SEO for Images

Very interesting article by Grant Crowell over at SearchEngineWatch.com.

Here are some of the more interesting snippets for those looking to capitalize on working their images into their search engine optimization efforts.

…image search optimization offers the following advantages:

  • Free product promotion. “Its another avenue of search marketing without having to pay for the click.”
  • More optimization opportunities than regular search alone. Smith added that photo sharing sites Social image sharing sites have more contextual clues that search engines can use for their ranking criteria. “There’s a lot more signals involved than regular web pages.”
  • Less competition. “Image search right now is a widely underused area for retailers. Some spaces have very few retailers or no major retailers at all.”

Evans attests that features natural to image search–easier to optimize, free inclusion, and less competition from major retailers – create special advantages of image search optimization for niche markets and smaller retailers.

“This is one case where smaller retailers without large content management systems can hold an advantage,” said Evans. “Smaller retailers have direct control over picture descriptions, picture names and content that is directly around the pictures and on the page. Content Management Systems have a lot more constraints on content and files names and therefore it is a lot more difficult to optimize for image search,” she said.

Image Optimization Tips

The panelists offered the following tips for optimizing images for search engines:

  • Image originality. The panelists agree that there is a special advantage to taking original photos, even if you are a retailer who already receives photos elsewhere such as from a manufacturer. “The more control you have over the images on your site the better.” says Evans. “You can brand them with your logo, url or trademark. It also allows you as the retailer to present the product in the best possible way that will convert with your own audience, not to mention allowing you to present the features in a different way than other competitors.
  • Image formatting. Thurow advises saving photos as JPG files, and other graphic image types as GIFs “Search engines are going to interpret a GIF as a standard graphic image with 256 colors,” Thurow said, “and JPGs as photos (because photos have millions of colors.” says said Shari Thurow, Webmaster and Marketing Director at Grantastic Designs, Inc..
  • Image naming. “Make the image names of your files match what is actually represented in the file,” says Thurow. “The image name will appear beneath the graphic image in search results. It helps to communicate to searchers that they are viewing the desired graphic image. “Do NOT expect your photo editing program’s default settings to give you optimized file names,” she continued. “Default names communicate nothing to the search engines on their own. Make sure to set up your own file naming structure in advance.”
  • Expand audience base. Be broad in your subject matter. Image search is not just for retailers directly reaching customers. “There are all sorts of innovative ways you can get people interested in your company and hence build up traffic and conversions. For example, factories might show steps in product manufactures, hotels might show furniture & decorative art in addition to details on their rooms, and restaurants might show picturesque views or special event rooms.”
  • Optimize the page with the image. Optimize the page the image appears on can be just as important as optimizing the image itself. “Optimizing the actual page for contextual search improves graphic images search,” Thurow added. “Search engines also look at text surrounding a graphic image to determine relevancy.” says Thurow. “Text within the anchor tag and next to anchor text is especially going to influence image-search rankings,” said Thurow. “If you can reasonably put labels and captions on key graphic images, try and do so.”
  • File organization. Both Evans and Thurow mentioned of crucial importance is creating an image folder on your web server space that’s accessible to the search engines. “Do not robots exclude your graphic images directory or limit search engine access to graphic-image files.” says Thurow. Another big mistake people make is putting their ‘click to see larger image’ inside of a JavaScript link. When you do that, you are limiting search engines’ access to that image file.”
  • Usability is “Queen”. According to Thurow, usability is very important in image search optimization. “It’s one thing for a graphic image to show up at the top of image search results,” she said. “It’s another thing to get people to click on the link to the image and go to your site. Writing alternative text (which shows up in Google Image search results) that is keyword stuffed is not going to inspire people to click on the link in that image to your site.” Smith also added that sometimes adding a not directly onto a region of a photo can invite users to comment and participate.”

Read the entire article.

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