Image SEO – Gain Traffic Through Google Image Search

Images can provide a great source of traffic to your website from Google Image Search. However, the process is unlike regular search engine ranking and so needs to be treated differently.

Brighton Pride 2011

Brighton Pride 2011 example – If you want your images to rank in Google don’t forget your SEO

Most photographers will have built up a presence on-line – both a personal website, probably a blog, many will use social media.

See examples:

Heather Buckley on Facebook Page,

Heather Buckley on Google+

Heather Buckley on Flickr

Social media accounts are great ways to build a strong on-line brand for a photographer. Here you should make sure you use all the tags made available to you. Geo Tagging, image tagging, titles, filenames etc. Use the keywords that you want people to find you for.

Brighton Pride 2011 example

Let’s use the image above as an example. If you type Brighton Pride 2011 into Google Search this image is about 8th at the moment (for google.co.uk). It has been used on the site So So Gay because Heather uses the creative commons license, allowing anyone to publish her images as long as they credit her. This usually comes with a link – in this case to her flicker account, which in turn links to Heather’s Photography Blog. You can achieve this effect by tagging titling and key-wording images on your own blog too – this helps to rank images in Google. It’s worth noting too that if people looking for an image to use on their blog find you because your images rank well then they are more likely to use your images and give you lots of lovely links. Using creative commons is a really powerful way to add links to your website and Flickr account. See this example Escape into Life, here she has managed to get 4 links from one page, even better they are from a Photography and Design related site, and she didn’t have to work too hard, the page was created without any input from her, she only discovered it by accident.

A note about the importance of using Social Media to promote your images:

  • There are a total of four of Heather’s images appearing on the front page of Google Image Search for “Brighton Pride 2011″ from google.co.uk, at the time of writing.
  • There are a total of 11 images of hers on the first page of google.com, 9 of which link to her Google+ account, one is an independent blog linking to her Google + profile, and the one from So So Gay linking to her Flickr account. Two of which are from Heather’s Flickr site – demonstrating that good tagging, descriptions and naming really does work to get images ranked.
Brighton Pride 2011

Remember to use Social Media sites including Flickr and check all of your descriptions, titles and tags.

Ranking Images on your Blog

So you now know how to rank your images using social media sites, now we are going to talk about ranking your images on your blog.

If you take the time and care to follow these simple guides below you should see a difference in the position of your images on Google Image Search when users search for the keywords you have focused on.

While nobody seems to know the exact method Google uses for ranking images (they keep it close to their chest) there are some great tips to follow to ensure decent placement.

If you optimise every image on your site using the following tips then you should start to climb up the Image Search rankings which will then provide a source of traffic. However, remember that the Google Image Search bot is a lot slower than the Google Search bot so it can take a lot longer to see the effect of any changes.

Although Google does claim to sort images by actual content (images with faces/vertical lines etc.) everyone seems to agree that the primary method of figuring out what is in an image is the text attributed to it. This includes the filename, title, alt title, description and even the text around the image so these must all be considered when posting an image.

  • Filename – the filename should be a clear description of the image and not the default camera setting (IMG_001.jpg for example). Think about which searches you want to produce results for. Make sure the filename is descriptive as possible whilst remaining succinct – a good example would be Brighton-Pride-2011.jpg
  • Title and Alt tag – along the same lines as the filename these should be descriptive. The title should be similar to the filename (i.e. Brighton Pride 2011) while you can use the Alt tag to get keywords in. You could expand a bit on the Alt tag although again be careful and don’t just spam with keywords. Most of the time I advise keeping the image name and the alt tags the same.
  • Caption – using a short description as a caption below the image is another way to increase search rankings. Once again simply describe what it in the image.
  • Surrounding text – Google will use the surrounding text of the image to determine what it depicts so try and use content that relates and helps improve ranking. If the image is not wrapped to the text then make sure to use a caption.

A great analogy for deciding on the text to go with your images is to imagine Google as a blind person. For the filename, title and alt tag imagine you are describing the image to a blind person and make sure that they would know exactly what you are describing. For the caption or surrounding text remember that anyone reading it can see the image so alter your wording so you’re not just relating what is in the image but expanding on it with details that can’t be gained through sight.

Once you’ve got yourself onto Google Image Search you need to attract users to your website. It’s all very well getting onto the first page of search results for a number of queries but if nobody is clicking your image then it makes no difference to your traffic. Google themselves have produced a video with some tips on the images that succeed. Of course a lot of it comes down to personal taste but there are some ways to stand out:

  • Use large images – thumbnail images are likely to be ignored in favour of high quality, large images. If you want a smaller image on your website then consider linking to a larger version as nobody wants an image bigger than their browser.
  • Use quality images – if you are taking your own photos then use a decent camera (preferably an SLR) and use editing software to make the photo as attractive as possible. (We offer a range of Photoshop training courses to help improve your skills)
  • As before – use plenty of descriptive text so that the user is sure that your image is what they are looking for
  • Make sure that when a user lands on your page it is where they want to be. Google’s primary aim to match a user to their desired content so there is no point in having unrelated images to your website as people won’t hang around.

To find out how to use Photoshop to optimise your images for websites read our tutorial on Save for Web and Devices using Photoshop.

To summarise – make sure the image you want to optimise is a decent image to begin with. Once you’re sure of that make sure that the filename, title, alt tag are all accurate descriptions of the image and that you use surrounding text to elaborate on the image. If you achieve all this you should see an improvement on Google Image Search followed by increased traffic.

Here is the Google Image Search presentation in full:

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