Getting the Most Out of Image Search, More Links & More Traffic

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]Image Search Optimisation

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.


Tim Grice is the CEO of Branded3, a search marketing agency in the UK. Tim has over a decade of experience in search and regularly speaks at key events and conferences.

Latest posts by Tim (see all)

15 Replies to “Getting the Most Out of Image Search, More Links & More Traffic”

  1. Hey Tim,

    Great article. I think images are often overlooked in link building. I mean, I have used public domain images from Wikipedia in blog articles in the past, and based on the way I optimized the image and the article I ended up getting links just because my version of that image showed up instead of the original. It takes 3 minutes to optimize the images and the visibility pays off.

    Anyway thanks for the article and the case studies, definitely got me thinking…


  2. Good post once again.What about the bounce rate? I guess most of the people who use image search often just use the image and don’t browse the website.

  3. Congratulations on your article, I think also, the image search for my site is now a great source of visits.

    what you think about creating a page or category, with a series of images up to date?

    for example:

    the best images of low cost technologies of 2011?


    the most influential people of the month?

  4. Hi Tim,

    Quick question… what is your method for finding images that are not copyrighted? Does it matter in your opinion? I’ve always been hesitant about just using google images to get new images for my sites. I would love to hear your opinion + and yes I agree that image search has huge potential!

  5. Hi Robyn,

    To be fair I was probably one of those who ignored it, sure I always added an optimised alt attribute, but by developing a strategy you can milk images for thousands of new visits.

  6. Hi Shumail,

    The bounce rates are a little higher but only marginally, I think around 60% in the example image in the post. We tend to find that people search the site to find more images, however this depends on the subject.

  7. I think it’s a great idea, just be specific in terms of how you optimise them, too many people go too broad and fail to get any results.

    e.g. most influential people = include their full name, where the image is, what are they doing etc….

  8. Hi Aaron,

    Obviously the best way is to create your own images, however we have used Flickr quite a lot in the past and added a link underneath, however we regularly photo shop images or merge them together in order to tie multiple stories together. Copyright is tricky, all I’d say is do what you can to make the images unique and referencing doesn’t always mean no rankings.

  9. Hi Tim
    Thanks for yet another Great post.

    1. Have you ever gone for a buyer keyword with image search?
    2. Does the traffic coming from image results convert for you?

    Personally i think it can be quite nice in terms of getting your visitor stats up but not very sure about how benificial they can be from adsense, ecommrce perspective.

  10. I use original photos I make and Flickrs CC, too, with link at the end of post. But don’t you think Google will not consider photo as original if you have link to Flickr on same page, no matter if you change dimensions and other you can in Photoshop? I didn’t track stats for that but that’s something I question myself from time to time.

  11. Hi Ishan,

    I guess it depends on the industry, certainly conversion rate I have experienced are far less than normal search, however image traffic is so easy to optimise for and therefore even with lower conversion rates it’s worth the effort.

    You have to be smart about your targets, as I mentioned in the post I worked with a fashion retailer and we would post images of celebrities wearing their cloths or something similar, the conversion rates on the back of this were pretty good. In terms of adsense I would imagine it is pretty difficult, however the low barrier to entry makes it worth it in my opinion.

  12. I think Flickr links can dilute the ability to rank, however that’s not to say it can’t be done. I think the key to ranking with an image that is similar to that else where is freshness, this plays a major role in rankings.

    Of course you would ideally source unique images when possible.

  13. Greats inspirations Tim. I found my little blog with image search traffic was hard to get conversion sale. 1000 impression per day, 10% CTR but no conversion. How about that?

  14. Yeah, I can imagine conversions are difficult, as there is a different intention behind image search. However, if you’re selling ad space it’s brilliant for bumping up the traffic figures.

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