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Boost SEO with Image Search

Kelly “Rags” Ragland is owner and operator of Rags to Stitches Productions, a holistic advertising-specialty company providing a range of services from web design and development to customized apparel.

While most of us have a pretty good grasp on basic search engine strategy and how to stay optimized for the major search engines (Google, Yahoo! and Bing), one valuable technique that tends to be neglected is the Image Search option. Though often associated with searching for celebrity paparazzi photos, funny pictures of cats and stock images for design work, many Internet users have discovered that utilizing Image Search for a specific product can dramatically speed up the process of finding a particular sought-after item.

If a customer has a specific garment in mind—say, a Kelly green hoodie with a certain graphic on it, for example—the standard search for “Kelly green hoodies” will lead to literally thousands of web pages offering a wide variety of colors, decorating methods and sizes. Narrowing down the actual item in mind could take hours. But, by typing the same keywords into an Image Search, one can simply browse the pictures of different designs and visually identify what they’re looking for within minutes. The image is conveniently linked to the website offering the product.

Consider this type of marketing a visual catalog of sorts that takes keywords and presents them in visual, rather than textual, results. This method is extremely user-friendly and, when incorporated as a supplement to standard search engine optimization, presents an attractive and simple way to catch extra web traffic.

Picture this

All of the major search engines offer Universal Search—where results from multiple specialized searches appear within the main search results instead of showing up as a separate box at the top of the search results page. What this means for those utilizing Image Search is that well-optimized images using highly-competitive keywords can assist in gaining entry into the first page results. Here, then, are a few tips for capitalizing on Image Search optimization.

1. Name images with keyword-friendly file names—If the image requires multiple keywords, hyphenate them within the file name as a separator. For instance, “kelly-green-hoodie.jpg” will be much more effective than “kellygreenhoodie.jpg.”

Try not to go overboard and wind up with extremely long file names; one to three keywords that are descriptive of that image and item will keep the search engines, as well as customers searching for your products, happy.

2. Use Alt and Title attributes effectively—These attributes are input within the source code. They display the alternative text that describes an image in the case that it cannot be displayed in a browser, and the text that displays when users mouse over an image.

Search engines are still known to crawl these attributes when presenting results on their search engine results pages (SERPS). Be sure they are keyword-friendly and, again, descriptive of that particular item without getting too wordy. Use the same term in both the Alt and Title attributes, as both present themselves through the browser in a similar way and, likewise, are crawled by the search engines in a similar fashion.

For example, the source code for an image of the Kelly green hoodie in our example would be input as:

img src = “yourwebsite.com/images/
kelly-green-hoodie.jpg”

alt = “Kelly Green Hoodie sizes M-XL”

title = “Kelly Green Hoodie sizes M-XL“

3. Use keyword-friendly text on the web page where each image is presented—These are not just more keywords to add to the relevance of that image, but more keywords to boost optimization in Image Search as well as in standard searches and web crawlers.

Although the image may say it all in terms of having a visual on a web page, always bear in mind that search engines and web crawlers cannot see; they can only read. And what they read is how they determine relevance in the search results.

4. Link to the image in creative ways using descriptive text within the links—For example, a blog post that goes into detail about your Kelly green hoodie could include a link to the image on your website for a larger view. The text “Click here to view our Kelly green hoodie” tells the search engines that it is, indeed, a Kelly green hoodie and further identifies it as an image by the filename and attributes.

You can likewise link the image to the actual product page on your website that describes the product in more detail, preferably with an “Add To Cart” button or call to action such as “Contact Us Today.” Implementing this strategy will help boost the number of incoming and outgoing links, which are important elements to search engines. They also lead Internet users directly to a page where there is an opportunity to make the sale.

In a snapshot

Finally, consider other avenues for getting pictures of products out there for the world to find. Tumblr.com, Flickr.com and Shutterfly.com offer free web platforms that are generally used for picture blogging. Take a few snaps with a camera phone or digital camera from time to time and post them online with a good, keyword-friendly description. Twitter is another great place to quickly and easily upload an image or two with a short and effective message.

While it may sometimes seem that no one is reading your photo blog or Twitter posts, rest assured that search engines are always updating, exploring and learning. These simple tasks can certainly help in getting their attention and, as a result, the attention of a desired target audience.