SEO to bring new people to iNat

Following on from the closed topic

@carrieseltzer said - Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not something that iNaturalist has invested in.

Perhaps you are missing the difference between black hat SEO - trying to trick Google into ranking the site higher. And white hat SEO - making it possible for new users to find iNat in the first place.

This morning I found a new to me species on iNat. Later the same plant showed up on FB.
When I search Google for
iNat is nowhere. Not even with my today’s search history and hours on iNat in the mix!

I have to know about iNat to force Google to show me those results


To be fair, the iNaturalist team is already putting in much of their work to keep up with the size and growth that already exists. I doubt that making that growth even faster is on the priority list.


I wasn’t thinking of adding traffic, or active users.
But of someone searching for information about that plant.

I know that iNat is a good resource. I can find a distribution map. Usually a selection of pictures. Often I can narrow those down to fruiting for example. iNat is in a different way a valid resource to set against Wikipedia, which comes top of the list - if they have an entry for that plant.

It is a waste of good information if it is not accessible, except to people who already know to look here.


I do wish iNat ranked higher in Google, but SEO relies a lot on page content. I am not an SEO expert, but iNaturalist taxon pages don’t have a lot of text content for a search engine to index. What text it does have comes from Wikipedia which search engines may see non-original content and rank lower. With the way the page is designed now, I am not sure Google even sees the About tab text since it appears to be loaded after user click through Javascript.


My SEO knowledge is small, and practical for my blog.

Google’s intention is to help people answer their search question.
Taxon name + Images ? = photo files need to be named Taxon name and photos need alt text (for bots and people with visual difficulties)

Wishful thinking - that an SEO volunteer - could maybe tweak a little bit of code to make iNat more visible …


Maybe I’m naive (and I definitely have zero SEO knowledge), but how about someone from INat just approaching google telling them “look, here is all the great content your users are missing”?

Google can only find what is there to find.
An image is … a hole, a gap … unless there is alt text. That is not up to Google, that is a deliberate choice, or not, by iNat.

It is that same frustrating thing when I go thru Unknowns. People know what it is called - Genus species var whatever and they get just ONE letter wrong. The almost name is placeholder or note.
Google politely prompts, did you mean XYZ. But iNat flatly says Never heard of it.

After the code is changed you can poke Google to please spider thru again


The observer would have to be prompted to enter alt text, since it appears in place of the image. Which is rather pointless in cases where the observer does not know what organism it is.

When I typed “How many trees are there in Massachusetts?” in the Google search bar,
I received this: as the first search result. Perhaps the people that set that up were able to improve their position in the results, or else inat has something set up.

That query works for me. iNat a bit lower down but it shows up.
That is searching for, and finding, text.

I would like this SEO to be set up by iNat for the taxon page.
That the taxon photos, and distribution maps have automated alt text.

No point or purpose in doing it for a single observation. Searching Google I want to find That plant not Diana’s obs of it.


Still battling with this. Are Kalanchoe indigenous to South Africa? Google - Kalanchoe distribution images, and iNat is nowhere. But I know there is a distribution map here!

It could be a small coding tweak for iNat - find the map (image) - find the taxon name - tag the image as Taxon name Distribution


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Replying from this thread:

As far as I can tell, that’s not intentional. It’s indexed, just not optimized. It takes a lot of work to make your content get a high search ranking, especially when there’s lots of other content out there for the same search terms. iNat results are in there, but usually not on the first page. I agree it would be nice to see those ranked higher, though.

For taxon info pages, image alt text/captions are just a small part of it. One thing that likely hurts SEO is having the same content available from multiple URLs, e.g., from each of the international iNaturalist network members. Google would consider those results to be duplicates, which lowers the search ranking for each one. A partial solution for that is to add metadata that indicates which URL is canonical.

Edit: Nevermind, it looks like that’s already done. For the example of Indigofera brachystachya, the first iNat result I see is from, which does include:

<link href="" rel="canonical" />

Among other meta tags. So I have no idea why that result shows up instead of the taxon page from


The Google search console may give more insight into why those results are ranked the way they are, but only the site owners can get that info.

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