If you are using lazy loading images – images that are located below the fold but will not load on the page until they are in the viewable portion of the screen – you should be aware that they probably will not be indexed by Googlebot.
Lazy loading images have become more popular as webmasters become more concerned with load speed times for webpages and to reduce server load and bandwidth usage. However, it could have negative implications when it comes to being indexed by Google.
The question raised was “What is Google’s point of view regarding lazy loading images for below the fold content. Is Googlebot able to trigger lazy loading scripts and view all images on the page for SEO purposes?”
John Mueller from Google tackled this question in a Google Webmaster Hangout last year and states that lazy loading images can definitely have issues when it comes to Googlebot crawling and indexing them for image search.
This is a tricky thing, so on the one hand you can test this with fetch as Google in webmaster tool, you can check the render view to see what they’re able to pick up, it only shows the first page load though. So if there are images that are below the fold or that are lower on your page and that are only loaded when the user actually scrolls down to that part of the page, then I could imagine those are things that Googlebot might miss out on. Because we’re not going to scroll to all possible locations of the page just to see if anything else changes on this page.
So if there are images that you need to have indexed for image search and you have them on the page, I’d make sure they are either embedded directly with the normal image tag so that we can load them directly and use them as a normal landing page for image search or that they are really high up on the page so that it’s also clear to us that we should both this right away and also cleared the user when these search and go from image search to your page that this is actually the relevant landing page.
So from that point of view, if you want to have those images index I’d just make sure they load on the first page view. If you don’t care if they’re indexed, where you say “well if users come here with these images, that’s fine, but if they don’t come with those images, that’s also not that bad,” then may be leaving them below the fold and lazy loading them is a possibility as well.
Chances are we won’t be indexing those for image search though. We might index them separately but it’s not something that we index directly with that specific landing page.
Mueller does have a solution for those who have this issue but don’t want to change from lazy loading images.
What you could do in cases like that is have specific image landing pages. Wikipedia does this for example in that they have images embedded within the individual articles, but they also have landing pages for these individual images that are linked from the main article. If we could follow that link to that image landing page then we could index that image landing page and show that one in search.
This of course does raise the issue of thin content on these pages – after all, not everyone has the power of Wikipedia behind them. But Wikipedia’s image landing pages often come up when doing a Google image search, but their image landing pages do have a lot of content on them. Here is a image landing page at Wikipedia for the Google logo, with 730 words on it, not include Wikipedia’s own navigation.
If you don’t care if your images are searchable in Google Image Search, it isn’t a big deal. However, because images search results are showing up with greater frequency in the first page of regular Google search results, you may want to rethink your image loading strategy. According to Mozcast, 29% of searches include image results.
Also worth noting is that lazy images are not usable in Google+ when Google+ visits the page for grabbing a thumbnail and snippet for a Google+ posting. So if one of your lazy loading images is one you would want used for a thumbnail in social media sharing, you will need to change its loading.
Here is the video
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