Does Google Read Text in Images? NEW Evidence Says Yes!

Does Google Read Text in Images? NEW Evidence Says Yes!

At some point in every SEOs career, they've likely told a client they should not put text in images because Google can't read them, but is this still the case?

I have found conclusive evidence that Google does indeed use character recognition to scan images for text! Is it perfect? Can it read all types of text? No, but here's the proof that Google is indeed doing this.

Google does in fact read text from images

Back in February 2017, I wrote this blog post. The blog contained an image of a screencapped Gmail window:

alt text in images

If you refer back to this post, you will see that I was a very very bad SEO in that I did not name the image file or include any alt text! Tisk tisk! Amazingly, if you search Google Images for my colleague Nick Monardo, you will find this image in the results!

Does Google recognize text in images

When Nick showed me this, I was very surprised! To test this theory further, I decided to Google the other unique piece of text in the image: "Check out this really cool SEO tip!"

Lo and behold this image also ranked!

Google detects text in images


So there you have it. No Alt Text. The original image found on this blog post was named "st1-min.jpg," and yet we see that Google has indexed the text from the image!

It even shows in the main SERP for "Check out these really cool SEO tips!" sandwiched in between some pretty good company mind you:
OCR text even shows in the SERP

This is certainly cool, but let's not over-encourage this

There are, of course, disadvantages to placing your text in images.

  1. It doesn't guarantee that Google will index them
  2. The text is not searchable
  3. You can not highlight the text
  4. Google is not likely to rank you for anything other that a very long tail keyword
  5. It's not editable in your CMS

I can think of many more reasons, but those are just a few.

What does this mean for the future?

The fact that Google is now doing this means that it's got heavy processing power and is getting a better understanding of all media. Right now, Google is advancing with images -- could video be the next frontier? Quite possibly, but it's a huge challenge in terms of processing power, not to mention the pace at which video is being added to YouTube every day.

For SEOs, this means that you may want to consider adding some clear text in your images to supplement the content you already have.

Any other implications you guys can think of? Leave them in the comments!

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  • avatar

    First of all, congrats that you ranked this image on google and secondly thanks for sharing this awesome guide.
    But I wish to convey that it is still not clear that Google read the image or not.
    can you provide a clearer evidence apart from this,

  • avatar

    This is really great I was really confused that Google can read image content or not but you have cleared my thoughts. thanks

  • avatar

    Google is always ahead of such actions. Nobody knows about Google’s next steps.
    thanks for good information.

  • avatar

    Really? This is a fantastic news. Till recently we had to optimize the images for them to be seen in the search engines. I can now use different images for client hub. Thanks for sharing it.

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