So I’m back again to drop some WordPress knowledge on you. In the past I have talked to you about the importance of optimizing your images for the web which saves you space on your server and allows you to serve the images up more quickly. This time around I want to talk to about presentation of those images. On sites like ours we handle a lot of images, whether it’s several screenshots from the latest video game or exclusive shots of some hot new tech device. As you can imagine we want to present those images to our readers in the slickest and coolest way possible. Over a year ago we looked around and searched for the best gallery plug-in for WordPress and it seemed like the hands down winner was NextGen Gallery (NGG). We installed it and over the past year have found it exceptionally easy to use and highly functional. There was only one problem, well we didn’t know NextGen Gallery was the cause of the problem at the time. Since we launched this website a few years ago, even when we weren’t getting a lot of traffic from hits on our stories we always got lots of hits from people searching for images. Then one day it just kind of dried up if you will. Around that time the site started to really get some traction as far as readership goes and we didn’t notice the impact quite as quickly. When we finally did think to look into the issue we figured that perhaps it was a configuration problem on our end because we had another site that was much newer than this one that always ranked well and got decent traffic from image searches. That lead us to wonder, what was different between the two. In the end once we normalized configurations between both sites, there was really only one big difference between the two, NextGen Gallery. We actually had it installed on both sites but since the other site doesn’t have as big a need for gallery-style image groups we really didn’t use it much on that one.
When we looked around the net on the topic we found out that this is a known issue and has been for quite some time. NextGen Gallery and Google just don’t get along. The result of this it seems is that none of the images you upload into NGG get indexed by Google or very few of them and that is a problem. For sites that use a lot of imagery, that is a really big problem. We have our 200 galleries with thousands of images and guess what, for the last year or so Google hasn’t been seeing and/or indexing the majority of them. I can’t imagine how many thousands of hits we missed out on because I failed to dig a little deeper on the issue sooner. The initial reason that I went to NextGen Gallery was because WordPress didn’t really have a nice way to present gallery-style layouts, but there have been several versions of WordPress since we originally implemented NGG and at this point it does it “good enough”. Therefore, I am now in the process of working backwards to copy each gallery from NGG to my hard drive and then re-upload those images back into our WordPress media library. From there I will just “attach” the images to the proper post and then use the shortcode and its variations to implement the same function using native WordPress functionality.
It’s going to take a while, but once that is done I will just deactivate NGG altogether. Ultimately, it will just be one less plug-in that I have to run. For his part, the developer of NGG, Alex Rabe, is aware of the issue and I hear he is working on it but as far as I know he doesn’t have a timeline on when a “fix” will be available and even then he only says it will “improve” Google search results. Unfortunately for me that is not good enough and while the native functionality of WordPress galleries is not anywhere near as slick and cool as NGG, it will get your images indexed by Google and that is what it is all about.
I want to be clear, I really think the NGG plug-in is great, but the consequences of using it are just too high for me, for image heavy sites like ours that is just too much traffic we are leaving on the table. If you are currently using or planning to use NGG then I would suggest that you consider this before making your selection. If you just want the images to look awesome in a gallery layout and have cool effects and you don’t really care about the possible loss of Google Image Search traffic then NGG would be great for you. If on the other hand you do care, then I suggest you either look for another plug-in that is more “image search friendly” or do as I am doing and use the native WordPress gallery functionality.
Alright folks, that is enough yapping from me but as I have said before as I come across new things I will share them with you so that you don’t have make the same mistakes I did. Now I gotta get out of here and get to transferring several hundred galleries and several thousand pictures from NGG back to the WordPress media library.