We all know how important images are on your website. They can add colour and further explain your content so that users have a more rounded view of what you have to offer. Google is also aware of the importance of images and has for a long time included images as part of universal search results. The image below shows how someone looking for ‘pictures of soccer jerseys’ is presented with results from Google’s image search library.
The value of having the images on your site included in search rankings is obvious. This is especially so for websites that are product based. Users very rarely purchase an item without at least seeing a picture of it first. So in many ways having your images ranked in Google is as important as having your pages place there.
Recognizing this, Google released a new format for sitemaps a while ago to allow users to specify the images that they have on the their pages. Here is Google’s help topic on how to create an image based sitemap – http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=178636 . If you look further into the post you’ll see that Google doesn’t want you just to list all the images that you have on your site. They want you to create a sitemap that tells them what images are on what pages. If you have the same image on a number of pages they want to know that and they want you to tell them that.
This causes a problem for most standard sitemap generators, because although a lot will list out the images you have on your site, they won’t tell you on pages they are present. For a long time here at 6S we have been using G-site crawler to crawl our clients sites and generate sitemaps. It comes recommended by Google, it’s a great little tool and it’s free. However it is not able to handle this sort of sitemap generation. It can give you a list of all the images that you have on your site but it won’t tell you which pages they are on. So we had to find something else…
After a bit of searching on the interweb, we came up with the following tool – Microsys Tools Sitemap Generator. It costs $59 and can easily handle the generation of sitemaps for images. We think it’s worth the money and if you have a site with tons of images you should consider splashing out on it too.