Social & Schema images: naming considerations

Image showing torn promotional flyers

I’ve been playing a lot with Schema and Social images recently and one thing has become clear: we need better naming of these images and we should probably improve the Schema.org image standards a bit. In this post I want to briefly discuss the different needs and my proposed (very simple) naming scheme.

As I was looking at how different social platforms supported WebP, I quickly realized that while they’re all using images, they’re using them in very different ways. Shocking, I know.

The problem is that in Schema, we just have one image attribute on articles. Well, technically, we also have thumbnailUrl, but that’s not even close to descriptive enough.

Let’s go through the two main types of images:

Poster images

An “OpenGraph image” these days is often the main image of the post with text on it. The title of the post, maybe an author, a site’s name and/or logo. It’s similar to a poster you would create for a movie or a performance in say a theater. So, why not call it that: a “poster image” or short “poster”. There’s precedent of that in HTML actually, where the video HTML tag has a poster attribute that should be shown until the video has loaded.

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn use these images when an article is shared on their timeline. Making these images be effective posters is very important to your click-through rate from these platforms.

Featured images

The main image of an article is called the “featured image” in WordPress and many other systems. For some platforms, like Google Discover, this image is much more suitable. Note that it doesn’t mean that these are all similar; this can be a good news image, a beautiful image of a travel destination or a great illustration. Important is that there’s no text on it, or at least, the text is not a main feature of the image.

If a platform is going to put text over the image or prominently display the title in its vicinity, it’s important that it grabs the featured image, not the poster image.

For example, compare this post’s featured image and post image:

Image showing torn promotional flyers
This post’s featured image
This posts’s poster image

So what’s the problem?

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all read OpenGraph metadata. So we can feed them a poster image in the meta og:image tag. Discover reads Schema, so we feed it an image in the Article schema, and we just feed it the regular featured image (behavior we changed recently in Yoast SEO, coming to you soon).

Pinterest historically read both. My thinking is that for Pinterest’s needs, it’d be much better to have the featured image.

But… I would like all social networks to start reading Schema at some point. I think we all want that, because the amount of metadata in a page right now just to say “hey use this image” is bordering on the ridiculous (and don’t even get me started about the platform’s ridiculous behavior around image sizes).

The solution

To be able to have both poster and featured images in Schema and let platforms pick the right one, we need more specificity in what type of image is what. My suggestion is to introduce an attribute poster-image and an attribute featured-image on the Article Schema, that would both take an ImageObject. This would resolve the ambiguity and make it possible for every platform to fully rely on Schema. In an even more perfect world, we could even add an array of ImageObjects in both, with different sizes for the different platforms.

A headshot of Joost de Valk, author.

Joost de Valk

An internet entrepreneur from the Netherlands, Joost is the founder of Yoast SEO, speaker, and investor for companies in the digital space.

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