Making Images and Video More Valuable in Online Search Results

A lot of factors go into improving your business’ SEO game, but something Google will definitely take note of is your images, videos and other visuals

Making Images and Video More Valuable in Online Search Results

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill

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You’ve done it. You started your own business, you have a website built, and now you’re ready to start taking on more customers. Only no one can seem to find your business online.

What can be done? There are a lot of factors that go into improving your local SEO game, but something Google will definitely take note of is your images, videos and other visuals.

Why are images good for local search?

When it comes to SEO, images are vital to have throughout your site, in your Google Business Profile (GBP), and throughout your social media pages. In fact, in 2018, Forbes reported that around a quarter of all searches done were image searches.

While this may seem surprising initially, it really does add up when you think about it. Just think how often you Google celebrities. Your partner says something like, “Hey, I saw a guy the other day who looks exactly like the actor in Die Hard.” So, you take out your phone, image search “Bruce Willis,” and hold up your phone, “You mean, this guy?”  

It makes sense, then, that consumers appreciate image searches. And because of this, Google appreciates quality images, which is why having them on your site is so imperative. 

In a recent EDGE of the Web podcast, well-known search expert Mike Blumenthal explains that Google wants its results to be both informative and visual. That means:

  • including images in user’s search results
  • allowing users the option to search by image
  • matching the images in search to the user’s intent

Users are responding positively to all of it. In fact, Google’s AI can detect emotion, entities, and more in many images, all of which helps it produce results that match up exactly to what the searcher is hoping to find.

Why are images good for the customer?

But images on your website don’t just influence your SEO standing. The truth is that the consumer’s brain makes a decision about a business pretty quickly. First impressions matter and your photos can make a huge impact on that. 

Images build trust and give people a clearer perception of what to expect from a business, and organizations that invest in quality original images often seem more reputable to consumers. 

Quality images can translate a problem (and how you’re going to solve it) very quickly — especially when it comes to technical things that may be harder to explain with text. And your customers will appreciate that.

Google’s helpful content update and your images

This past summer, Google rolled out the Helpful Content Update, which according to Google, encourages “creating content for people, not for search engines” and “creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices.” Clear as mud, right? It’s no wonder businesses struggle to know exactly what it is Google is looking for.

Fortunately, that’s what SEO experts are here for. In the podcast mentioned earlier, Blumenthal offers some suggestions for improving the way search engines view your images.

1. Keep your images positive

In a test Google did at Stanford, one group of people was shown a series of happy images, while a separate group was shown a series of sad images. The facilitators then served both groups of participants lemonade afterward.

They found that those who were exposed to the happy images drank more lemonade than those who weren’t. In other words, positive imagery led to more consumption. 

2. Drive your images through the Google Vision API

Or look into using Aircam’s free public version of this. Google’s AI understanding is good, but it’s not perfect. These tools show how Google is interpreting a specific image, along with the image’s entities and labels.

Blumenthal gives this example: A couple of pictures of a dentist were run through this test. In one image, the dentist’s gloved hand was visible in front of the patient. In the other photo, the gloved hand was behind the patient’s head. What resulted was the photo with the gloved hand bringing up terms associated with medical equipment, while the picture with the hidden hand brought up terms associated with a dentist’s office.

If you were the dentist and this was your business, which of these associations would you most prefer? As you can tell, these tools can be extremely useful to your image’s SEO ranking.

3. Use original photos

Stock photos are never going to be as good for your SEO as a good, original image. Google AI can tell the difference between the two and can even note how often a stock photo has been used elsewhere. Use photos that reflect your products and services accurately — and make them positive. (Remember, the happier the photo, the more lemonade consumers drink.)

You know who else can tell if your photos are original or not? Your potential customers. It’s been shown that consumers are a lot more likely to glance over stock photos than ones you’ve personally taken of your team and products. In the end, investing in original photos will take you much further in terms of SEO and do a lot to improve your rankings.  

4. Work with the right photographer

If you’re able to hire a photographer to take your original photos, don’t hire just anyone. It may seem that any professional with the proper equipment will do, but finding a pro that knows how your images will best translate to your website and SEO will be much better for you in the end.

In other words, don’t hire a fashion photographer and expect them to know what’s best for improving your rankings in the world of local plumbers.

What do I need to know about alt text?

If a business posts a lot of images, Google can tap into those based on the content of the images, meaning the text you put in your image titles and alt tags make a difference.

Again, with this new update, Google bots are looking for helpful content. But because so much of this searching is done through AI, being specific and informative is important.

Let’s take an example from the chimney industry. Sweeps sometimes talk about a witches crook, which is essentially a bend that was built into a masonry chimney. A blog post about a witches crook might contain an image of a witch flying over a house with a chimney attached. But if your alt text reads “witch flying on a broom,” that’s not going to do much for a chimney company’s SEO game. A better description would be “a witch flying over a house with a chimney.” Not only is this more descriptive, which ensures you’re meeting ADA compliance requirements, but it directly relates the picture to the services the company provides.

What about videos?

We’ve talked a lot about images, but what about videos? Right now, in Blumenthal's opinion, video isn’t as important as images. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored, because down the line it might (and mostly likely will) be.

Semrush highlights some great ways to get your videos to do better in rankings, including putting thought into your thumbnails, creating good title tags, uploading a video transcript, and more. Again, your videos aren’t currently going to play as significant of a role as your images in terms of SEO, but they definitely shouldn’t be discounted, either.

Are your images up to par?

In his interview, Blumenthal says that “local is the future of search, and I think images are going to play a huge part in it.” We don’t disagree. If you’re looking to improve your ranking in local search results, ensuring your images and visuals are up to par is a must.

Take a step back and see what makes the most sense for your company, whether that’s hiring a photographer, improving the alt text on your images, or simply cutting back on jargon and replacing it with an easy-to-follow visual. Every move we’ve suggested is a step in the right direction.

About the authors: Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the authors of Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love and the owners of Spark Marketer, a "no bull" digital marketing company that’s been getting sh*t done for home service businesses across the nation for a decade. They’re trusted thought leaders in the industries they serve, which is why you’ll find them regularly speaking at service industry trade shows and conferences and writing for trade magazines. Tired of empty promises and ready for focused digital marketing and balls-to-the-wall dedication that gets your business seen? Visit


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