I have been studying, applying, and giving advice on Internet marketing for quite some time now (years, even). I’m amazed at how much there is to know and how often this technology changes! Lately, I’ve been wondering about images and their role in search engine marketing.
The images you have on your website have long been known to be useful for keyword positioning on many search engines: many engines will include file names and ALT tags in their rankings.
Filenames are the names of the files themselves (i.e. “/images/lobsterphoto.jpg”) and the ALT tag is a portion of the “img src” tag (i.e. “img src=’/images/lobsterphoto.jpg’ alt=’Lobster Photo'”) that gives alternate information for the image should the image not appear on the page for one reason or another.
If you aren’t using file names as keywords and if your images don’t have “alt” tags included…GO TO YOUR SITE NOW AND FIX THAT! Do it now, I’ll wait…
OK, now that you’re up to speed with images as searchable content, let’s get into the new and nifty stuff I mentioned before. The technology of the Internet is always changing, as I said, but sometimes these changes create “back doors” that were probably unintentional.
Images as searchable content are, in a way, one of these back doors. Let me explain.
While we know that the content of the images themselves is not indexed by search engines, we do know that the file names and alt tags are indexed by many of the engines. Now think about this: have you ever noticed the tabs on Google when you go there to search? See the second tab (right next to the default “Web” just above the search bar)? It says “Images.”
That’s a tool to search images ONLY so you can find graphics, pictures, etc., etc. that have to do with your search terms. Guess what?
When someone clicks on those images, the site related to them is displayed along with that image. Those of you who are enterprising ‘Net marketers are probably now having all kinds of bright lights and whistles going off in your head…Rightly so.
This is a GREAT alternative way to market your website! As a secondary source of traffic, this can be tremendous if you use it correctly.
I first got this idea while searching for a specific image to use on a non-profit website I was working on a few months ago. It occurred to me that these images were being queued according to the keywords and the image’s ranking by name and alt tag with those keywords. I also saw that the website the image appeared on was coming up when I clicked the thumbnails in the results…
I started thinking about this and so I did some research.
One of my clients is a good friend of mine, Jeff, who owns Lobster Pot Direct ( http://www.lobsterpotdirect.com ). I’ve worked with Jeff for a couple of years now and have watched his business grow into something great.
Well, Jeff does a lot of work on his site optimizing for keywords to get good search engine rankings. One of his keyphrases is “online lobster dinner.” So I decided to try something.
Jeff has never optimized his site to show up in Google’s “images” area. I know because I just asked him today before writing this article. So I loaded up his website and opened another browser with Google Image Search.
I then hovered my mouse over the image of the big lobster on the index page of his site. The alt tag causes the words “Lobster Pot Direct” to come up. The name of this image (right-click, save as to find it) is “dinner.jpg” and the picture itself links to a page called “onlinelobster.html” (hover your mouse over the picture and look at the bottom of your browser, in the tool bar). So…
I went to Google Image Search and I typed in the following to start: “online lobster dinner” and did a search. Guess what? Jeff’s site comes up as the eleventh result (so it’s on the first pag)! The picture isn’t the one I was after, but is his header instead. Close enough.
That’s without even trying!
So I tried it on a few other sites (some of mine, some random ones from the ‘Net, etc.) and found that those sites which have good file names and good alt tags tend to have high rankings in the Google Images area.
This morning, Jeff forwarded me an article from another newsletter and I was amazed to see someone talking about this very thing. So I guess others are catching on to the idea.
If you want a great, alternative way to promote your website, consider raising your rankings in Google Images instead of the more hotly contested Google Web Search. Maybe it will pay off!