You’ve already optimized your website for keywords used in a typical search query. But have you optimized it for Google image search?
If not, then you could be missing out on a whole lotta traffic.
In this article, I’ll go over why you should make Google image search optimization an important part of your SEO strategy. Then, I’ll explain various search strategies.
Why Optimize for Google Image Search?
You might be thinking: “Meh… I’ve got enough going on right now. I don’t need an additional task added to my crowded schedule.”
The reality, though, is that you can’t afford not to optimize your site for Google image search.
Why? Because it’s very likely that people in your target market are using keywords related to your brand when they search for images.
The stats bear this out. A 2017 study from Jumpshot showed that about a third of all Google searches are performed in Google Image Search.
Additionally, a study from MozCast showed that about 12.5% of all Google searches show an image pack.
You’re throwing away a lot of market share if you decide to ignore Google image search.
Google’s Recent Emphasis on Image Search
Beyond the stats, Google is making image search a core component of its offerings.
How is Google prioritizing image search these days? In a variety of different ways.
The first involves AMP Stories, a mobile-specific format that enables publishers to create attractive, tap-through content.
Those Stories include visual content that Google is now indexing for image search.
Also, Google is using artificial intelligence (AI) to create AMP Stories. When people perform a search, Google’s algorithm identifies the best images from those Stories that match the query.
Additionally, Google updated its algorithm to account for more than just metadata when ranking images in search. Now, Google looks at the quality of the content on the page.
In other words, you’re going to have trouble ranking even the most well-optimized images if the content on your web page is thin.
Further, Google now prioritizes images that are easy to find on the page. Specifically, images that are centrally located or near the top of the page are more likely to land a top spot.
The Big G is also showing more content around images as well. If you Google “chocolate chip cookies,” for example, you’ll see the title of the web page as well as the domain name of the website below each image.
Beyond that, there’s Google Discover. That’s an upgraded version of Google Feed that surfaces relevant info to you.
What does that have to do with image search? Google finds the most relevant images to include in the Discover feed.
Your images, if they’re optimized, stand a better chance of showing up in Google Discover.
Finally, Google also recently released Google Lens. It’s software that enables users to highlight a portion of an image and get more info about its contents.
Bottom line: Google takes Google Image Search very seriously. So should you.
How to Optimize Images for Google Image Search
Now, let’s look at some ways to optimize images so that they show up in search.
(For a full rundown, watch the video below!)
First, give your image a keyword-rich file name.
Yes, you can do that. And yes, it makes a difference.
For example, let’s say that you’re optimizing an image that shows people how to drive a golf ball. In that case, you might name your original image something like “how-to-drive-a-golf-ball.jpg.”
The Google algorithm is smart enough to parse that and determine the nature of the pic.
Also, use the alt attribute.
This one goes back to the early days of web technology. That was when some browsers didn’t support images.
In fact, the Lynx browser is apparently still available. Hardly anybody uses it, though.
The alt attribute on an image tag was originally designed with text-based browsers in mind. It was also used for image-capable browsers that had images turned off to preserve bandwidth.
In those situations, the web page would display the text in the alt tag instead of displaying the image.
Fast forward to today and it’s almost never used for that purpose anymore. It is, however, used for SEO.
Google reads the contents of the alt tag to determine what’s in the picture. Then, it indexes the image accordingly.
So here’s what you need to do: include your keyword in the alt attribute.
In the example above, put “How to drive a golf ball” in the alt attribute. That will improve your chances of ranking at the top of Google image search for that keyword.
Next, use keyword-rich anchor text.
If you have anchor text that points to the image on your site, make sure it includes your keyword.
For example, let’s say that you have this sentence in your article: “In this guide, I’ll show you how to drive a golf ball.”
You could link the “how to drive a golf ball” part to the relevant image that you uploaded to your site.
Another thing you can do is to optimize your images.
Wait. Isn’t that what I’ve been writing about in this section?
Not in this case. Here, I mean optimizing the images themselves so they’re as small as possible.
If you put an image on your site that’s a megabyte in size, don’t expect your page to load too quickly.
And when your page doesn’t load quickly, expect your rank to suffer.
Trim your images so they’re as tight as possible. A good rule of thumb is to try to keep them under 100k. If that’s not doable, shoot for under 200k.
Next, put your images high on the web page.
As I mentioned in the previous section, Google has restructured its algorithm so that it prioritizes images that are centrally located or higher on the page.
The action item from that piece of information is obvious: locate your images centrally or put them high on the page.
Keep in mind: many of your competitors might not know about that trick.
Also, create quality text content around your image.
I also noted above that Google is now looking beyond metadata and evaluating the text around the image.
That’s why you need to create superstar content. Also, make sure it’s optimized for the same keyword you want people to use to find your image.
What Kinds of Images to Create for Google Image Search?
So now that you know a little bit about how to optimize images for Google image search, the next question is: what kinds of images should you create?
As is the case with blog posts, it all begins with keyword research.
Think about it: you wouldn’t write an article and try to force-fit popular keywords into your content. So why would you do that with images?
Instead, create images that are relevant to the keywords you’re already optimizing for.
Yes, that means you might need to take a crash-course in Photoshop. Or you can outsource the whole process to a qualified professional.
If you’re publishing an article entitled “How to Drive a Golf Ball for Beginners,” then you could include an image that’s a series of three frames showing people how to swing at a golf ball on a tee.
Make it some original work and it just might rank when people do a Google image search on how to drive a golf ball.
In fact, “How To” articles are a great place to include original images. That’s because when it comes to explaining how to do something, a picture is often worth a thousand words.
Another thing you can do is slap your logo on your original images.
Why? Because that helps build brand-name awareness.
Remember: when it comes to attracting people via Google image search, you’re not likely to land a sale immediately. Instead, you’re just making an introduction.
Let people who find your images know that you’re a brand that specializes in their interests. Then, they might make a decision to purchase one of your products later on.
Also, make your images shareable.
People always talk about creating shareable text content. But why not create shareable imagery as well?
If people share your branded original pictures on their social media channels, you’ll boost your visibility. That’s only going to help in the long run.
Google Image Search and Shopping Campaigns
This one might come as a surprise to you: ads now appear in Google image search!
They don’t always appear, though. As of now, ads only show up when people search for products on a mobile platform.
Why does Google show ads on image search? To make money, of course.
But also to improve the user experience. Chances are pretty good that if people are using search to find product images, they want to buy.
Also, people won’t have to click through to the website to see how much the product costs. That kind of info is displayed in the ad.
If you’re running an ecommerce site, you can run Google Shopping ads to get more traffic from image searches. That could give you a nice return on investment as consumers often begin their shopping experience by browsing around images.
If your ad is competitive and your customer service is outstanding, you might land a new customer for life.
The Future of Google Image Search
So where to from here? How can you optimize your site for the next “big thing” in image search?
It seems likely that enhanced support for 3D imagery is one of the next steps in the evolutionary process.
There’s also virtual reality. Many real estate websites are already offering “virtual tours.” They give you the ability to walk through a house from the comfort of your own easy chair.
Expect Google to offer enhanced support for next-generation imagery. Think about how you can include that kind of high-tech wizardry on your own site so you’re ready when it happens.
Wrapping Up Google Image Search
Image SEO isn’t new, but these days, it’s more important than ever.
With Google continuously emphasizing image search through innovations like Google Discover and AMP Stories, it seems clear that the future search will be largely visual.
For marketers, that means spending the necessary time finding or creating images that match the content on each page, and properly optimizing those images for search.
If you do that, you’ll almost certainly gain an advantage over your competitors.