In this article I investigate if EXIF data is a ranking factor for Google.
What is EXIF data?
EXIF stands for exchangeable image file format and is the meta data that is added to an image file. The EXIF data contains information about the location, the camera, date and time, exposure time, lens aperture, film or sensor speed, ISO speed ratings, etc. You can also add data to an image file, such as keywords, your company name, and the latitude and longitude.
How Does Google Use EXIF Data?
One way Google uses EXIF data in an image is to spot and remove copyright violations.
For several years SEO professionals have tried to use specific elements in EXIF data to improve rankings for web pages and Google My Business listings.
It is also known that Google strips the EXIF data when images are uploaded to Google My Business. The question is, what does Google do with this information, if anything? Some believe that if Google removes this meta data then it cannot be a ranking factor. Other SEOs still include the EXIF data in images on the off chance that Google will consider the location, keywords, and brand mentions as ranking factors.
Google can’t control the EXIF data on non-Google properties, such as a WordPress website. So, many SEO practitioners include some of the meta data that they think will influence rankings on websites.
What Does Google Say About Using EXIF Data for Ranking Purposes?
In 2012 Google’s Matt Cutts said that Google reserves the right to use EXIF data or other sorts of meta data that they find to help people find information. He went on to say that EXIF data is something that they parse out.
In 2018 Matt expanded his statement by saying that Google reserves the right to use the data in ranking. But Matt also said that if the data is already there it might be useful to someone to learn about the camera type or focal settings.
Matt then said, “I wouldn’t worry about adding it (meta data) if it’s not there, but we do reserve the right to use it potentially as a ranking factor.”
Based on these statements it’s not really clear if Google uses the data as ranking factors, and if they do use it, how much of a ranking factor is it?
Testing EXIF Data for Google Ranking
The SEO Intelligence Agency (SIA) did complete a test to see if EXIF is a ranking factor in September 2021.
The SIA setup five identical test pages. One test page had an image with EXIF data and the other four pages had the same image in the same location on the page but without the EXIF data.
The result saw the page with EXIF data dropped one spot in ranking. The testers thought that was odd and don’t think the EXIF data had any bearing on the downward ranking.
The SIA did conclude “that EXIF data, in and of itself, is not a ranking factor.”
Uploading Images with EXIF Data to WordPress
If you want to upload images to a WordPress website with some EXIF data there are some things you need to be aware of.
- If the image needs to be resized within WordPress after uploading it, WordPress will remove the data to reduce the image size.
- It is best to carefully size the image exactly before uploading it to WordPress so the EXIF data will not be deleted.
- If you use an image optimization plugin to reduce the size of the image for a better
Web Core Vitals score, the app will also remove the EXIF data. Most image optimization plugins have an option for the software to not strip the data.
Adding EXIF Data with a Software Application
If you want to easily add meta data to your image such as geo-location and keywords, a good app to use is Geo Imgr. Their website has a useful guide on how to use their web-based product. They have a free and paid version.
Based on testing and what Google has said I tend to believe that Google does not use EXIF data in their ranking algorithm. Google is reading the data, but I don’t believe it is for SEO purposes. If you want to take the time and effort to do the EXIF data stuff, go ahead. I just don’t think it is worth it for a small gain in ranking or none at all. That’s why I don’t bother with using EXIF data for SEO purposes on my own website and for client sites.