John Mueller from Google was asked why a site saw a big drop in search traffic after embedding Instagram images on its site. John decided to test it and noted that Instagram uses a no-index robots meta tag on the embeds, which tells Google that they don't want those images to be indexed along with the page itself.
This means that if you use Instagram and use the Instagram embed code, Google will most likely not rank the image on your site when searching for images. John said in that video hangout "But what really breaks the story for us is that within the content embedded from Instagram and within the iframe. They use a no-index robots meta tag. And this meta tag tells us you want not that those images are indexed together with the page itself, so if we only look at that iframe content, we can recognize that there is an image, there we can crawl that image, but with the meta tag you actually tell us that you want this image index not together with that landing page. "
This question came up at 29:38 in the video:
Here is the transcript:
I changed normal images into Instagram inclusions in one of my articles and saw a decrease in ranking clicks, etc. For image search. It was a 43 percent decrease in clicks on images during a night on a very reliable article. Can you talk a bit about the difference between normal images and Instagram inclusions from the Google perspective?
So I thought it was an interesting question and I created a test page to see how this really works. Because it really depends a lot on how Instagram sets up, because you essentially only take code from Instagram and put it on your website. And depending on how they have set that code there and it can have an effect on your website.
That means that it is much more work for us to actually reach those images. We can recognize those images and we can search those images. The use of the mobile-friendly test also shows those inclusions. So it looks good.
What strikes me, however, is specifically the way Instagram encloses these images, they use an iframe to embed a sort of message from Instagram. That makes sense, but with an iframe you actually add another layer of direction between your page and the images. So it goes from your page to this iframe and then from the iframe content to your images. So that makes it a bit harder for us to pick up those images.
But what really breaks the story for us is that in the content that is embedded from Instagram and within the iframe. They use a no-index robots meta tag. And this meta tag tells us that you don't want those images to be indexed along with the page itself. So if we only look at that iframe content, we can recognize that there is an image, there we can crawl that image, but with that meta tag you are actually telling us that you don't want this image index along with that landing page.
So basically by switching from direct embedding of an image on your website to using Instagram inclusions, you are actually telling us that you don't want these images to be indexed for your website. And with that, I think it would be normal to see a significant drop in traffic to images to those pages because you essentially tell us that you don't want these pages to be indexed like that . So from my point of view it essentially comes back to you and your preferences there. I understand that sometimes it makes sense to embed Instagram posts directly or social media posts in general. Because you get a lot of added value from just the whole environment, with regard to reactions and maybe the likes and the shares and all that information that is available in the embed. On the other hand, it makes it a lot harder for us to index those images, so that is something that you almost need to have in balance, you need all this extra detail around the images, or do you really have to make sure that those images are well indexed for your website. And depending on the website you may somehow have preferences if you want to embed both types of Instagram and have your page arrangement for those images, then that is probably difficult and weird situations, such as having to place them twice in it .
Glenn Gabe summarized it well on Twitter:
Through @johnmu: Switching from normal embedded images to Instagram inclusions and seeing a large drop in image search traffic? That's because IG uses iframes and the meta-robots tag with the help of noimageindex. That is a big problem. John has tested this and I also performed a quick test: https://t.co/kyUwQ1O3Jn pic.twitter.com/CYDIcXWtr5
– Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) August 12, 2019
So I think if you want to use the embedding, and you also want the image to be indexed with the page, maybe the image itself should also be included in your HTML?
Forum discussion on twitter.