Would you want to learn how to rank in Google image search today? Yes?
Then this is the guide for you to read, right now.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
But first, why bother about Google images?
Google images pull in 20.45 % of total web traffic market share.
To give you a hint and a half, the Google image search engine is secondary to normal Google Search. However, it is bigger than Amazon, Bing/Yahoo, Youtube and DuckDuckGo combined.
Google Image Searches – Why Bother Really? 6 Excellent Reasons!
Here are 6 excellent reasons why you need to optimize your photos for Google.
#1- Easy Branding Opportunity
If you are making custom images for your blog posts (you should) I hope you’re not forgetting to watermark them and slap your logo on.
If you are then you’re missing out on a substantial, perpetual and passive branding effect.
When people see your logo, even if they don’t click and interact with your listing, they are still exposed to your brand and will learn to recognize it over time.
It takes an average of seven exposure instances for a brand to be remembered, and branded images found in Google Images can be one of those seven.
#2- More Traffic
As you saw in the image above, Google Images have lots of traffic to send to sites that are actually competing for their share.
The good news is that most marketers suck at image SEO. Partly because they think it doesn’t matter as much. And partly because they already “know” what they’re doing.
#3- It’s Way Less Competitive
Most marketers think Google Image search is a joke as a traffic source, and won’t lift a finger to try to rank their images.
Yes, that may include a keyword in image filename and alt attribute, but that’s all they do and it’s not enough.
As you will see further below, there’s so much more you can do to boost your ranking chances.
#4- Earn More Money
Ranking in Google Image Search can also be very lucrative.
For example, imagine you’re number #1 result for the query “best espresso coffee maker under $1000”.
It’s a visual keyword and also a buyer one, and people will want to check out the image results before clicking anywhere.
#5- Featured Snippet Theft
Oftentimes, the really juicy keywords are so dominated by huge sites that it’d take years of your best SEO to rank.
However there is a shortcut and it’s ranking your image in the featured snippet, next to the other text-based result.
For example, when you type in the query “how to write a resume” Google ranks this page in the snippet, but the images above come from several different websites.
And if you check Google Images you will see that image number 1# in the snippet is ranked number #2 in Google Image search.
That’s free and easy exposure and unique and high quality images will get at least a few clicks from that features snippet position.
#6- Possible Influence on the Main SERPS
Full disclaimer – This is just a nerdy speculation of mine and I only have anecdotal evidence of it (when I see it working).
But it is possible that by ranking your image number #1 in Google Images, that image sort of “pulls” your page indexed in normal results to start ranking higher and faster.
You learned WHY you need to be optimizing your images to rank high in Google.
Now let’s learn HOW to do it.
How to Rank Your Site in Google Image Search? 16 Awesome Tips Ahoy!
#1- Create a Hero Image
What is a Hero image?
Hero images are oversized banners that sit perched at the top of your blog posts, right beneath your headline.
Their purpose is to entice the reader to start reading, and as such they need to be, well, enticing.
What else 🙂
However, these images are also your best bet for ranking in Google images.
It’s because they’re attractive, original and are the first image in your blog post, which is very important.
#2- Image Must Be Original
Google loves original content and that includes images too.
So don’t expect to take a picture from someone else’s website, change it a bit, name it differently, and then try to rank it.
It won’t work as Google is at the point where they can “see” the image and also recognize where it came from.
For example, when you input an image of a random dog found on Pixabay in Google Cloud Vision API, it can “see” the image and tell you it’s a dog with 90% certainty.
Note: another reason to create original images is the general SEO benefit you can gain. This recent study showed that image duplication hurts the page’s organic performance in regular Google SERPS.
#3- Use Google Preferred Image Formats
Let’s do a quick test,
What kind of images does Pinterest algorithm prefer to show?
Exactly! Vertical one’s, shaped like rectangles.
And what about Google?
Square, horizontal ones, you guessed right again.
The point is, don’t make a vertical image and try to rank it in Google- It won’t find success, even if all your other image SEO is perfect.
#4- Add Keyword-Rich Image filename
Image filenames is how you name the image before you upload it to WordPress.
Here’s what it looks like on my desktop:
Notice how I wrote-it-with-dashes and_not_with_underscores?
That’s the way to write for Google-bot.
Pro tip– If you want to go back and modify image filenames, you can.
You can’t change them natively in WordPress, but if you use this free plugin, it’s a cinch.
And it’s worth doing it for image keywords you really want to rank for.
#5- Always Write Alt Attributes
Alt attributes, (or alt tags) are little code snippets that help people who’re visually imparied consume your content.
They show up when the image fails to load and screen readers (devices that help blind people consume content) read those so users know what the image represents.
So it is good UX (user experience) to include them.
But alt attributes help with image SEO as well.
In fact according to John Mueller, alt attributes are “very important” for ranking in Google Image search.
Pro tip– use your target keyword as alt attribute once, and in your hero image.
#6- Take Advantage of Strategic Image Captions
Use image captions to describe an image a bit more, and to give a bit more context to both the users and Google..
