Images are now better than ever for improving your search position on Google
Whether you're a small business owner setting up a product shoot or a charity snapping that latest monster cheque presentation, the good news is that your efforts are now more likely to be rewarded by Google.
Your images are working harder
A study by search engine optimisation specialists seoClarity has found that the percentage of keywords containing images found in Google's top ten search results has jumped up three times in 2019. In addition, nearly half of those top ten images claim a coveted top three spot.
One of these jumps, which occurred on April 12th, saw that figure rise from around 24% to 34%.
According to Mitul Gandhi, seoClarity's co-founder, his team have discovered a MAJOR change (his capitals, not ours) in the ranking of the image carousel, one of Google's so-called 'universal search types.'
One of the biggest names in search marketing, Moz, have also replicated these findings so there is definitely something interesting going on here.
A move to please website users?
It makes sense that Google would want to reward visually strong websites. After all, Google RankBrain (the machine learning element of their core algorithm), as well as numerous tests, have confirmed that users prefer images over written content.
However, is there something else going on here to justify this decision to apparently boost the rank of all images. Quite possibly.
Google's Vice President of Product Management, Surojit Chatterjee, has revealed research findings showing that half of shoppers are first inspired to buy a product via an image.
Meanwhile, Daniel Alegre, Google's President of Retail Shopping, has been quoted as saying: 'Awareness is about being there when the customer is looking for you.'
Add these together and monetising Google Image Search becomes a lucrative strategy. And that is exactly what Google are rolling out with their new Shoppable Ads format. This enables business owners to tag products so that the price and brand are revealed when a user hovers over the image.
By placing images higher up the search engine rankings pages (SERPs), there is clearly more of a chance that Google will 'be there' when the customer is looking for them.
Google are not the only firm looking to squeeze money out of images. Instagram Checkout is a new feature which enables advertisers to place a checkout icon directly onto an organic post. Pinterest, who started trading shares in April, are also spending money on visual ad search (as you might expect).
So what we seem to be looking at here is a race by the big social media giants to grab the biggest slice of the image shopping pie (well, the piece Amazon haven't already swallowed up).
But does the motive really matter to small businesses or charities?
How does this affect small businesses and charities?
As we are unable to peer directly into the black box of Google's core algorithm we can't see precisely what kind of images they are giving added weight to. Are product images given extra weight over, say, photos of cute cats?
If it is truly the case that all optimised images have been pushed up the page, the simple task for SMBs and charities is to upload as many images as possible and to optimise them for search.
This means ensuring the images are compressed to avoid harming your page load speed and adding relevant keywords into the 'alt tag' fields.
While businesses might find value in exploring the option of monetised product images, the results from seoClarity are heartening for those SMBs and charities who rely on natural, unpaid 'organic' traffic.
It appears that simply prioritising images on your website is enough on its own to increase your ranking potential. At least, for now.