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Erik Newton
M Posted 8 years ago
t 12 min read
Technical SEO

When people arrive on your site, they will be forming their first impression within 50 milliseconds, which is why image SEO is so important. They will then be deciding whether or not to stay on the site within 8 seconds or less. This amount of time makes it hard to pull in new visitors with text or great offers alone. Research has shown that an estimated 94 percent of first impressions are based upon the design of the website. Customers are drawn or repelled by your web page based upon impression and appearance. 

The importance of image SEO as a part of SEO marketing strategy and other visual content in website success has become even more apparent in recent years. Brands that already use custom visual content see conversion rates that are about 7 times higher than other sites. This makes sense when one considers that for most people, 83 percent of their learning is visual.

By using visual content, brands are able to communicate more effectively with their visitors while also creating a more appealing site that encourages engagement. Visual content will be increasing in the coming years. Those interested in getting onboard with the image seo trend should focus on understanding why images are so important and how they can be included in a successful online strategy.

The Role of Images and Image SEO

The popularity of videos and images is increasing rapidly. By 2019 some analysts predict that videos will comprise 80 percent of all Internet traffic. Customers will be engaging with videos for a number of different purposes. Videos will become an integral part of communicating with customers and inviting them to learn more about the brand. Branded videos can be used to engage and provide value for viewers, urging them closer towards conversion.

Images and videos will become an important part of the storytelling process. They are a means of communicating quickly and efficiently with customers. The average attention span in 2015 was only a little over 8 seconds, and visual content allows brands to distribute valuable information in a format that can be understood within this timeframe. According the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the human brain can process images in as little as 13 milliseconds.

Images, infographics, gifs and similar images are particularly valuable for letting visitors know the basics of what the content is discussing. People who do not want to read an entire article but are still interested in the material can glance at these images and absorb some of the value of the content without losing time. This helps brands engage with visitors who might have otherwise passed by them.

Brightedge Image for image seo

Videos and images can be used throughout a marketing campaign. The incredible popularity of video platforms, including YouTube-- which is the second-most-popular search engine, behind only Google-- means that branded videos can be used to attract video users on social platforms. They can also be used to boost social media campaigns, improve content on the website and they have a home in email campaigns. If your products or services are particularly complex visuals can be used to show a demonstration of how these products are used.

Videos can also be used to introduce the visitor to past customers, members of the company or how the products are created. This type of personal interaction invites the visitor into the company and establishes the personal connection between the brand and the customer. This helps to boost the relationship and draw the customer closer to conversion. Videos can take a lot of effort to produce, so make the most of them by making the video thumbnails appealing and engaging on your site. Here are some recent BrightEdge video testimonials that generate a lot of engagement. Clear and well-lit face images have been shown to perform well for engagement and conversion.

Brightedge Video Library video images blog for image seo

The Use of Images

In response to the increasingly important role of images, companies and their budgets have been responding accordingly. From 2014-2015 the average budget for visual content grew by 3 to 5 percent and it is expected to increase by a similar amount by 2016.

Businesses who have begun to use this type of content have found that certain types of content are more successful than others at engaging customers. For example, professional and commissioned photography, as well as original graphic designs, have been the most effective for many brands. Using custom photography ensures that the images posted are unique to the brand and completely fit with what the content is trying to communicate. Stock photography, on the other hand, comprises of generic images that customers might even be seeing other sites. This removes the personal element and does not tell the customer as much about the company and why they are unique.

Despite the inroads that have been made in the successful usage of images, many businesses are still struggling. The biggest challenge cited by brands has been the lack of time and staff resources to make it happen. More than half, 65.4 percent, say that this is their largest obstacle.

Our own research at BrightEdge has also found that companies are not capitalizing on image seo as much as they could. We measured click-through rates of classic text-based content against visual content on SERPs. We found that for sites that landed in position 1 and 2 on the results pages had higher click-through rates for classic content. Results in position 3-10, however, had higher click-through rates for visual content.

We theorized based on this research that it is likely that images are not doing as good of a job answering queries. We recommend that brands incorporating visual content focus on optimizing their image to ensure that search engines and users can see how it answers their question. Make sure the image has the following criteria:

  • it is high-quality
  • the description incorporates the image value
  • semantic markup is used to maximize the understanding of search engines
  • the image sitemap makes it clear how the image fits with the content

At BrightEdge we have increased the focus on visual content and image seo and have seen excellent results in terms of site performance and search rank. Here are our popular infographics.

Infographics and site visuals for image seo

The Knowledge-Based Trust infographics ranks first in Google images and helps drive traffic to the blog post.

Brightedge KBT Image First Position for Image seo

Psychology of imagery

Understanding why images are so successful can be an enormous asset for brands interested in incorporating visual content in the coming year. Once you understand what visitors are getting out of the images, it can help you capitalize on their preferences and maximize the use of visuals.

You want to use images and videos that make people stop and look. The more exciting and engaging the visual content is, the more interested people generally are in sharing the content. People want to share content that makes them look good. Content that helps them to increase their own reputation in the eyes of their connections is particularly valuable and increases the odds of the content being shared.

When on social media, the power of images to create shareable content is easy to see. For example, tweets with images are responded to and retweeted 2x as much as those without. Images make the post more appealing, easy to digest and therefore a more ideal post to share with others.

This field of logos BrightEdge Share15 attendees captures attention and communicates powerfully.

Brightedge Share logos for image seo

Images also allow brands to demonstrate their value on a far deeper level. Most customers do not like to buy something that they have never seen. They would also prefer to have the opportunity to touch, feel and otherwise experience the product. Although this is impossible to do online, images and videos create the closest experience to an optimum scenario. Videos allow customers to see the product being demonstrated and watch it perform. They can see images of other people using the product or service and can read their faces for signs of enjoyment and appreciation.

