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Optimising Images for Search Engines – SMX West



The following is a special report from SMX West 2009.

Peter Linsley—Google

google-image-search-454w

First up Peter Linsley of Google ran through some of the concepts behind Google images and also factors that may influence ranking of images on Google which included some of the following:

  • Number of referring sites—so whether the image is used on more than one website is a key metric in Google’s ranking Algorithm.
  • The text around the image and the kind of words contained is also a factor taken into account by Google.
  • Also placement of image—and whether it is above the fold

Peter also suggested that other dynamic features were in play. For example can a user comment on the image via a comments box? Or whether the image could be rated somehow.

Kaushal Kurapati—Yahoo

Kaushal Kurapati of Yahoo followed Peter Linsley’s presentation with the Yahoo perspective. Images are the 2nd biggest Y! Search property and are an important part of search for Yahoo. There are billions of web images being crawled by Yahoo when you add up images on Flickr and Y! Properties.

yahoo-image-search-454w

Kaushal informed the audience that unlike website search people’s search behaviour was different for images and they could be very thorough with their searching. People can browse deep to find images—sometimes 30 pages deep to find a particular image.

Similar to Google basic SEO matters with Yahoo image search. Titles, anchor text and alt text can all play a part in the ranking process as well as timestamps too, as freshness is an important factor for Yahoo when it comes to ranking images.

Matt Siltala—Dream Systems Media

Matt’s presentation included some useful tips for attendees. Firstly to name images and use related keywords. Then as Kaushal suggested to use tags for an image, in particular the title and alt tag. Beyond this building links to and from the image was seen as a useful exercise. Finally text was important and Matt suggested including related text around the image file itself. As Google had suggested that the number of referring websites using a particular image was taken into account by Google Matt recommended a list of places to share images.

  • Flickr
  • Picasa
  • Photobucket
  • Slideshare
  • Slide
  • Fotki
  • Smugmug
  • Imageshack
  • Dropshots
  • Webshots

Chris Silver Smith—Key Relevance

Chris examined image hosting sites in more detail and highlighted things that he felt mattered that made hosting images on those websites advantageous. Firstly he advised that most image hosting websites will allow titles, tags, H1 and links on the page and so this allows for basic SEO optimisation of the page. In particular he felt the design of Flickr is quite advantageous to SEO as it allows the following:

  • Title
  • H1
  • Captions
  • Tagging
  • Cross grouping
  • Comments
  • Sharing
  • Alt text
  • Optimal linking hierarchy
  • Date taken
  • Page views displayed
  • ‘Interestingness’ algorithm

Chris suggested that pictures with good contrast tend to work better—possibly because when they are thumbnailed they still look ok and attract attention. If websites are using images with the aim of driving traffic then people need to be broad in experimenting with subject matter for pictures intended to drive traffic and conversions.

Urban Outfitters and Nikon have large Flickr accounts that have many members and have become part of those 2 companies online marketing strategy. And following on from the suggestion that Yahoo is interested in fresh content Chris argues that the same applies to Google too and freshness can affects image rankings. Finally use discretion. Don’t spam; don’t be super aggressive; don’t mass upload product library.

Eric Enge—Stone Temple Consulting

In his presentation Eric informed the audience that 15% of all searches may take place in image searches, but competition is much lower in volume—so traffic opportunities can be good by optimising images for search. Users eyes are typically attracted to the top left (golden triangle theory), however when image searches was added to the Google SERPs it totally changed the way people looked and canned the pages, and this is because images attracted a lot of attention.

Eric provided some useful tips:

  • Use the word ‘pic’ or ‘picture’ or ‘photo’ in alt attribute
  • Enable enhanced image search in webmaster tools—community can tag the images (so if you have quality this option works). Google Safe Search can pose a problem—as sometimes it can limit the appearance of some images that are actually safe.

google-safe-search-454w

Eric talked through an example of one website he worked on that wanted to show medical photos of skin diseases, but at the time some skin diseases would get tagged by Google as adult and not shown on safe search (even though they were actually safe). However the solution to this is to appeal by reporting the problem to Google. When doing so his tip was to state the problem clearly, don’t complain, and make sure the site is clean.

  • http://www.dreamsystemsmedia.com/blog Matt Siltala

    This really was a great panel – and I even learned a ton too. Thanks for the mention here and I am glad you went over this session again because people really are missing out a huge opportunity for amazing traffic by not doing simple things with their images. Thanks again!

    Matt Siltala’s last blog post..We Are Already Getting Calls Because Of Your Local Advertising Post

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com Jaan Kanellis

    So per Google having your image hotlinked is a good thing as far as getting it ranked in their image search?

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Make A Movie For Great Rankings

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk/ Laura Godfrey

    Images containing alt tags are used throughout websites to improve their ranking in seach engines. Imagery also increases the appeal of a site, thus increasing the popularity and decreasing the bounce rate. When optimising a website, it is vital you ensure all images are titled therefore allowing google to cache all pages correctly. Using specific keywords as alt tag headings can also boast your ranking.

    Laura Godfrey’s last blog post..How to make a preloader in Flash

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