Include a keyword if possible as it’ll help a lot with your rankings.
As a bonus, research shows that image captions get read, a LOT.
Pro tip– don’t have image captions on all images. It looks spammy and is not helpful.
#7- Use Image Title Tag
You can give your image a title so it pops up when someone hovers their mouse over it.
I always include these because they’re so easy to do and because I think they help with both ranking in Google Image Search, and normal SERPS.
I picked up the habit from Backlinko’s Brian Dean, who religiously uses image title tags in all of his blog posts.
#8- Embed EXIF Data Inside Your Images
EXIF data are things like:
- shutter speed;
- exposure compensation;
- which metering system was used;
- was flash used;
- ISO number;
- date and time the image was taken;
- GPS coordinates;
- auxiliary lenses that were used;
And you can add this information to your images so they give a bit more context to Google.
Full disclaimer – I’ve never done this. But here’s a case study from Matthew Woodward you should read.
Matt proved that EXIF data does help with both image and regular SEO and he also teaches you how to add it to your images with the help of a free tool.
More on How to Rank Your Website in Google Image Searches
We will now look at the remaining 8 ways to rank in the Google image searches.
#9- Find Related Image Keyword
To find these, simply type your keyword in Google and go to image search. Once there, look at the top bar for a list of related keywords you can use.
These keyword suggestions are powered by the Knowledge Graph and Google considers them hyper relevant to your target phrase.
Use these related keywords as alt attributes, captions and image title attributes of the rest of the images.
As a bonus, this will boost the relevance of your entire article, so you might rank higher in regular search too.
#10- Build Up Your Page Authority
When you send link equity to a page on your site, that page naturally starts to rise in the SERPS.
The thing is, the images on that page behave the same way.
So at the very least shoot some relevant internal links to the page whose images you want to rank and watch them gradually rise in the SERPS.
#11- Surround The Image With Relevant Content
Google looks at the surrounding content to determine what your image is about.
So if you have an image about “blue widgets” and surrounding text has the same phrase, that’s a conclusive sign to Google that your site is about that topic.
Especially if your URL and headline also contain “blue widget”. That’s golden!
#12- Use Image Formats Google-bot Understands
Save and upload your image in a format Google can easily index.
Best image formats are:
Note: PNG gives the highest quality, but JPEG offers optimal quality and reduced size for speed optimization.
Use GIF’s sparingly because they’re heavy and will slow down your page considerably.
Also, it is OK to mix image formats on the same page. So consider having the important pictures be in PNG format, while the rest can be JPEG’s.
#13- improve Image Loading Speed
If your images aren’t optimized for speed and are slow to load, then Google will not pick them to show in Image Search
It’s because for every query someone types, Google has to load hundreds of images at once and they can’t have your gigantic photo clogging down the load speed.
This is especially important if the user in question comes from a poor country where internet speeds are generally abysmal.
Steps to optimize for speed
- Host with a fast host (WPX is the fastest!);
- Use an image optimizer plugin (ShortPixel, Imagify and Smush Image Optimizer are all great choices)
- Use a CDN (Cloudflare is free);
- Use a caching plugin;
- Use a lazy loading plugin.
#14- Syndicate Your Image
Syndicate your target image on a bunch of image sharing sites (Google Photos, Imgur, DeviantArt, Flickr..).
Each syndicated image should link to source i.e., your original image.
This will build a bunch of (nofollow) links that will pass authority signals to your image.
#15- Embed Original Images On Other Websites
Image embed serves as backlink pointing to the image.
So by embedding the image that first appeared on your site you’ll be juicing it up so it becomes stronger and performs better.
There are 2 easy ways to do this and I recommend you do both for optimal results.
First, when guest posting make sure to include your image if applicable
No webmaster is going to bat an eye to that because they know the image is yours and you’re taking it from your website.
And they won’t even consider you’re doing it for your Image SEO. + You’ll be making your guest post a better and more comprehensive resource.
Second, create a bunch of free Web 2.0’s sites and embed your image there alongside some content for Google to index. Remember Google has to index your page in order for it to pass any kind of ranking signal
Finally, in order for this to work you need to copy the image URL from your site and use that to embed the image. So don’t just copy/paste it.
Go to your image library in WordpRess and find the image you wish to embed somewhere.
Click on the image and copy image URL
Next embed it on a WEB 2.0 property, for example Tumblr.
#16- (Bonus) Have A High Quality Page
This is sort of a no brainer, but it’s worth repeating. Your page that hosts your image needs to be of very high quality.
Remember, when people click from Google Images, they land on websites and pages and Google’s ultimate goal is to serve the best result for any query.
So your page as a whole must be a resource and true quality.
Then your images will naturally rank much faster and higher.
How to Rank in Google Image Search- FAQ
Now to the Q&As.
These are the questions people ask about Google image SEO. The answers are below, for you and free of charge.
No need to thank me. All I ask is that you don’t ask me how much time I spent on Quora looking for these.
