Google Crawls EXIF Data Embedded in Images

After a few tests that SEOs have run in the past, I recently decided to run my own test to see if EXIF data embedded in image files are read and crawled by Google. Why? Well, since we already know that images from cell phones automatically save Latitude and Longitude information, I wanted to see if it made sense to add more data to images. From the results of my test, I am 100 percent convinced that Google reads and crawls this image data.

Standing Dog EXIF Data Test

The Experiment

For this test, I used the Standing Dog logo, as shown above. You will notice that if you save the image to your desktop and right-click to view the photo properties you will see the title, subject, and other information, such as the Latitude and Longitude. I used a ‘made up word’ and embedded that word into the title data of the image. What is important here is that the made up word only appears in the EXIF data of the image and nowhere else, not even anywhere else on the web.

I uploaded the image file to my photos on Google Plus and embedded the photo on a blog post on my personal blog. After a week, I searched Google Plus for this made up word and the photo appeared as the only search result. The post was shared from my profile allowing it to also appear in the Google Plus search results, as shown below:

Google Plus Search Result Made Up Word

As you can see, this made up word does NOT appear anywhere in the Google Plus post that I made, and there is no reason why Google would associate this particular post with that made up word. Except for the fact that the made up word is, in fact, embedded ONLY in the EXIF data in the image file itself.

Why Did I Choose Google Plus?

You might wonder why I chose Google Plus to upload this image. I know this is Google’s latest major project and it does have an algorithm associated with it. I also know that Google Plus loves rich media like images and photos. So, if there is a place where Google would potentially be crawling and reading EXIF data on images, then this is the place. Since Google Plus is more progressive and newer than Google organic search or Google Image search, the likelihood of Google seeing this EXIF data is greater if I were to upload the image to Google Plus. Now, since they have the data, there is a chance that Google may potentially use this data and associate it with other search results like Google organic and image search.

Traditionally, Google organic search, image search, and map search have been slow in accepting new data points, so getting it into Google Plus was just much faster for this particular test.

I believe that Google now has this data associated with this image file and they can associate the Standing Dog logo with all of the information that I provided in the file. Using an EXIF editor program called GeoSetter, I was able to embed this into the image file:

Phone Number
Latitude and Longitude

For this test, I embedded the made up word in the title and subject fields of the image file’s EXIF data. For more about EXIF data, you can take a look at the official standards. If you might recall, Google rolled out more information that they show in Google Image results. It’s my theory that Google crawls and reads the EXIF data that is embedded in photos: and they’re just starting to use that data in Google Plus.

So, before you upload any image files on your website or even to Google Plus, make sure you edit and add the proper EXIF data to the image. It might just help your search engine rankings now, but, more importantly, in the future.

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2 Responses to Google Crawls EXIF Data Embedded in Images

  1. Pingback: Embedding Latitude, Longitude and NAP Data into Image Files to Help Local SEO | Bill Hartzer

  2. Don Osborne says:

    Love your test, Bill! I agree you have shown that G+ is looking at EXIF data.

    The next measure might be discovering how to successfully rank your image on image search … any thoughts on this?

    I looked for your image using your test term (from Firefox while logged in to Google, and from Safari, while logged out with search tools selected to “all results”), and Google didn’t show any result.

    So at least we know that G+ isn’t always talking to the greater Google search database.

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