Have you had a situation where you want to add images from Instagram to your website but you don’t know whether you want to embed them as images or the post itself? Did you worry about the SEO value of doing one over the other? John Mueller, of Google, answers the question for us.
I wanted to test if, from an SEO point, having images embedded straight onto one of our Instagram articles would be better than embedding the Instagram post itself. Before the test there was one image on the page. I wanted to add 10-15 images, wait a month and then swap these exact images out for the embedded Instagram posts. My team has assumptions like Instagram is Facebook, Google and Facebook aren’t friends, therefore directly embedding these posts are a bad idea. But I still wanted to test this and get my answer through Google Search Console data. I thought that embedded posts look better than the screenshots of images and I like pretty pages as well as good SEO, but can one solution help both the user experience and search optimisation of the page. So I did the test.
When I added the plain screen shotted images to the post we got great results. Image search increased from 20-30 daily clicks to nearly 300 clicks a day. And this was expected; I did add 10-15 images to a well ranking post with previously only one image after all. I was apprehensive about swapping these to embedded iFrames a month later but I did this anyway. I changed the images to embedded Instagram posts on Thursday, the first day of the month and waited until Monday to see results in Google Search Console. I was shell-shocked — the increase we saw with simply adding the images to the post was completely undone by adding them as embedded posts. I knew that web crawlers didn’t like iFrames but I also knew that Google has pretty good image recognition software and they could understand that these were images. Did they punish us because our images were not as easy to understand as plain images? Or did they just not like Instagram and their parent company, was it that simple?
I went about looking into the embedded code (which is pretty long if you didn’t know) and couldn’t find anything in there that would sway Google’s view of these images. I tried to read up on the situation — there was only one article coming up for any search query I used that talked about my experience and that didn’t answer my question. Finally I brought in the big guns, I asked John Mueller on one of his Google Webmaster Central Hangouts – his answer starts at 29:33.
My question was simple: I changed normal images to Instagram embeds on one of my articles and saw a decrease in rankings, clicks, etc for image search. It was a significant decrease in image search clicks overnight on a very reliable article. Can you talk a bit about the difference between normal images versus Instagram embeds from Google’s perspective?
A summary of John’s answer: Instagram uses iFrames to embed Instagram posts so you are adding a layer of indirection between your page and the images. This makes it harder for Google to pick up these images. BUT the big game changer is that “within the content that is embedded from Instagram within the iframe they use a noimageindex robots meta tag” which tells Google, and other search engines, that you don’t want these images to be indexed on this page.
So Are Embedded Instagram Posts Good for SEO?
When choosing between embedded images and Instagram post embeds, choose embedded images if you want to rank well in image search, and choose Instagram post embeds if you think your users would enjoy that experience.