Saturday, February 21, 2015

There is no Spoon | a Guide to Ranking Images in Search

Reads "do not try to rank your images. Instead, only try to realize the truth"
Do you remember that scene in the Matrix where Neo (Keanu Reeves) is given a crash course in telekinetic spoon bending from the Last Airbender?

It’s a fundamental turning point it Neo’s understanding of the system surrounding him – a system not much unlike Google…

OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but I am going somewhere with this.

Google doesn't actually rank images, the same way Neo isn't really bending a spoon – there is no image!

This is important to understand, because just as it did with Reeves, it will entirely change your mentality when it comes to optimizing images for search.

A Common Misconception

Ranking Images is solely about Optimizing Image Properties

  • EXIF Data: Helps with custom search parameters 
  • ALT Text: Reinforces search query relevance, acts as a quality signal 
  • File Name: Potentially Reinforces relevance 
  • Title Tag (of the image): Does little to nothing 

These factors shouldn't be ignored, but if you think that you will rank your images by keyword stuffing every available property field, you’re going to have a bad time.

How Image Search Works

When Google indexes your page, it knows if an image is there, but it can’t see it like you and I (not yet anyway). Instead clues are sought out as to what the image might be and what searchers might find it useful. 

Alright, so Google just guesses?

Not Exactly

In keeping with the Matrix theme, would you as a reader have any doubt as to what the image in this Wikipedia article is?

The key to building strong search query relevancy into your images is to alleviate as much uncertainty as possible - here's how.

Build Pages that Promote Keyword Confidence

1. Keep your pages as focused as possible. Each page should be centered on one core topic you wish your images to rank for.

Include your desired search term(s) in the following places:

  • Page URL
  • Page title
  • Headings
  • Body Text

2. Edit image properties to contain these same search terms in the ALT text field.

3. Make sure your keywords are found within close proximity to your images - the closer the better.

4. Structure your page URLs to narrow down from broad themes to niche topics.


Relevancy vs. Ranking

Building Keyword relevancy into your images gets you in the game, but to see them ranked above others it’s important they are a part of credible in-demand content.

In-Demand Content fills a need and has a first-most user oriented purpose.

e.g. If a user searches with a question, the best content is the content that best answers that question.

Credible Content is authoritative, referenced & linked to by industry experts, and free of ad spam & Google penalties.

Ultimately, you can’t rank images without first ranking your page. Focus on your page and on creating great content, and your images will follow.

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