Limitations
Limitations There's a cap on the number of images you can include in a single sitemap. Google, for example, accepts a maximum of 1,000 images per sitemap. Regular sitemaps have a limit of 50,000 URLs and must not exceed 50MB when uncompressed. Additional sitemaps must be created if the site has more URLs or is near the file size limit.

Why Google is Not Indexing Your Images?

Google's bots are programmed to spot & index images on your website. They do this by crawling your site's HTML code and marking image tags for further review. These tags have an 'src' attribute that helps bots find the image file and an 'alt' attribute that describes the image's contents. That's how Google identifies images.

The most common reason why Google isn't indexing your images is likely because they're not being discovered. It could be largely due to the absence of an image sitemap on your website.

Think of it this way: embarking on a road trip without a map might still get you to your destination, but the journey becomes much smoother and more efficient with proper directions. The same principle applies to Google indexing your images.

Google employs your image sitemap to understand and index the images on your site more accurately. It enhances the image's visibility in image search results.

Do You Need an Image Sitemap?

Technically, Google can and will discover images on your site without any image sitemap. However, an image sitemap is highly recommended to ensure maximum visibility and indexing accuracy.

If your website has minimal image usage or if images are not crucial to your user experience, you may not need an image sitemap. But if your site is image-heavy or in an industry where visuals are crucial, like real estate, e-commerce, design, or travel. In that case, image sitemaps are a major SEO advantage, driving more organic traffic and boosting your SEO efforts.

Are Image Sitemaps a Ranking Factor?

Google states that sitemaps are merely a way to inform search engines about the pages on a site they might not otherwise discover. But they don't directly boost a site's search engine ranking. Even though image sitemaps are not a direct ranking factor, they still hold significant value.

As a roadmap for search engine bots, image sitemaps help them find and index your images more effectively, even those buried deep in your site's structure. Including details like location, title, and caption increases the chances of your images appearing in searches. It boosts user experience, drives more traffic to your site, and gives you a better ranking on SERP.

Steps to Create an Image Sitemap

Step 1: Complete Website Inspection

Begin your journey by conducting a comprehensive inspection of your website. Ensure that all images on your site are properly optimized & adhere to best practices for image SEO. It includes using descriptive file names, relevant alt text, and high-quality images. Also, during this inspection, identify any issues with image loading speed or broken image links.

Step 2: Create a List of Image URLs

Once your website inspection is complete, the next step is compiling a list of all the image URLs you have found. This list should be comprehensive & organized in a standard format such as a CSV or an Excel sheet.

Step 3: Add Image Information to the Sitemap

Once you have the list of image URLs, it's time to enrich your image sitemap with relevant information. Each image entry should include essential details such as image title, description, license information, and geolocation data (if applicable).

This additional information provides search engines with context, improving the overall understanding of your images. It ensures that search engines can crawl & index your images correctly, enhancing your image indexing capability.

Step 4: Validate the Sitemap in Google Search Console

Before submitting your image sitemap, validate it to ensure compliance with XML standards. Use tools like the Google Search Console or online XML validators to identify syntax errors or issues. Here are the steps to validate your image sitemap in GSC:

1. Start by logging into your Google Search Console account.

2. Select the specific website property for which you have created the image sitemap.

3. Go to the Sitemaps section by clicking the 'Sitemaps' tab in the left-hand menu.

4. Now, at the top of the Sitemaps page, you'll find a field titled 'Add a new sitemap.' Type or paste your sitemap URL into this field.

5. After adding the sitemap link, click the 'Test' button to validate your sitemap.

6. Check test results to see whether your image sitemap has any errors or warnings.

7. Correct the errors & ensure that all the URLs are valid and the formatting is correct.

Validating the sitemap helps prevent potential indexing problems, ensuring search engines can interpret the information accurately.

Step 5: Submit the Sitemap to Search Engines

The final step involves submitting your validated image sitemap to major search engines like Google and Bing. Use the respective search engine's webmaster tools or search console to submit the sitemap.

This submission lets search engines know about your sitemap. It assists them in discovering & facilitating quicker indexing of your images and enhances their visibility in search engine results.

Best Practices for Creating an Image Sitemap

Optimize Image Filenames for Relevance

Ensure image filenames are descriptive & keyword-rich to give search engines a clue about the image's content. When naming your image, avoid vague filenames such as "IMG001.jpg" and use more descriptive ones like "sunflower-field.jpg."

Optimized image filenames aid search engine crawlers in understanding the image content, which is otherwise invisible to them. It makes the image more likely to appear in relevant image search results, potentially increasing site traffic.

