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:
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!
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!
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:
This is certainly cool, but let’s not over-encourage this
There are, of course, disadvantages to placing your text in images.
- It doesn’t guarantee that Google will index them
- The text is not searchable
- You can not highlight the text
- Google is not likely to rank you for anything other that a very long tail keyword
- 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!