While a lot of energy is being spent trying to figure out how to take advantage of the anticipated growth in emerging areas like voice search, there is a much easier search medium that seems to be underutilized: image search.
According to Rand Fishkin’s analysis of Jumpshot and Moz data, image search on Google is the second most highly used search platform behind Google.com and it is searched more than the remaining Top 10 web properties combined.
According to data from Jumpshot and Moz, Google Images accounts for a considerable number of searches, dwarfing those performed on YouTube, Google Maps, Amazon and Facebook combined. Searches in Google Images are made more than 10 times as often as any search on Bing or Yahoo, and they represent more than 40 times the number of searches on Facebook.
The above chart doesn’t present a complete picture of search, as it doesn’t include search on other media such as voice search, nor does it cover searches performed within apps. Nevertheless, it makes the point that Google Image search is a huge portion of overall search.
Yet it appears that those who post images often overlook ways to use images to show up in search results or to draw traffic to their sites. A simple test illustrates how much opportunity is lost. Any Google search for IMG_xxxx where the xs represent any number between 1 and 9,999 pulls up on average about 200,000 results. Clicking on the Image tab shows Google’s image search results, which likewise displays countless images labeled with the raw data file name.
The search for IMG_9998 or any other auto-generated name is realistically never performed, yet a massive amount of data is uploaded this way. The image below was a Google Image search result for IMG_9998 and is of a product from a retail store that sells footwear, apparel and accessories from about 100 brands. The image file name could have described the product as casual footwear or promoted the store brand or boosted traffic to its page by users looking for the Fred Perry 1934 Collection. Instead it appears as a result for a query that would never be entered.
Thus, these images that are named by the default raw file name are essentially unlabeled. And file name is just one example of how images are often neglected in optimizing for search.
While Google may analyze the surrounding content and index the image in that context, failing to provide Google with extra data that it can use to determine the image’s relevance to search queries is a lost chance to promote a brand, product, person, event, service or business. And that means fewer clicks and traffic to the website hosting those images.
Images are particularly effective in marketing for retail and consumer goods, as evidenced by Pinterest’s limiting personalized customer support to these two business areas. Likewise, Google’s Product Listing Ad categories focus on retail and consumer goods, and searches of any of these categories in Google Images brings up a carousel of sponsored shopping results above the organic results.
Thus, any images posted by a business related to retail and consumer goods should be especially mindful of optimizing those images for organic search. But there are many other image categories that will benefit from better optimizing. For example, any business that relies on the reputation of individuals should take similar steps. Professional groups such as law firms and medical practices should expect searches of individual lawyers and doctors by name for portraits or profile pictures. Venues and destinations are also topics that consumers want to see images of. And images of finished work product such as construction, fences or interior design are frequently sought by consumers to gauge the quality of a firm’s work.
Since search ranking is often neglected and because there are so many more results presented on image search results pages, Google Images can help a local business or its products and services get found.
Here are some tips to make sure your images are optimized to take advantage of search queries performed in Google Images:
Google values relevance and quality in returning search results and thus, user experience feedback is a strong signal to Google for ranking purposes. Thus, the more popular an image and the more clicks it gets, the higher the ranking. Below are a few tips for providing a good user experience with your images:
The above screen shot was the search result on Google Images for Dentists in Plano, Texas, and the circled image is an example of a picture that does not help convert clicks. In this case, individual head shots or the team divided into groups by practices, responsibility or other factors would allow for better images that can be optimized for search.
The above screen shot was taken of search results in Google Images for “Lawyers in Frisco TX.” The circled image looks like a stock image that I’ve seen a dozen times elsewhere and is certainly not an image that appeals to me or makes me want to hire that firm or lawyer. So I’m unlikely to click on the image, meaning Google images would lower the ranking of that image compared to other more appealing images.
Metadata, labels and descriptors are all used by Google for indexing purposes, so they’re important in identifying for Google what your image is and the context in which it is used. Better indexing means better ranking in search results. Below are the main labels, tags and descriptors that may be customized whenever you upload an image for display on your site and that you should pay attention to for ranking in Google Images.
In closing, visual images are only becoming more important in engaging and reaching consumers. Some even pin Google’s future on image technology such as Google Lens. It’s clear that images will continue to play a powerful role in helping businesses and their products or services get found.
Yet too many businesses fail to optimize images separately from the article, web page or landing page where they are displayed, and as a result, they lose valuable opportunities to promote their brand, store, product or service in search results. Spend a little more time in SEO for images and unlock the potential returns that so many overlook.