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In light of Google’s recent update to their image search, where now searchers have the ability to “visit” page rather than “view image”, is it still valuable to submit a separate image sitemap?

I think this recent change makes a ton of sense – searchers will be able to see images in the context they were originally intended to be seen in, and good for webmasters because in theory it would increase traffic to those pages the images are on. So I personally see no issue there.

What I’m specifically curious about is, if you can no longer click through to the image in isolation, and Google is always going to show images in context, does that mean they will always find images contextually too? Do they even need webmasters to go, “Hey! Here’s a separate sitemap just with my .jpg links!” if they’re just going to find/display the images within the context of their html pages?

  • Image sitemaps have the context in them. They have both <loc> tags for the pages and <image:image> tags for the images on that page. See support.google.com/webmasters/answer/178636?hl=en Image sitemaps have never been just .jpg links. – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 21 '18 at 17:58
  • XML sitemaps are never necessary anyway. They don't help with rankings and they don't usually get Googlebot to crawl and index pages it wouldn't otherwise find. Sitemaps are best at giving you extra stats in Google Search Console. See The Sitemap Paradox – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 21 '18 at 18:00
  • You have always been able to click through from Google image search to see the context. Google just removed the button to click directly to the image. – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 21 '18 at 18:01
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Sitemaps for images can help Google discover images that it hasn't discovered.

If there are pages with images on your site that Google hasn't found, or you have images on your server that aren't on crawlable pages, you can list them in your sitemaps to have Google discover them and add them to their image search results.

Google will decide to index any images that it finds on your pages or sitemaps if it thinks it's useful to have those images in its image search results.

Adding an image sitemap can give you added exposure to Googlebot in case it didn't discover the images on your pages, if you have pages on your site that Google hasn't crawled, or if you would like to give Googlebot a second chance to index your images in case it chose not to the first time that it crawled them.

The update on Google's image results in regards to having to visit the page instead of viewing the image shouldn't have changed the way that Google crawls images on webpages. Google will still discover images and add them to its search index when it believes they have value.

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