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POSTED BY: Jill Adams
Since You Asked

How can we better control SEO for Google images?


Recently, a client called concerned that the press kept pulling in outdated, not-so-flattering images of their destination whenever it ran a story. She surmised that they were just pulling these images off of Google.

“Isn’t there something we can do to control what photos come up in a Google image search?” she asked.

Great question. So I threw it out to our team of SEM/SEO specialists, website developers, and digital marketers. And although there is no way to actually tell search engines what image to display for your destination, product or organization, there are ways you can influence Google image optimization.

Many of the best practices outlined below can help make your images more “findable” by the search engines, thus enabling them to rank more prominently and to displace less desirable options. Other suggestions below can help you simply spread the imagery you wouldn’t mind others using when referencing your attraction, town, city, product or organization.

#1. Upload images as JPEG or PNG. File formats do matter to the search engines. JPEGs, in particular, are SEO-friendly and are ideal if you post larger photos or illustrations because they can offer good color/clarity with a relatively small file size. However, if you want to preserve a transparent background for a logo or image you are using online, use the PNG file format.

#2. Use target keywords in your image file name. You can also influence what images come up when people are searching for specific keywords by including those keywords when you name the image files you use on your website or provide for other digital marketing purposes. For example, an image of Stamford should be titled stamford-connecticut.JPEG, if one of your brand’s keywords is “Stamford.”

#3. Add SEO-optimized alt text. When posting your images online, take advantage of the opportunity to add alt text. This will help ensure your images get correctly categorized. It will also show descriptive, searchable text if the image can’t be displayed, like when a user has “turned off” images.

#4. Create an image sitemap. Just like you can submit XML sitemaps to Google to help make your website more search-engine friendly, you can also submit an XML sitemap for your images. This can help increase the chances that they can be found as well as alert Google to images uploaded through JavaScript that it might otherwise not discover.

In addition to listing your image files, an image sitemap can include a title, caption and geographic location for each image. Not only does this information provide more content about your images, it lets you indicate images that you want the search engines to crawl and index in search results.    

#5. Create a page to serve as an image gallery. You may also want to consider including an image gallery on your website. This would allow you to try to rank that page in text searches for photos, not just in image searches.

#6. Submit your photos to a stock photography provider. Often reporters and freelance writers rely on stock photo houses, not just search, to source copyright free photos. If you own photos with all the appropriate people and location releases, you could consider making them available through a stock photo house. For example, photographers can contribute their own work to Shutterstock, a popular photo resource many publishers use. If your brand, destination, town/city has a collection of photos and is legally permitted to license them, then they can make these photos more accessible to all kinds of potential users through stock photo houses.

In a recent survey published by eMarketer, 62 percent of millennials said they want the ability to search by visual image as part of a customer-buying journey. Even more motivation to optimize images and gain more control over the visibility of your brand!

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