Image SEO is the practice of ranking images highly for Google Search Results. These are ranked separately to URL’s.
What is Image SEO (ISEO)?
Image SEO is the practice of ranking images highly for specific queries. Just like normal SEO, which involves improving the three pillars of SEO, image SEO has its own pillars and methods for optimisation.
Image Optimisation is completely under-used, as a survey done (n=215) by SEOSPIDRE yielded the following results:
- 100% of users engage in some form of SEO.
- 72% of users have external input into their SEO.
- 28% of users conduct Technical SEO.
- 35% of users own and optimise for video based content.
- 11% of users know and understand image SEO.
- 2% of users engage in image SEO.
And there you have it! Out of 215 users, 21 knew and were able to use Image SEO to gain leverage. This means that there is an entire market of un-optimised images, and rankings to be gained through image optimisation.
Imagine having your images, with your watermarks, and your tags, appearing up at the top for Google Search Results, which actively promote images as the number 1 result.
Why is it different to normal SEO?
URL’s and Images are ranked according to two separate algorithms. Images are not subject to external links (to some degree), on-page SEO, and certainly not technical SEO. So what is it ranked against?
Well, it’s been tough figuring out how Google ranks images and grades relevancy, but it comes from the content that it is posted with, and the “reposting” of that image.
Google has forced an incredible increase in Image based results for top 10 positions within 2019. As images become more and more relevant for Search Results, it becomes a more attractive market to capitalise on for your domain. Soon, having optimised images ranking for the Top 10 in queries will be as valuable as having a Top 10 URL.
So because URL’s and Images are ranked separately, there is very little “spillover,” which would mean that having highly ranked images, will only slightly pull up your domain ranking, and vice versa.
Spillover: Spillover allows a part of your domain to rank better due to indirect traffic from another source.
E.g.: Image SEO spillover onto relevant page traffic.
However, the spillover still exists, and in fact you can have a completely image driven website with the proper optimisation, rather than being content driven. The spillover will cause your images to rank highly, and if you have enough highly ranked images, the spillover will be sufficient to pull your domain up to the Top 10 results for particular queries.
How do you do ISEO?
Image Optimisation requires a different form of time and effort than normal SEO. The factors that apply to Image ranking includes the following:
- Image context
- Image alt-tag + title
- Times reposted
- Domain SEO
Images are often correlated with the content that they are surrounded by. If you place an image on an article about Image SEO, a crawler will associate the image with the context of the information, and rank it particularly for queries concerning image SEO. This is very important as a ranking factor.
Placing lone images on your site without surrounding context will prevent the image from ranking particularly well. Also, placing images on a page with multiple groups of information, for example a Home Page of a site, will also detract significantly from the rankability of the image.
This is because if there is a variety of information present, when parsing your content, Google struggles to come to a conclusion about the particular niche of the information, and therefore cannot classify which images correlate to which groups of information.
For optimal image context, ensure that your images are on articles or pages that revolve around specific things, such as shoes, billboards, digital marketing, or whatever it may be.
Image alt-tag + title
The image title and the alt-tag go hand in hand. When an image is crawled by a googlebot, it can’t see the actual image. What the googlebot sees instead is the “tags” placed on the image that act as identifying information. For example a shoe image with the alt-tag and title of “shoes | SEOSPIDRE” will indicate to Google that this image involves “shoes,” and “seospidre.” It doesn’t necessarily know what that means, but now you will be at least capable of ranking for those keywords.
This works on a similar level to on-page SEO for traditional SEO methods. By maxing out relevant keywords and information present in the Title tag and alt-tag, you can rank for a diverse range of keywords. It’s important not to keywordstuff, where an excessive number of irrelevant keywords are used. These are considered black-hat practices and will result in heavy penalisations.
If you believe you have been penalised by Google or through black-hat practices, please read our article concerning Security Actions for SEO.
For best optimisation, keep the titles under 70 characters, relevant to the image, and highly condensed in terms of keywords.
This is similar to off-page SEO, where backlinks are the measure of reliability. Google is capable, somehow, of detecting replicant images. We believe this is through the recent addition of RankBrain, an AI algorithm allowing google to interpret images and NLP.
When content is published to the web, the original author of the content carries a unique identifying tag, and when indexed by Google, is timestamped. When there are replications of the images, Google checks the identifying tag of the image, and logs that as well. In order to find the original author, Google compares the timestamps and finds the original author of the material.
The number of times the content is republished drives up the engagement of the image, and drives it up dramatically in rankings. This is effectively working under the same system as backlinks. If you were to watermark the image, or add domain identifiers, it would also help with users identifying your brand and bring in greater organic traffic to your URL.
Thus, creating engaging images and content is extremely important for reposting. You want your content to be as dynamic, intuitive, and easy to understand as possible, so that people reuse your content. What a lot of industry giants do is they remove branding on images and graphs that they publish, this drives up the likelihood of someone reposting the image. As a result, their graphs are reused, the number of timestamps increase for that particular image, and the content gets ranked very well.
The domain in which the content is posted is also very important for ranking sake. Stronger domains begin with better rankings, the same way that URL’s work. By having better traffic, domain reliability, domain authority, backlinks, and all other aspects of SEO being applied to your total domain, the better your images will rank.
While URL’s are ranked separately, there is a lot of crossover in terms of reliability in the eyes of Google. A website for health such as Mayoclinic will easily outrank small competitors who are creating great content, but who haven’t built up that reliable rapport with Google yet.