Internet search has proven to be an incredible disruptor in modern society. What in the past required research in a library or at a store – a process that could take hours – can now be accomplished in seconds. This makes internet search a useful and pervasive tool for consumers and has created a need for web site owners to optimize their chances of found by these consumers who are searching. Search engine optimization (SEO) helps web site owners understand how best to be found. SEO analysis helps us understand how to meet these needs. After all, for search engine marketing to be effective, they must effectively meet the basic goal of all users who search, which is to obtain information.
SEO marketing relies on content and careful selection of keywords and other media to achieve good search optimization and Google ranking on search engine results pages (SERP). While SEO keywords and overall text content are critical, visual content such as photos can communicate information effectively and help achieve strong search optimization.
Searches can be broken down into three basic categories – navigational search, informational search, and transactional search. Navigational search queries are about finding a specific web site. From the perspective of a marketer seeking to optimize their site, navigational search is extremely difficult. If a user is looking for a specific site – for example, Vespa.com, home of Vespa scooters – and if your site is something other than Vespa.com, users won’t have much interest in anything you might offer.
Information search queries are about finding information for relatively broad topics, such as scooters, or scooter repair, or astronomy – the options are limitless. These types of searches have many SEO results that are content-specific, and some that cover a broad array of topics (e.g., Wikipedia). Users who perform these searches are usually looking for information, and not to complete a transaction. As such, this type of search is hard to put into financial terms, and thus has a low return on investment (ROI). The potential indirect return for commercial sites relative to information search is about positioning the business’ site as a trustworthy and useful source of information that consumers care about (we know they care, because they are searching for it!). Web pages that create new and simple ways for users to consume content, such as colorful and easy-to-understand infographics, can draw customers in and create awareness that ultimately drives consumers to the third type of search… transactional!
Transactional search queries are those where the user indicates an intent to complete a transaction, and thus these tend to have a high ROI. These searches might include specific product names or might reference intent in the search term to complete a transaction, e.g., order or buy or financing – for example, “Vespa 150 inventory.” Because these searches deliver ROI, paid search is an effective way to improve website ranking andincrease visibility to your SEO website. These paid or sponsored results end up having prominence on the search engine result page (SERP). Further, studies show that people are more likely to click paid results over organic ones when they search with a high intent to complete a transaction.
Images can be a powerful complement to SEO keywords to optimize SEO search. In his Yoast blog post, Michiel Heijmans (Yoast COO) put it pretty simply – “Always use images.” While text content is important, the right images, correctly used, can have a big impact on creating the best SEO content.
Let’s pretend you had built a site about modern Vespa scooters, and selling product related to these iconic machines. Users might choose a keyword like “scooter” which could yield all kinds of results, from Vespas to electric stand-up scooters. Images like these clearly describe what your site’s about.
If, alternatively, you had a site about restoring vintage Vespa scooters, an image like this – a Vespa in need of restoration – helps communicate what you’re about.
Regardless of the type of search, pick an image that’s relevant to the topic of your post, such as the scooter example above. Beyond image content, other key factors should be considered:
- It’s always better to use original images, and not stock.
- Image SEO relies heavily on the filename – using keywords or phrases in the image filename aids search engines in knowing what the photo is about.
- Images need to use the right file format – JPG, PNG, WebP, SVG. Each has advantages and disadvantages, so you’ll want to research for your purposes.
- Optimize image file size to aid with load times.
- Images need context – e.g., they should be captioned and placed in close proximity to the relevant text, as with the scooter examples above.
Images, properly used, can help consumers find whatever type of site you’re hosting.