Most people will tell you that YouTube is the next biggest search engine in the world after Google but now we know that isn\’t true.
\”YouTube is huge. It has more search volume than Bing or Yahoo, more than twice Amazon’s, and three times Facebook’s. But it’s a paltry third place behind Google’s second juggernaut in search — Images.\” – Rand Fishkin
The crazy thing about those numbers is that you NEVER hear anyone talking about the importance of Image SEO or even how to optimize your images in the first place.
But if you take a look around and start reading into the tea leaves a bit more you\’ll soon begin to realize that Image SEO is skyrocketing in value.
\”Google announced that they will be bringing Google Lens features directly to the Google Image search results. You will be able to pull up an image in image search, highlight an area of the image and have Google Lens zoom in and locate that information.\” – Search Engine Roundtable
What is Google Lens and why should you even care?
Google Lens is an Image recognition mobile app designed to bring up the most relevant information using visual analysis. As advanced and intelligent Google has become it still has a hard time understanding an image. It\’s getting better at it and Google Lens will no doubt help quite a bit but the real impact here is that it\’s going to pull information from the 2nd biggest search engine in the world, Google Images!
The only way that Google Lens can understand the image that it\’s looking at is if the person who created the image labels the image correctly. If you\’re an SEO expert or learning to be one it\’s a similar process to optimizing your title tag and meta description. In the case of an image, these sections are arguably more important than a title tag or meta description (in relation to an image) because there\’s really nowhere else Google can scan or crawl that will tell it what it\’s looking at. For a blog post, Google can look at the rest of the content on the page, the inner linking structure, and what other websites are linking to it. For an image, all it has to go off of is the file name, title, alt text, caption, and description.
But what if nobody actually starts using Google Lens?
Like everything in the Google ecosystem, Google Lens taps into our human biology by helping us fulfill our drive to understand and know more. In other words, it taps into our undying curiosity to know what, where, and why! People will start using Google Lens to explore the world around them and if you optimize your images correctly it\’ll be yours that shows up first over your competition.
Even if not as many people use Google Images as you may think Google Images is still the 2nd biggest search engine in the world. And because not many people optimize their images for SEO if you do so you\’ll have a huge edge against your competition.
Suddenly optimizing your images to be found is WAY more important than ever before (even more important than Michael Jordan).
But how do you even optimize your images?
Luckily for you, I\’ve been doing this for a long time and can show you exactly how to approach it. There are several things to take into account and other additional benefits of optimizing your Images that play into your greater SEO strategy.
How UX plays into Image SEO
The game of SEO has shifted and always will. For some, this can be extremely frustrating but there are some common themes and patterns that stay the same no matter how many times Google updates their algorithm. If you focus on optimizing for these main factors the rest of your SEO strategy will fall into place and you\’ll do a lot better work for your clients.
One of the biggest additions is that Google now takes into account UX signals thanks to their machine learning algorithm Rankbrain. This is a part of Google\’s greater ranking factors and it\’s now something to consider every time you create content. The good thing about optimizing your Images is that they can help your onsite UX.
What are UX signals?
User Experience (UX) signals are simply how Google measures how people interact with your content. So, the longer you keep people on your website clicking through to new pages and interacting with your content the higher you\’ll rank.
One of the most important new ranking factors is something called \”Dwell Time\” which is something that Google measures every time they interact with your website. The other thing they measure is whether or not someone clicks through to your website and stays. If they leave immediately and go to another result that tells Google that you\’re content isn\’t relevant and you won\’t rank as well!
There are way more signals than the ones I just mentioned but those are among the most important and easiest to optimize for so we\’ll just start there.
Adding an Image to your content can go a long way towards keeping people on your website or having people bounce off to look for a different result. Speaking of bouncing off, that\’s another user experience signal and the more pages people interact with on your website the lower it will be and the higher you\’ll rank.
An image can keep them scrolling, scanning, and clicking through to other pages on your website which in turn increase \”Dwell Time\” and lowers your \”Bounce Rate.\” An Image can be your digital first impression and we all know how important those are in the real world. They are just as impactful online and they can be the difference between beating your competitors or being stuck behind them.
Before I get into the more technical details there are a few best practices you need to take into account.
Use Original Images Whenever Possible
Stock photos are great and all but there are literally thousands of websites that use the same one.
People have an eye for whether or not an image is stock or if it\’s completely original. Authenticity goes a long way in catering towards UX and keeping people on your website.
Of course, if you\’re just starting out you may not have the resources to invest in an original Image for every single post but there is a way around this and it\’s simple and easy to do.
You can create completely new images by taking screenshots and labeling them correctly. For example, since I\’m an SEO blog I can screenshot the progress I\’ve made of websites I\’ve optimized.
Here\’s an image from Google Search Console of a website I optimized from 0 hits a month to 30,000 a month! This particular image shows how many clicks it\’s gotten since August of 2018 and I can label it in a way so it ranks for SEO related keywords.
How does the screenshot help the overall SEO of my website?
