How to Drive Actual Relevant Google Image Search Traffic

Google Image Search drives a lot of traffic to my blog. In fact, “jeff bridges” and “young jeff bridges” are two of my top ten organic keyword referrers, thanks to a post in which I ask the age-old question, who is the ultimate in “cocky-hot,” a young Jeff Bridges or James Spader circa Pretty in Pink? (Scientists have not yet reached an agreement on this point.)

Image Search on Google

Isn’t traffic just traffic? Maybe for a blog with no real business goals. But imagine for a moment that I’m running a business with objectives to achieve. As a result, there are a few issues with this traffic:

It’s irrelevant – people who Google Image Search for pictures of Jeff Bridges probably don’t care what I have to say about Jeff Bridges or anything else – they want to look at Jeff Bridges or maybe find a picture of him to use on their site. My blog has nothing to do with Jeff Bridges, movies, acting, or celebrities.

It bounces/doesn’t return – Visitors are unlikely to bookmark my site and add it to their regular reading rotation once they get what they came for and realize I don’t provide an endless stream of Jeff Bridges photos.

People will sometimes use image search to steal your cute cat pictures and post them on their blogs. However, there are times when people genuinely seek information (or products) that can be represented visually.

If you run a business website or blog, you should always consider how you can build a return audience with your content. Great if people find your site and convert right away! Enjoy a Hershey’s kiss.

However, the goal of content marketing is frequently to establish a new relationship, to move the prospect down the funnel, and one step closer to becoming a customer. So you want most of your visitors to be relevant to your business, including new visitors who find you through a Google search.

Keeping this in mind, here are three ways to optimize images in your content marketing to increase Google image search traffic.

Consider Google Image Search to be a no-brainer.

Several months ago, we made a concerted effort to improve our site’s ranking in Google image search results. Take note of the significant increase in traffic from image searches:

Referral Traffic from Google Image Search

This traffic’s bounce rate is also low. It’s quieter than our site’s average. (In Analytics, go to Traffic Sources -> Sources -> Referrals, then click on, then /images to see your own Google image search numbers.)

It’s often easier to drive traffic via image or video than through plain old regular search, partly because there’s less competition and partly because the competition is less likely to be correctly optimized. Consider image search to be a no-brainer. If you play your cards right, you can quickly start driving traffic from image search. The trick is to ensure that the traffic is both relevant and valuable. This leads us to the next section.

Create Lead-Speaking Visual Content

When creating content that ranks for your SEO keywords, it’s always a good idea to start with those keywords rather than writing whatever you want and inserting keywords later. Similarly, when optimizing image search, begin with keywords and work your way down.

Many keywords lend themselves naturally to visual content. Still, images can be used to enhance almost any type of content because it’s often easier to illustrate a process than to explain it, “how to” keywords are especially suited to image-heavy content. (This is why some do-it-yourself furniture comes with only diagrams and no language instructions.) How-to keywords are also excellent for driving highly relevant long-tail traffic. When you can provide the perfect answer to a question, you increase your chances of later converting that visitor into a customer.

Here are some examples of visual content that can be created to support how-to keywords for various business types:

Google Images Optimization Search

Google search image

In all of these examples, you’re pursuing highly relevant traffic to your business, and you’re using images to help you attract and retain that traffic.

Even for informational keywords like this, which may not directly lead to a sale, the thinking goes, you’re increasing brand awareness and positioning yourself as an authority on the subject at hand.

This can only help you in the long run. (Hint: Look for ways to collect lead information, such as encouraging blog visitors to sign up for your email list so you can nurture them with targeted offers.) Alternatively, set up a remarketing campaign in AdWords so that those visitors see your display ads for the next month or so.

If they were seeking information in your field, they might require additional assistance in the form of products or services shortly.)

So, how do you ensure that your images appear in Google search results for your target keywords? I was just about to say something like that!

Take Advantage of Image File Names and Tags

Many sites do not adequately optimize their images due to laziness or ignorance, making it easier for you to step in and outrank them. Our internal tests indicate that optimized images also improve your rankings in regular web searches.

Because Google cannot yet “read” your images (and there are no flying cars! ), you must use the text that surrounds the idea to tell Google what the picture is “about.” There are two main elements to consider when optimizing your images for Google image search:

When saving your images, use file names that describe the photo and are optimized for the keyword set you’re targeting. In the “how to dress for a job interview” example, you could save a picture as “mens-suit-for-job-interview.jpg” – notice how this is readable, descriptive text, as opposed to some meaningless string of numbers like “IMG0009.jpg.”

When coding an image into your site, you can use the alt attribute to describe the image in the text. If a user’s browser cannot display the image, they will see the alt text instead. Google Image Searchcan also crawl the alt text to learn more about the image.

This is an excellent location for one of your keywords; ideally, the keyword will accurately describe the image! The HTML could look something like this: in src=”men’s-suit-for-job-interview.jpg” alt=”suit for job interview”. You can also add it through your content management system; here’s how the field looks in Drupal:

Image Search Alternative Text

The text near the images/on the same page (the caption, surrounding text) and anchor text in links that point to the image or the page with the photo are secondary elements that could influence your rankings.

Remember to use keyword research here – your file names and alt attributes should describe the images you’re using, but your SEO objectives should also influence your choices.

If you’re targeting a keyword like “email marketing guide” and all of your images are cute cat photos, you’re not getting the most out of the relevance factor. Remember that ads/banners are images, so if you’re using display creative on your web pages, optimize those as well.

Finally, make sure your images aren’t ugly, distorted, difficult to load, or otherwise cumbersome. Here are Google’s suggestions for making images more user-friendly:

Users prefer high-quality photos too blurry, unclear images. Furthermore, other web admins are much more likely to link to a high-quality picture, increasing traffic to your website. Crisp, sharp images will also look better in the thumbnail versions of our search results, making them more likely to be clicked by users.

Even if your image appears on multiple pages on your website, consider creating a separate landing page for each image where you can collect all of its related information. If you do this, include unique details on each page, such as descriptive titles and captions. You could also enable comments, discussions, or ratings for each image.

Because not all users scroll to the bottom of a page, consider placing your images high up on the page where they can be seen immediately.

Consider organizing your directories so that similar images are saved together. You could, for example, have one guide for thumbnails and another for full-size photos, or you could create separate directories for each image category (for example, you could create different directories for Hawaii, Ghana, and Ireland under your Travel directory). If your site contains adult images, we recommend keeping them in a separate guide from the rest of your pictures.

For each image, specify a width and height. If a web browser knows the dimensions to wrap non-replaceable elements around, it can start rendering a page even before images are downloaded.

Specifying these dimensions can improve page loading time and user experience. See Optimizing Web Graphics on the site Let’s Make the Web Faster for more information on image optimization.

By following these suggestions, you should see an increase in Google image search traffic – and it will be high-quality traffic.

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