Images & Search Engines

Aug 21, 2007 - 5:26 pm 2 by

Regular search engines can't understand text trapped within images, and this session looks at strategies to combat this problem for the image-intensive site. It also examines how to generate traffic using your images via image-specific search engines. Moderator:

* Anne Kennedy, Managing Partner, Beyond Ink


* Liana Evans, Search Marketing Manager, Commerce360 * Chris Smith, Lead Search Strategist, Netconcepts * Shari Thurow, Founder & SEO, Omni Marketing Interactive * Cris Pierry, Director of Web & Multi-Media Search, Yahoo! Search * James Jeude, Senior Product Manager,

Anne introduces the session and introduces Shari Thurow as someone who once said "search engines see text and then they see crap."

Shari Thurow comes up first. She is going to talk about graphic intensive sites and the problems with them - when they're good, and when they're bad. She'll also talk about graphic image searches and how search engines "see" graphic images. Finally, she'll give us some graphic optimization tips.

SEO for text files depends on the following things: - Keyword rich text: use the user's languages. When people look at your page for 5-8 seconds and you take the page away, if they don't mention your keywords, it's probably not keyword focused. - Information architecture and interface: giving search engine spiders and site visitors easy access to keyword-rich content (easy navigation/information architecture, page layout, URL structure). - Link development - number of quality third party links pointing to a URL.

You have to provide context for all the graphic images on your site. On text files, there's primary text vs. secondary text. Primary text: title tag, visible body copy, top of the page text vs. bottom of the page, and anchor text. These are used by all search engines to determine relevancy. Secondary text: metatag, alternative text, domain and filenames. Some search engines deal with this, but not all. Alternative text is like this: <img src=blah.txt" alt="nameoffile"> If you remove graphic images, you can see alternative text. It's okay to do a graphic intensive site if you have a very well known brand (because of incoming links), but if you don't, then you want to steer clear of graphic intensive websites. You'll probably do better with CSS and graphics. You want keywords in primary text and secondary text in order for your images to show up in the search results. This is where Yahoo! rules. Example: Nissan. Look at the Nissan Yahoo page versus Nissan's main page. Yahoo provides far more context than the actual Nissan text.

Graphic image search is the second most popular search in the search engines. Proof: think about adult searches. (Enough said.)

How do search engines see images: - Graphics are made of bits and not text, so they cannot compare query words within a graphic image. - Search engines rely on indirect techniques. Primary text, secondary text in the context of the page. But it's cool that they can tell the difference between a male face and a female face as well as being able to tell color. Adding images to a page with a lot of good content sites is helpful: title tags, primary text areas, footer, breadcrumb, whatever.

Also, they assume that a JPG is a photo or illustration. Filename is important for graphic image optimization - use hyphens and not underscores. Search engines can determine what the photo is by the image. e.g. logo.gif is a logo, atm-machine.gif is an ATM machine, but clr123rt.gif conveys no useful information.

Other tips: Use captions on your website where possible. A great example of keyword implementation is the Land's End site.

Conclusion: Make sure you format graphics correctly (GIF, JPG) Name your graphics correctly that makes sense to the target audience. Don't let your software app name your graphic. Use captions or labels where possible. These will act as contextual cues. Make sure the page is optimized for targeted keyword phrases if you cannot create captions. Usability counts: minimize download times and use alternative text.

Shari also shares information regarding a book she wrote that is available tomorrow (August 22): Search Engine Visibility. Cool.

Liana Evans is up next. She's focusing on retailers and companies.

Why should you care? First, it is the second fastest growing vertical search. Google's Universal search has changed the entire landscape of how you should think about images - how you should think about reputation management, shopping, and news. These images are another way of getting free clicks.

Hitwise shows growth of image search between April 2005 to April 2006. It's growing very high.

Opportunities: hot products, niche markets, comparison shopping, universal/blended search, and reputation management.

Example: Image search for Squakers (a toy for 2007). Most of these images are coming from CNN, blogs, and not so much the retailers. But retailers can jump in on this - make sure your images are optimized. Google and Live Search had results for this Squakers query. Only 8 images in all are retailers!

