For all the talk surrounding virtual assistants and voice-enabled Internet search, online marketers and brand managers should not keep their eyes off search engine optimization for images.
There is no doubt that online searches conducted by the Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana are bound to become more commonplace over the next few years, but the visual appeal of the internet should never be ignored. There was a time when online search was mostly dominated by text elements; this started to change a few years ago when Google developers noticed a certain trend among people who specifically crafted their search queries to look for images.
Let’s say a young woman in a romantic relationship meets her boyfriend’s parents, who happen to be from the Lastovo islands of Croatia. Intrigued, she launches a search from the Bing app on her smartphone; since Lastovo is a very scenic archipelago, she is likely to tap the image browsing tab and swipe through the various photos. This search and image browsing practice is very common; one third of all Google searches focus on images, and 12.5 of searchers will specifically browse an image collection.
Why Image SEO Matters These Days
Jaded online marketers and brand managers often complain that the current paradigm of image search is not conducive to SEO. This complaint is only valid insofar as searchers who simply browse images; in the example above, the young woman may simply enjoy great photos of Lastovo and may not bother to visit the websites that actually host the images.
What if the young woman’s relationship progresses to the point that she entertains the thought of a future seaside wedding and honeymoon in Lastovo? In this case, image SEO will be quite powerful if it is done properly. An image that shows a seaside chapel will certainly capture the attention of the young woman, but only if it was properly alt-tagged with keywords such as “Lastovo weddings” or “Lastovo honeymoon packages.”
Aside from alt attributes and tags, proper image SEO includes captions, page title, URL, surrounding text, and the file name. Of equal importance is the quality of the image and the engagement it has produced; to this effect, a Lastovo tour operator should take scenic pictures of wedding chapels against dramatic sunset backgrounds and post them to Instagram. The idea is to get likes, comments and shares that the search engine spider will consider; additionally, embedding popular Instagram photos is another effective SEO tactic.
The Bottom Line of Image SEO
Searchers who browse Google or Bing image galleries, and who click or tap on the button to visit the corresponding website, are sending strong signals about their intentions. In the case of the woman who dreams of getting married in Croatia, her click on a Lastovo image hosted on the site of a travel agency is a strong signal of her potential plans.
Image SEO must fit within overall SEO goals; it starts with an analysis of the opportunities that can be pursued and continues with decisions related to the image. For example, a Croatian travel agency can create a section for Lastovo tour packages, weddings and honeymoons; the goal here is to develop a nice mix of content with images that are complementary. There should be articles with bullet points and videos as well as maps, but it is important to include an image with every content piece. At this point, the images can be properly tagged and shared across social networks.