Customers also like to buy based upon emotion. Although customers like to believe that their purchases are based upon factual, objective decisions, the role of emotions has proven time and again. Images can be used to help convey the desired feelings. You can use images to show happiness, comfort, friendship and other positive attributes that help to entice people to learn more.

These images also communicate evidence that others are using your product. People like to know that the products they are considering purchasing have been used successfully by others. The bandwagon effect-- the propensity of people to be interested in products that others in their social circle have used-- can easily be propagated by images showing past customers enjoying a product.

Using images to give users a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at your company can also be immensely valuable. By letting people see the brand leaders, hear salespeople speak and even receive a tour of your office or factory, you can help people feel connected to the brand. Rather than doing business with a faceless business, visitors will see you as an individual with whom they can connect. This also helps to create the feeling of transparency for the brand, which makes it easier for customers to trust your company.

The BrightEdge platform is the only one that reports on universal or blended and classic results, and that helps you optimize and compete for those prominent positions. 

Blended Local Search Management Reporting for image seo - brightedge

You will rarely find a marketing professional who neglects the power of images-- but there are many who will fail to recognize the full potential of these visual aids. Pictures are usually relegated to boosting text content. They are used to build engagement with readers or to attract more clicks on social media. Image-oriented searches on Google, however, can open an entirely new door for marketers when it comes to attracting more traffic and potential customers. Research has indicated that 63 percent of the clicks made on images will turn into site traffic. There are a number of searches made every day that are geared towards finding visual results, such as those that focus on housing design or clothing. When you type “House Design” into Google, right below the sponsored ads will be a series of image results that immediately draw the eye and address the question for most people.

The Art of Image SEO and Image Optimization - Google Search - brightedge

Thinking more strategically about image SEO and optimizing your images so they can be displayed prominently in these types of searches can help direct relevant traffic towards your website.

Value of image SEO

There is some debate surrounding the value of an image search. Many people making image queries are interested in ideas or the pictures themselves, they are not necessarily driven to make a purchase. For your images to show up in such search you need to do image SEO. There are numerous industries, however, that are built around images, such as stock photo companies or those who design site templates. Others will use images to display their skills or expertise, such as designers or photographers.

It is also important to recognize that even industries that are not directly related to images can still find value in ranking well for visuals. Increasing the traffic that goes towards your website will help to boost brand awareness and recognition. The value of this might not be immediately recognizable, but can play an important role when it comes time for people to purchase services later.

Providing users with quality, engaging images on your site can also increase the interested traffic to your site-- traffic with people who will stop, interact with your page and explore a little. When you increase your rates of engaged traffic, you can raise the ranking of your site. This will then help you rank higher for queries more directly related to your products and services.

Optimizing images for image search

To take advantage of the value offered by high-ranking images, it is important to follow a few rules for optimization.

  • Make sure the aesthetic value does not change, but that the image SEO is in place and the image loads as quickly as possible. Google wants to see high-quality images, but they know that visuals that take a long time to load will not please customers.
  • Use unique, relevant images. Google does not want multiple copies of the same picture, so using stock images will not result in image rankings. Use images that are clearly related to the text so that Google will be able to link it to a particular context.
  • Take advantage of all the ways available to label the image. This means using the alt attributes, title tags and image names. This will make it as easy as possible for Google to understand which queries the image answers.
  • Use schema markups to emphasize images. Schema ensures that the search engines recognize the image and that they will display it when opportunities for rich snippets present themselves.

Measuring the impact of image SEO

Google Webmaster Tools will provide you with some useful monitoring systems that you can use to start tracking your progress with image SEO optimization. Once you log into the webmaster tools, you will want to click on Search Analytics under Search Traffic.  

Then, on the screen that appears, go over to search type. Instead of selecting Web, click on Image. This will then give you insight into the types of queries and the number of clicks you are getting specifically for image-related searches. You can also adjust your data to look at the number of impressions or the positions of your website. Use these insights to monitor your progress as you implement the best practices for images.

The web is becoming more visual with each passing year. For brands to keep up, they need think more about image SEO and make sure that the images they post on their websites have been optimized to attract audiences searching for pictures. Following these guidelines, while tracking progress through Google, can help you see the value the images are adding to your website and the traffic they are attracting.

5 Ways to Utilize Image SEO to Convert Customers at Various Stages of the Buying Cycle

Once you understand how important images are to the success of your marketing campaigns and SEO management efforts, you will then want to find ways to incorporate them into your own efforts.

  1. Use welcoming images on the website to entice visitors to explore the site and introduce them to your brand. This will encourage the early foundation of the relationship with personal faces and a sense of transparency in the company.
  2. Encourage customers to post images on social media and include some of their own shots to show the product in action to your brand followers. This will help you tap into the bandwagon effect.
  3. Post videos on YouTube and SlideShare and other popular third-party platforms to spread the brand message. Remember that on these third party platforms, the focus will need to be on providing value-- product videos or videos that require background information about the brand will struggle to find an audience.
  4. Use images and videos in email newsletters to keep people engaged and provide them with easy-to-digest information that they can view quickly.
  5. Create product page images and videos to explain what sets you apart and walk people through the buying process. Imagine your videos are the opportunity to give your visitors a personal product demonstration.

Visual content is quickly beginning to dominate the digital ecosystem. Brands need to understand the role these images and videos should play in their online marketing efforts and why they are effective. This can help you maximize your efforts in 2016.

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