Before we get into this, Happy New Year! I hope it’s a prosperous one for all.
I wanted to start the New Year off talking about image search, mainly because I think it’s a massively underused method for driving search traffic. In the last year I have had the privilege of working on a few image focussed SEO campaigns and the results I’v seen are unreal.
How unreal?? 50 – 500,000 visits per month in 6 months? Oh yes.
Of course there is a major caveat to image search and that is some industries are particularly difficult, if not impossible to optimise for, however the ones that aren’t hold major riches.
So let’s begin by going over some basic optimisation advice, and then we can delve into a bit of strategy.
The Rules to Image Optimisation
Text, Text, Text
Yup, just like on page SEO your text must be optimised. Where?
> The file name
> Alt attribute
> Image Title
> Page Title
> Text around the image
You have probably read the above many times before so I am not going to bore you with the details, however there is one word of warning, don’t just stuff random keywords into these areas, not good.
Try and be as descriptive as possible and specific to the image, not just in your alt attribute but in every part of the page that matters.
Stick With JPG
Out of all the testing we did our JPG images always performed the best, this is probably due to the fact they are the most common and can be read by all browsers. Plus you can easily compress them reducing load time on image heavy pages.
We try and stick to between 1KB and 60KB for all our images, anything over 70KB tends to take too long to load and never performs as well.
First Past the Post! The Freshness Boost!
It has been mentioned a couple of times over the last couple of years, but in my opinion this is massive.
Even if you have a fairly new website you can still benefit from publishing fresh unique images, and you can rank not only on image search but within global search as well.
Make your images fresh, make them as unique as possible, and push them out on a fresh article, fully optimised and Bam! You’re onto a winner. You could also consider using tools like Google Trends to take advantage of search spikes, works very well.
Amount of Images on a Page
SEO’s in the past have advised against having too many images on a page, however in the last 12 months I have found the complete opposite, consistently the pages with the most images on have outperformed the ones with one or two on, massively outperformed.
Keep your images as clean as possible, reducing file sizes and if you’re using WordPress, super cache and lazy load are perfect plugins.
So my opinion, more is better.
A Quick Case Study
Now I am can’t give you the full details due to client confidentiality, however I can display the potential in terms of search traffic.
After taking advantage of some celebrity booms towards the end of last year we managed the following through image search alone on a fashion website;
[image of traffic spike]
This website only launched at the end of 2010, barely had 20 links and yet was capable of driving over 1 million visitors in 4 months, result!
Think of an Angle
Unless your aim is to drive up the amount you can charge for ads, you’re going to have to seriously consider the type of traffic you target.
Here are a few examples:
I worked on a project with a clothes retailer, one of the first things we did was to roam the web for celebrities that were wearing their clothes or clothes that we’re similar. We would then Photoshop the images enough to make them unique and then publish them on the blog, fully optimised.
Result > Tons of search traffic for fashion tips around a particular celebrity, conversion rate? Around 0.3% not great but the traffic was easy to get.
At the end of 2010 I worked with a cosmetics website, they had some great beauty and hair products but their image search was zero.
So, first things first, get the blog set up, begin writing tons of tips (with images) about hair and makeup techniques. You’d be surprised how much search there is in this area, obviously not as much as the celebrity space but enough to make a material difference to the online performance of this business.
Result > Drove an additional 10,000 visitors per month through image search, increased Twitter and Facebook following by over 1000% and continue to benefit the business in terms of conversions and revenue.
Don’t Forget The Links!
Think about it, if you are pushing out fresh, interesting content that is ranking highly in global and image search, the natural consequence is a lot of people finding your content and hey presto! Linking back to it.
Seriously, ranking highly on Google with interesting fresh content is one of the best link building techniques there is, in the last 12 months using these exact same techniques I have managed to secure links on sites like The Daily Mail, TMZ, The Huffington Post and even CNN!
If you are in an industry that lends itself to image search then you absolutely have to execute this, if you are a news website pumping out fresh material you need to seriously consider the value of image search. Over the course of 2011, out of 3 websites I worked with, we drove over 3 million unique visitors via image search, it’s a channel that needs giving a little more respect in my opinion.