I’d be ashamed if you did:)
#1- What is Image SEO?
Image SEO is the practice of optimizing images so they rank higher in Google Image Search.
Google Images is a separate search engine from Google Search, and is run by a different set of algorithms.
#2- Do Images Help With SEO?
Yes they do. Images help with image SEO, but they also aid your page in ranking higher in regular Google SERPS.
It’s because well-optimized images send relevance signals to Google, so they can parse and understand your page better and rank it higher for it’s target queries.
Don’t forget, Google-bot is just a program that’s trying to understand the page as a human would.
And image SEO is just a bunch of additional hints you can send to Google to make their job easier.
#3-How Do I SEO My Photos
Read this guide to find out as I cover both basic and advanced tactics.
However, if you’re looking for a quick tip and don’t have time to read, then focus on the image SEO essentials.
This is placing your keyword in strategic places.
- Image filename;
- Image alt attribute;
- Image caption;
- Image title attribute.
That’s about 80% of image SEO and is often enough to see results, especially if there’s little competition for the keyword.
#4- How Do I Name My Photos For SEO?
Two quick tips:
First, include your target keyword in image filename, alt attribute, caption and title attribute.
Second (very important), don’t make a mistake of optimizing multiple images on a page for one target keyword.
This will confuse the heck out of Google and then they won’t rank you just as precaution. And there’s always someone else to rank.
The solution is to use secondary keywords in your images
Note: See tip #9 where I covered how to find image keywords related to your target keyphrase.
#5- How to Make a Clickable Image?
That’s easy if you’re on WordPress.
Simply add your new image
And then set it to link to image attachment (and open in new window)
#6- Is Embedding Images On Web 2.0 Properties A Grey Hat Tactic?
If there’s a reason to do it, then it’s not.
For example, you syndicate your post on your Tumblr blog and of course you use the accompanying images.
That won’t cause you any problem.
Honestly, I never heard of anyone getting penalized because of manipulative image SEO, and I did a thorough research in preparation for this post.
#7- When Should I Do Image SEO? And When Is It Not Worth It?
Do Image SEO when Google shows image packs in the SERPs.
This means it’s a visual keyword and search intent is better served with visuals than with just words on a page.
When you search for a keyword “How to shave your beard” you can see that Google serves an image pack in the SERPs.
That’s a type of query where you want to intentionally target image SERP, in addition to normal Google SERP.
Don’t do (extensive) image SEO if the first page of Google for your target query is full of articles without a video or image in sight.
Note- always do basic SEO with ALL your images. And pay special attention to alt attributes. It’s because they are also a usability feature.
Alt tags help your visually impared visitors consume your content easier.
#8- I Have To Use Stock Imagery And Now I know It’s Bad For Image SEO? What Should I Do?
Having a few stock images here and there won’t impede your page from ranking in normal search.
Also, and this is a pretty advanced hack, when Google is faced with hundreds of image duplicates, they then select the canonical version of the image and show that one, while others are put in the supplemental index where they are invisible.
So at first your duplicate image won’t be shown anywhere because Google knows it’s a duplicate.
However, you can get Google to start seeing your image as the canonical version.
You need to juice up your image and make it more authoritative.
So, use it in a couple of your guest posts. Embed in on a few WEB 2.0’s Syndicate your image on a whole set of image sharing sites.
Be thorough in making your image poplar and really show Google your version of the same image is “better” than the original one.
Over time as Google crawls and re-crawls those links they’ll start to consider your image as original and other as duplicate.
The process is called link inversion and it’s well documented and it works.
But it also depends on the authority of the image you want to replace. For example you could replace Amazon’s image of a certain product, but expect it to be an uphill battle.
#9- Where Else Can I Learn About Image SEO?
I suggest you read and reread this guide because it has everything you need to rank in Google image searches.
Then I suggest you read a few case studies and success stories that show you the power of Image SEO.
Here are few below:
- How We Octupled Image Search Traffic To Hubspot Blog in One Year
- Long Term Duplicate Image Ranking Experiment
- The Hidden SEO Ranking Factor You’re Probably Deleting
Remember, it’s better to do image SEO than just read about it.
#10- How to Track How My Images Are Performing?
Here are 2 simple ways to do it.
First, use Google Search Console. Go to your Search Console and hit ”Performance” Report.
There select search type>image
Alternatively, go to Google Analytics>Referrals and you will see all traffic that came from Google Images in a given time period.
It’s because Google image search traffic is separated from regular Google search traffic.
Concluding this Google Image SEO Guide…
Ranking in Google image search is the low hanging fruit of Search. And most marketers neglect it because they think it’s inconsequential, plain, boring and tedious.
They obviously haven’t got a clue but it’s up to you to prove them wrong!
Take the tips from this guide and apply them, starting today. And watch your site soar and conquer query after query after query.
You’ll be surprised by the results you get, and how fast it happens.
That’s a promise.
Leave me a comment below, lemme know what you think 🙂
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