Basics of Image Search Optimization

by Mark Maynem

In March 2009 Google image search was labeled as Google’s fourth hottest property by Hitwise. The report went on to show that Google image search attributed 5.79% to the company’s monthly market share of visits. With this type of data and developments in universal search the smart search marketer will leverage this area to his or her advantage.

Before undertaking image search optimization many search marketers will evaluate its value in relation to its clients. Will the value of this activity be higher than another SEO activity? This is important, as image optimization can be time consuming and lends itself to being more beneficial to some sites than others.

Image Optimization Tips

Filenames – Include the keyword you are targeting within the file name. Remember to use hyphens for spaces between the keywords.

Image Formatting – Make sure you use the correct image formats. For example save photos as JPG files etc.

Image Quality – Use good quality images, which will read well when shown in a thumbnail format. Poor quality images are unlikely to get click throughs.

Strings – Avoid using strings in image urls. Make your image urls as a readable as possible to human beings.

Use the ALT Attribute – Mention your keywords within the ALT tag where appropriate. Remember that ALT tags are used to help people who are visually impaired use your site. The ALT tag should not just be the keyword itself. This could be seen as spammy.

Text surrounding the image – Search engines will look at the text surrounding an image to help get an insight to what an image might be about. Make sure the images relate to the content that they are in close proximity with.

Don’t restrict access to images – Adding image folders to robots.txt files is a common mistake and prevents your images from being indexed.

Image originality – Original photos or image work is much more likely to be given special attention. If you have created original images then it might be an idea to use watermarks or set special permissions to users. Retailers can have the most difficulty here as they often use images produced by the supplier. Think about why a search engine would favor your images over another.

Most good search marketers put conversions and return on investment at the centre of their campaigns. Many retailers have reported low conversions in relation to image search because many are simply there to steal their product images. The thing to keep in mind is what will the visitor find once they arrive at your site. Can you provide reasons for visitors to explore your site a little more?

Despite the experience of some retailers more and more consumers are shopping using image search. This is because they can quickly find what they are looking for without having to sift through many sites with promotional material distracting them. In some specialist or very niche areas some sites won’t show images so consumers will use image search to find the closest thing to what they were looking for.

Ranking in image search can also provide opportunities to empower your brand and build up your reputation. Many sites have gained large volumes of traffic through image search.

I think almost any site can benefit from image search but a careful analysis needs to be made first. Is image search optimization a good use of your clients time?

Mark Mayne – Owner of Internet marketing blog Maynem and works for UK based SEO company PushON. Mark has been in the industry for over two and a half years and runs a multitude of websites.

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