Well, if I label it correctly and it links back to this post it creates another way for people to find me. For example, if someone searches \”How to understand Google Search Console for SEO\” and that image pops up that particular person may, in turn, end up coming to my site as well. Some people are more visual in nature and need an image to reinforce what they read in a blog post. Adding an image will cater to this group of people rather than driving them away.
How to Create Your Own Images or Find Them
Ideally, you should hire someone to create original images or take photos for you but when you\’re just starting out that maybe doesn\’t make a lot of sense. If you\’re a freelancer, consultant, or small agency just getting started you can always use a website like Canva.
On Canva you can create your own or browse thousands of images, photos, logos, flyer templates, and Icons for whatever else you may need them for. Another option is a website called Unsplash which is a massive community of photographers taking breathtaking photos and offering them up for free!
If you have a little more money to work with a website like Fiverr or Upwork can go a long way. On either website, you can find someone to make a 100% original image that you can optimize for whatever piece of content you want to create. Remember to always credit the image the photo belongs to if you use any of these images.
Optimizing the File Name
Whether you go the screenshot route or download the file to your computer there is an important step in the process that most people skip. In the case of a screenshot, you\’ll usually get a file name like the one highlighted in yellow.
The file is named something like \”Screen Shot 2018-11-07 at 6.59.33 PM\” which has no relevance whatsoever to what\’s in the image. No one would EVER think of searching that way and I\’m not really sure why that ends up being the default file name.
Google actually reads the file name of the image to help it understand what the image is. Naming the file correctly is an important foundation in ensuring that you rank well in Image search. Remember, there are only so many places Google will look to on an image and the file name is one of them.
Make sure it\’s relevant to the image but feel free to use keywords you want your image and your blog post (or whatever other content it is) to rank for.
I would name the image of Google Search Console and the clicks above \”clicks-in-google-search-console.jpg\” or \”clicks-google-search.jpg\”
Once you\’ve uploaded the image there is an area where you can add in more details and you should see something like this:
The areas to give special attention to are the \”title\”, \”caption\”, \”alt text\”, and \”description.\” Here\’s the best way to optimize each section and how they play into search. Something to keep in mind this section is here for situations for when the image can\’t display and also for people who utilize screen readers and are visually impaired. This is also the section where you would give credit where credits due (photographer, content creator, etc). If it\’s just a random screenshot from Google Search Console than you don\’t really need to credit anyone.
The best approach to optimizing an image is describing what it is in a simple, concise way which also just so happens to benefit your search optimization efforts. Avoid sales jargon or language like \”buy now.\”
You\’re essentially just helping Google organize the world\’s information but at the same time, it helps your SEO. Think of Google Images as a massive digital library (Just like Google Search). Remember when you were a kid and you looked up a book in the library and it turned out it wasn\’t where it was supposed to be or the wrong book was there?
The same principles apply here. Mis-labeling the image hurts the user experience of anyone who finds your image and suddenly see\’s \”Buy Now\” or \”Limited Time Only.\”
At the end of this section I\’ll give you an example of a perfectly optimized Image for Google Search but before that let\’s walk through each section and how it plays into your optimization efforts.
The title is right under the image and shows the website it links to and should be 3-5 words or less.
This is the gray text that displays underneath your image. Now it may seem pointless to write anything here it isn\’t! Remember, Google now takes into account UX signals and keeping people on your site as long as possible will increase your rankings.
Some people may scan your article, look at your header tags, and look at your images before deciding to read the rest of it. Because they are just scanning the image you want to keep the caption 5-7 words or less. All the images in this blog post have a caption to reinforce or describe what people are seeing.
The Alt text is meant to build upon whatever your title is and maybe another way to describe the image and should be 3-5 words or less.
As mentioned before Google can\’t \”see\” your images so you need to help it understand what it\’s looking at. In this section feel free to use the keyword you\’re trying to rank for and be as descriptive as possible. Make sure to use at least one sentence but a few more will only help your chances of ranking well.
Example of an optimized image
The above is how I chose to optimize one of my images. The title \”Clicks-Google-Search\” describes what you\’re looking at. In other words, these are clicks from SEO optimization efforts. The caption describes to whoever is looking at the image when the clicks are from and the alt text expands on the title more in that it describes in another way what it is. In the description, it speaks to a person who is maybe trying to understand what GSC is and how it could potentially help them with SEO.
So, all in all, it hits all the most important areas of optimizing your images. If you\’re having trouble trying to figure out what to name your images or what to put in the description always keep it simple and concise.
Will an Image make or break your SEO strategy?
No, but it will compliment it and SEO is all about optimizing every little area on your website you can. In other words, it\’s important to be detail oriented in the SEO world because it\’s the little things that add up over time that will help you outrank the competition. Also, it doesn\’t really take too much extra time and if you\’re writing a blog post you\’ve already done all the keyword research for it anyways.
If you have any specific questions on how to optimize for SEO you can always tweet me @seocheatcode.