Learn the best practices to optimize images here.

Implement Alt Text for Accessibility and SEO

Alternative or alt text is a brief description that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load or is viewed by screen reading software.

This alt text can be added to your site's HTML code by including a brief description in the alt attribute of the IMG tag. For example, the description could be "a beautiful sunset over a calm lake." This description should concisely & accurately reflect what's in the image without keyword stuffing.

The impact of implementing alt text on your SEO is twofold. It improves website accessibility for visually impaired users & provides search engines with context about your images, improving visibility in image search results.

Use our free tool to generate SEO-friendly image alt text.

Utilize Image Captions for Context

Image captions, like filenames and alt text, are very important for image SEO. However, they have a different function compared to alt text. While alt text helps describe the image to search engines and people with visual impairments, image captions help people who can see the image & understand it better.

Writing an effective image caption is straightforward; simply provide a brief explanatory text directly below the image. The caption should enhance the overall content, emphasizing key points or offering extra insights.

By providing additional information, these captions encourage users to engage more deeply with your content. Search engines interpret this increased engagement as a signal of your content's high quality and relevance, potentially improving your site's ranking.

Leverage Image Structured Data

Structured data is a specific coding language used on web pages to give search engines a clearer understanding of the content. It provides additional details like the photographer, copyright information, and license status when applied to images.

To utilize structured data, consider using the ImageObject type from schema.org. It lets you directly add key properties like description and licensing to your site's HTML code. Always follow Google's guidelines when implementing structured data to ensure an effective SEO strategy.

These structured data can lead to richer search results, boosting your visibility on SERPs and increasing click-through rates & overall traffic to your site.

Learn how to implement structured data here.

Compress Images for Faster Loading

Consider compressing images when creating an image sitemap. High-resolution images, without compression, can slow down your website, negatively impacting your SEO since loading speed is a crucial ranking factor.

To do this, leverage tools like Photoshop or online platforms like TinyJPG to reduce your image file size without compromising on its quality. It improves your site's loading speed, reduces bounce rates, and increases dwell time. All these factors signal a high-quality website to search engines and can potentially boost your SERP ranking.

Learn how to optimize images for page speed here.

Ensure Up-to-date Image Sitemaps for Improved SEO

In conclusion, image sitemaps are vital in enhancing your website's visibility in search results. They act as a guide for search engine bots, aiding in the effective crawling & indexing of your website. This, in turn, indirectly contributes to your SEO strategy by enhancing user experience, increasing engagement, and reducing bounce rates.

To ensure your image sitemap is accurate & optimized, multiple steps should be followed regularly. However, maintaining an image sitemap manually can be challenging and prone to errors. An SEO platform like Quattr seamlessly manages this process for you.

Quattr can help you identify potential sitemap errors and assist in rectifying them for optimal search engine performance. By consistently updating your image sitemap with Quattr, you can maximize your website's visibility and significantly boost your SEO strategy.

Enhance the Effectiveness of Your Image Sitemaps Using Quattr!

Test Drive Quattr

Image Sitemap in GSC FAQs

How often should I update my image sitemap?

You should update your image sitemap whenever you add, remove, or modify images on your website. It ensures improved web crawling & indexing by search engines.

What are the common mistakes to avoid while creating an image sitemap?

Avoid neglecting the inclusion of necessary tags in the sitemap & the use of unsupported file formats. Ensure all images are accessible to search engine crawlers and the sitemap adheres to XML protocol for successful image indexing in GSC. Refrain from linking to redirected URLs, which can cause problems while finding image indexing in GSC.

Can I include images hosted on a third-party site in my image sitemap?

Yes, you can include images hosted on a third-party site in your image sitemap. However, ensuring that you have the necessary permissions to use those images is important. Additionally, including third-party images may impact the loading speed of your site, which can negatively affect user experience and SEO rankings.

About The Author

James Gibbons

James Gibbons is the Senior Customer Success Manager at Quattr. He has 10 years of experience in SEO and has worked with multiple agencies, brands, and B2B companies. He has helped clients scale organic and paid search presence to find hidden growth opportunities. James writes about all aspects of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical SEO.

About Quattr

Quattr is an innovative and fast-growing venture-backed company based in Palo Alto, California USA. We are a Delaware corporation that has raised over $7M in venture capital. Quattr's AI-first platform evaluates like search engines to find opportunities across content, experience, and discoverability. A team of growth concierge analyze your data and recommends the top improvements to make for faster organic traffic growth. Growth-driven brands trust Quattr and are seeing sustained traffic growth.

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