Tips for Optimising Your Images for Search

As universal search begins to dominate results and previous above-the-fold results get pushed below the fold, leveraging all channels possible is becoming essential.   Image search optimization offers several advantages not just limited to simple rankings or just image search.

One definite benefit for anyone involved in e-commerce is the possibility of free product promotion within organic results without looking spammy. Product images in search results can seriously boost click-throughs and conversions.

With image search, you’ve got more optimisation opportunities than organic search alone.   The name of the image, along with the tag and associated words will all factor in to ranking an image.  This gives you opportunities to optimise differently or capture searchers where organic is not doing as well.

At the moment, for those involved in e-commerce, not as many retailers are paying attention to the possibilities of image search and universal search when compared to PPC or SEO.  This means as Universal search becomes more prevalent, those in early will probably get better rankings.

So, what can you do?  Lots!  And most of it can also be done through many CMS systems so never say can’t, never say die, never say never… blah blah blah.

Why not try a bit of alt tag (attribute – I know!) text optimization? When I add an image to a page, I can ad descriptive words for the image.

Make these descriptions specific and include the keyword that you want the image found for.  Don’t be spammy – by being focused you’ll get more relevant traffic.

How about putting the images in separate HTML files named after the keyword (linking to the image with your keyword, using ‘keyword.html’ as the file name)?  Try putting the keyword in the title as well as in your H1 tags on the keyword-named page where the image appears.  Again, keep it specific and focused and remember semantically related text and ‘buy me’ button!

Give your image the name of the keyword you want it to be found for.   So if it is a picture of a box of Chocolate Society champagne truffles, call the image ‘champagne-chocolate-truffles’ and not ’1276394′.  Remember that alt tag text of ‘Chocolate Champagne Truffles’!

Never forget that semantic relativity!  Ensure you are keeping a careful eye on the on-page text.  An image of chocolate covered almonds on a page about white chocolate with strawberries won’t do as well as an image of coca dusted almonds (with the right name) on a page talking about chocolate and almonds.

Remember that to optimize your images for more than a single word, you should use dashes and not underscore.  Matt Cutts has an old but brilliant blog post about how Google sees a dash and why.

Finally, quality is king.  Have high quality images with sharp, clear contrast showing the product with little clutter.  As Google does shrink the image in the results, you will need to ensure you capture interest with not just words but pictures.

Search is changing and we all need to change with it.  It isn’t just text SEO that needs changing though – all elements of our pages can be optimised for search.

Always remember – just say no to spam.

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12 Responses to “Tips for Optimising Your Images for Search”

  1. Elise says:

    I’d say another very good tip is to distribute all the images you can out and about, say to Flickr, where you can provide additional tags and descriptions – and most importantly, targeted backlinks. Then just link to Flickr for the photos, vs. your own site. Very good for folks going directly to Flickr and the like to search for images, vs. coming in through Google. Whatever “link leak” might occur with this practice we’ve found to be more than made up by the additional exposure and indexing of the pictures on higher PR sites.

  2. Julie Joyce says:

    Images can be a big issue with reputation management as you know…any tips on how to “put your best face forward” so to speak?

    It’s probably extremely common to do image searches on people that you’re looking to hire, whose name someone’s mentioned, etc. How can we, as potential consultants for example, continue to capitalize on social media while still remaining professional?

  3. Zack says:

    I can’t agree more about the relevancy issue and it seems even more critical for images. We can make even faster decisions about the relevancy of an image vs our search terms because images are so quickly processed so there’s less time to be relevant, if that makes any sense. And additionally, I think we judge imagery a lot more rigorously that we do text (I do at least) because flaws are so quickly evident.

    With outstanding imagery and extremely accurate keywords, it seems one might quickly rise above the noise with a nice, clean signal for those who are searching. Talk about the next wave of being competitive in one’s niche! :)

    Great post and great blog–just found you all. Thanks so much for putting this information out there–it’s inspiring. I can see how having co-authors can be a great idea too . . . I look forward to returning on a regular basis.

  4. Rob Woods says:

    Great information! I’m going to share this on my team reading list for 1/23!

  5. Melinda Emerson says:

    Just say no to spam….and yes to chocolate! Judith, I was in a state of disbelief when Julie informed me people were refusing the yummylicious truffles you were handing out in Vegas. I believe I was busy getting rubbed down and propositioned by the masseuse at the spa in my hotel at the time or I definitely would have taken you up on your generous offer :)

  6. Julie Joyce says:

    Bunch of damn ingrates…I took several truffles to make up for them.

  7. Weirdly I posted this yesterday and my browser ate it!

    @Elise – I love Flickr for comment spam ;) Seriously though, it is a fantastic way to get extra juice – thanks for pointing it out!

    @Julie – I actually changed some optimisation because an unflattering piccie of me was ranking for deCabbit. It wasn’t rude, I was off a sleepless night in a bad top. *shudders* The world should not be subjected to that!

    @Zack – THANKS! That’s lovely of you to say! Great points as well about our inner ranking system based in images.

    @Rob Woods – Wow! I’m honoured! If you’re around for SES or Internet world you can see Lisa or myself in talk action!

    @Melinda – Oh it was a terrible tragedy! I was so sad! But I did get to scoff much chocolate. I’m thinking of one last chocbait blast at SES and then I’ll give up.

  8. Judith, what an excellent post!

    I just did an image search for my name, and I’m still laughing my head of, it’s the most random selection of photos, only 20% actually of me.

    - A photo of obi one kenobi
    - A photo of a guy with a balaclava with the text “hacking your way to number one” That is so Evilgreenmonkeys fault, did you do that on purpose Rob?
    - Oh and maybe the most random of all a photo of Jim Boykin and Aaron Wall with the text SEO Chicks Lisa!!


    On a serious note, I came across a great blogpost on All Things SEM.

    Although its a bit of an old blogpost, it’s a very interesting experiment!!

  9. Julie Joyce says:

    I get lots of photos of people in blackface…

    Good post to point out, Lisa…well done!

  10. Love the experiment! Fab Lisa!

    I need to truly beat the importance of alt text in to people… with a stick maybe…

    I get all the same image of me for decabbit then some other random things and a lot of SEOmoz images.

  11. Victoria says:

    Enlightening- it’s obvious to use tags on images, but not so much for the dashes. Thanks so much for these tips!

  12. Laura Design says:

    Using alt tags for images has and will always benefit your website and allows you to incorporate keywords relevant to your website. Using multiply words should be implemented using dashes, not spaces – therefore allowing Google to cache your website more effectively.

    Overall great article! – It is extremely important to remember, that when optimising you need to take into account every component that can be optimised. This giving you the best possible results.

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