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Image search – a shortcut onto the first page of Google results?

Over the last three days, I’ve looked at the three elements of the “natural” Google search results, but these are occupying an increasingly small part of the overall Google search results pages. Indeed, the amount of screen space they occupy without scrolling can now be less than 20%:


The bulk of the space on commercial searches (which is what most of us are interested in) is of course now taken up by advertising. But even if your prospects do scroll down, they’ll be faced with all sorts of other things which are being continually introduced into the results. You can take advantage of these.

The first is image results. For many searches, Google shows a line of pictures from its “image search” engine (shown at the bottom of the screenshot above), and these are clicked on surprisingly frequently by people who are looking for products, and not just those just looking for an image to use, as you might think. I suppose that if you know what you’re searching for looks like, your eye will immediately be caught by an image of that exact thing.

When they click through to the image results and on the specific image they chose, they’re now given the option to visit the page where the image is found, which might well be your product page. So while ranking highly in image search isn’t anything like as productive as ranking highly in normal “natural search”, it can be a shortcut to getting right up the top of the Google results for a search which otherwise looks impossible to crack. And of course, if people are finding your page through image search a lot, Google would be likely to give that page a boost in the natural search results.

How do you get an image to rank highly in the image search results? It’s surprisingly easy, and you can experiment to see if it works. First, find a relevant search for your product range where Google is offering images in the natural search results.

Then put a decent-sized image on your website (or choose one which is already there), preferably over 600 pixels wide, and give it all the indicators which Google needs to be confident what the image shows. These include:

1. Get the search term in the file name, i.e “blue-widget.jpg”, not “image0001.jpg”;
2. Use an “alt” tag on the image, assuming your system allows that, which describes the content and includes the search term;
3. Ensure the image is compressed well, while keeping it sharp – try to keep all images on your website under 100kB in size;
4. Caption the image with the search term, or make sure there is text on the page in close proximity to the image which includes the search term.

It goes without saying that the page where the image resides should be about the same subject, and if it’s specifically targeting the same search term (i.e including it in the title, description and headline), then even better.

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