When we updated our website this fall we changed the format of our blog posts and blog roll. The new styling required us to adjust our featured images to 795 x 316. We went through and updated many of our old posts to feature the new images and then went back to the business of writing and sharing good information.

But something was wrong

Suddenly our updates on Google+ didn’t look right. We were sharing links just as we had done in the past, but they didn’t look the same. In the past, our cover images filled the post with the title and synopsis appearing below the image.

Now our updates featured only a tiny image without any description. To further confuse us, this was only an issue on G+. The images and summaries appeared correctly on all other social media platforms.

Whenever you share a post which includes an image or upload a single image to any social media platform, the image will be scaled or cropped to fit in the display window. We were used to that, but we had never seen text content removed completely.

The first step was to make sure people actually knew what the update was about so we began writing additional descriptions and adding the link manually to each post. It was a less than ideal solution. The eye catching graphics we spent time selecting or creating were not being shown at their best. And without the summary, we lost the value if someone else simply selected G+ from the social share options in our posts.

So we began our search to discover why Google+ suddenly hated us. The first thing we looked at was our headlines and descriptions since we knew Gooogle+ truncates this information if it is too long. But we use Yoast, our SEO plugin, to make sure we send information in the correct format so no problem there. The answer had to lie somewhere else.

trackable image

bad good image

So what was going on?

It turns out, our new image size violated an obscure Google+ image aspect ratio rule:

  • Images with an aspect ratio between 5:2 and 5:3 are scaled.
  • Images with an aspect ratio taller than 5:3 are scaled to 506px width, and then cropped to a 5:3 ratio. Google decides what is the most interesting part of the image.
  • Images wider than 5:2 disqualify the content from this rendering treatment.

Seriously? Google considers the crime of an incorrectly sized image so heinous the punishment is refusal to display the post’s meta description? Our new image size of 795 x 316 fell just under their requirement with a ratio of 5: 1.987. While I don’t understand why the two elements should be related, they are.

We have no choice- we have to re-size more than 50 cover images to 795 x 320 so they will look good on our blog roll and meet this absurd rule. By the time we are done revising image sizes, loading new pictures to the blog, and replacing all the image links we will have wasted 4-6 hours. If we had spent that time on billable work it would be $300 – $450 so the cost of adjusting these images is about $100/pixel.

Fine for now

So everything looks good until Google or one of the other social media platforms changes their rules, at which point we may be buying more $100 pixels.


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