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I have a gallery website, it contains categories and displays in each category thumbnails from pictures in that category (as you would have expect).

What do I need to do in order for Google to index the full size photo and not just the thumbnail?

If I use a lightbox plugin, I presume googleimagebot cannot index the full picture, correct? It will index just the thumbnail.

I could just link the full image but it is not appealing to the eye unfortunately.

What is the best approach in terms of SEO, so that google will index the full size picture but keep it nice for the user too?

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Googleimagebot doesn't index - it crawls. It crawls every image, what it gets in your source code.

Are pathes to your "big" images exist in the source code? I guess for sure they are, even if they are loaded in the lightbox (which is nothing other as a specially formatted div) with help of any lightbox javascript.

So don't worry about indexing of them - provide meaningful alt and title attributes for them and be patient.

If you mean, your images are really, extraordinary good, and the world must urgently know about them:

  • markup them with structured data as ImageObjects and provide as additionalValue Exif data,
  • make use of Open Graph and Twitter Cards,
  • create image sitemap

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