Looking at niche markets, you might be selling something very unique (e.g. flameless candles). Of all these searchers, there were no major retailers in this space.

Comparison Shopping with or without search engines: Shoppers are visual - make sure there's an image in there.

Three months ago, before universal search, the results were different. Universal search has changed the rules. You need to think about this.

Yesterday, we did a session where Greg Jarboe showed that Hurricane Dean did not have an image on Google. But less than 24 hours later, you can see an image there. The landscape is changing.

You're going to see more media and images blended with your searches. Results change daily. Attach a picture that is named correctly when you send a press release. Create a sitemap for Google/Yahoo of your images.

Reputation management: images can be found no matter what, even if they're on a site that's hidden like Facebook. Are they representing you in the right way? Let's look at a search at RIAA: they're not managing their reputation because the image that shows up is a logo that says "screwing musicians and consumers since 1952."

What about the NJ blackmailed beauty queen? The images she had on the net were circulated just because she thought her image on MySpace was blocked. She didn't think about those images that are out there. But you also have to think about trusting your friends.

Tips: what matters - image names, alternate text, content around images, page image appears on, anchor text used in ilinks to images, and image folders being available to spiders.

The next speaker is Chris Smith from NetConcepts: sharing images and using sharing sites - can you use those sites to get more links to your website?

Image sharing sites include Flickr, Photobucket, pbase, webshots, 23, Fotki, MySpace, and Facebook. He looked at different elements: PageRank, # of pages indexed, title, tags, H1, and links allowed. Some sites weren't doing so well but Flickr was doing a lot more.

Flickr optimization: they essentially create a profile page about an image and that profile page is well optimized in itself. Flickr has built a strong site for getting pages indexed. - Title, H1 text, captions, tagging, cross-grouping, comments, sharing, ALT text, optimal linking hierarchies, date taken and page views displayed, and an interestingness algorithm. The goal is to get more links to your image profile pages so that those pages get more PageRank and that drives usage back to your website.

Optimization tips: You should get good quality pictures so people can link to you. Pictures with good contrast work better because there are many interfaces that allow you to see the image and thumbnails. Images that look good in thumbnails get more clickthroughs. Be broad in experimenting with subject matter for pictures intended to drive traffic and conversions - factories can show product manufacturing; Bed and breakfasts can show furniture, restaurants can show event rooms and meals.

Flickr optimization: Add a unique title Add a description or write an article in the description area. Always tag your image with keywords. Make your photos publicly viewable. Consider loose licensing of your pix - share them. (Creative Commons). You can ask for reproduction as long as they give you credit. If the photo is location specific, geotag the picture. If many location specific pix, consider GPS cameras with EXIF data. Create thematic sets for your photos. Search Flickr groups and share with them. Share with news organization. Add links to description fields back to your website. Post as many pictures as possible. Post each picture's page over to, using handy submission tools on the bottom of the page. Target high popularity keywords. Image freshness may also affect relevancy.

Other thoughts: Google Enhanced Image Search Google Maps

Search engines are looking to improve image search.

Next up is Cris Pierry of Yahoo Search.

He says that search engines are trying to improve but they would like information in the EXIF data. The users are looking for good quality images.

Participate on social networks.

Make sure your images is unique. Yahoo removes duplicate images because they don't add much value to the user.

Finally, James Jeude at Ask joins. James is cool; I met him last night. It is nice to see him on the panel :)

He discusses: how do you make yourself image search friendly? - Build to fix your audience's expected behavior. Don't expect to appeal to multiple image search scenariors simultaneously, but you can do so separately and sequentially. - If your site is a hobby site, they have iconic images that might be linked to. - Fast moving sites should try to get inserted and highly linked.

If you appeal to popular terms, effectively, from a tech standpoint, there are thousands of images. You need to have a good website which will bolster your search image rankings.

If you appeal to rare terms, clearly label it or caption your photos.

Geographic image tagging helps.

You also want to catch misspellings and synonyms. You don't want it to be in your description - but maybe put it in your metatags.

Embed words in an image as alt text.

He then shows examples of bad image naming and text issues.

Make sure your images have a good thumbnail becasue people will want to click on it with that.


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