Recently I’ve noticed a bit of activity in the desktop SERPs around product images showing in organic search results. These images aren’t always available, and you can enter the same query multiple times without seeing them, but rather are available for a short window of time which let me capture some snapshots. It could be something Google are testing for rollout, or just one of their ongoing SERP optimisation experiments (others have reported similar sorts of results in the past). I’ve actually been lucky enough to catch this update twice so far in two fairly different scenarios.
The first time I spotted this was on a search for Easter eggs (who doesn’t love those?) – here’s the screenshot I grabbed.
What is curous is that these images aren’t marked up semantically using schema.org, and in fact the pages being listed are categories rather than individual products. Admittedly finding images on product listing pages shouldn’t be too much of an issue for Google’s crawler, but I do wonder how they decide which image to display from a listing page of dozens.
Unfortunately since the change often disappears after five or ten minutes I haven’t been able to look too closely into what differentiates a listing with an image to one without. I did spot this out in the wild again later on, however, with the term “kitchenaid mixer” – which is brand specific as well as singular rather than plural.
Like the Easter eggs results there doesn’t appear to be any structured or semantic markup present that we can attribute as a direct cause here – and interestingly here we see both individual products in the SERP as well as general pages and category listings.
Interestingly checking an image-less SERP for the same query reveals review stars present on some listings which are not there on the image-rich SERP:
I suspect this could be down to the fact that since this is some kind of test or experiment that Google don’t want to mess with an already established result that they return. Perhaps they’re experimenting to see if stars or images in the product SERPs get better clickthrough rates.
At the same time, the cynic in me wonders if this means Google will decide that remove rating stars from the listing as they did for author profiles if they roll the image-rich SERP out globally!
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