Digital life is highly visual. While that’s always been a constant, the importance of visual search has waxed and waned over the years. Changes to the Google algorithm and user experience have largely driven this boom and bust cycle for visual search content marketing. We’re starting to head toward another boom time.
That’s because Google now requires users on its image search pages to navigate to the site where an image is hosted to download that photo. This means that image-focused searches are once again viable sources of inbound traffic. That’s great news for marketers who are struggling to compete in a saturated SEO market. Can’t get your pages to rank on the first search engine results page (SERP) for important brand keywords? Turning to visual search may help get your content more traffic.
How to Succeed With Image-Focused SEO
Let’s get down to brass tacks. What do you need to do to create a successful visual search strategy? Some of the principles of visual search carry over from traditional SEO wisdom. But there are also some format-specific concerns that you shouldn’t ignore. Here are the big points to hit when you start formulating your specific visual search strategy.
The quality of your image is extremely important. It’s important with all content, not only for SEO but for engagement and branding. But with visual search, your audience is going to see everything up front in the SERP. If your image is irrelevant, low-quality, poorly framed or otherwise not up to par, you aren’t going to get the clicks.
Just as keyword stuffing doesn’t help your written content succeed, displaying random images just to have them available won’t help your visual content strategy. Quantity matters, but quality may be more important.
Who searches for images rather than page content? From shoppers to graphic designers, there are a few different types of people to think about. Even though some of these people might not end up converting into customers, they can direct traffic toward your site, which is generally good for SEO.
That means all of these people are valuable targets for visual search strategy. People looking for fair-use images are one such group that may not make purchases but could still be good sources of inbound traffic. The next item on this list can help you reach that particular group.
Rights and Licensing
Usage permissions are an important factor to consider when optimizing your visual search strategy. Ultimately, putting any content up online means you risk someone stealing and reusing what you’ve made. But licensing and other intellectual property protections can help you either avoid that happening or get people to stop using your stolen content.
However, say you use a highly restrictive license for your image. That may mean that fewer people are likely to find and click on what you have to offer. Something like a Creative Commons license that allows for reuse and modification with an author credit will allow you to extend your image content reach while protecting yourself.
Image Titles and Alt Text
Search engine algorithms still rely on text to contextualize and sort images. That means you shouldn’t upload an image with a vague title and expect it to perform well, even if the photo is beautiful and appealing.
Use image titles and alt text to specify the content of the photo. Focus on using keywords rather than creating complete sentences that’d make sense to a person. Describe not only what’s in the photo (“child,” “dog,” “flower,” “mountain,” “lake”) but also any feelings it may evoke (“love,” “appreciation,” “sadness”). For product photos, be sure to describe color and style (“blue boho maxi dress,” “rose gold makeup brush”).
Stock photos are abundant online, and many content creators rely on these fair-use images to add visual interest to their posts. That’s good for efficiency, but it isn’t necessarily great for visual search. You don’t want to have to compete with a bunch of other people using the exact same image.
Do you see visual search as a viable option for your brand? It may be worth the time and effort to create original, one-of-a-kind images to accompany your content. This can be particularly easy for product photos. However, lifestyle and other narrative images may end up performing better in the long run.
You don’t have to be a world-class photographer in the realm of Annie Leibovitz to do well in visual search content marketing. This has been a relatively ignored area of SEO for a while. That’s due to the fact that Google previously allowed users to click directly to an image rather than the page where the image is hosted. Now that that’s changed, visual search is going to increase in importance.
The fact that it’s relatively uncompetitive right now means you can really get in on the ground floor. Provide great content for users who are looking for quality images. If you don’t have time to create original images yourself, you can find a freelance photographer or another content creator to help. The investment should be worth it in the long run.