While meeting with a client recently, and going over their marketing campaign — and the results of our SEO efforts — the CEO said, “I like how our photos show up on the page. When I’m looking for something, I usually start by clicking on images first.”

I love when we get on-the-fly insight like this into how our clients view the Google search engine results page (SERP) and the various components it contains.

The client was referring to Google Image Search. In this post, I’ll explain what is Image Search and how you can use it to help with your SEO efforts.

Know Your Google SERP: What is Image Search

Google Image Search lets you search for things by images versus the standard SERP listings. Images for Image Search appear on the SERP (usually as an image grid), or you can click on Images in the top Nav — which then opens the Images search page.

Important: Know the difference between the Google Shopping images and the Google Image Search grid.

In Figure 1, you can see the search results for “long neck brass grommets.” The first image grid is Google Shopping — a paid service. Note the pricing and the green links to the respective websites / stores. Also note the little “Sponsored” wording on the top right corner of the image block.

Figure 1: Google SERP with Shopping and Image grids.

Directly below the Shopping grid is an organic search listing, followed by the Image Search grid. Image search is “free,” meaning, if you optimize your images correctly, they’ll appear in the image search results.

Notice how Google provides a call out beneath the grid: “More images for long neck brass grommets.”

Clicking the link takes you to the Image Search page where you’ll now find hundreds of images pertaining to your search (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The Google Images Search page.

Once you’re on the Images search page, you can click on any image to see an expanded view. Since I’m searching for long neck brass grommets, I click on the fifth image. I like that it gives the dimension of the grommet neck (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Expanded view of an image.

A few things to note about the expanded view feature:

The image title is a clickable link — In Figure 3, the image title, “SPGW #2XL (3/8 inch ) X-Long Neck …” is a clickable link. Clicking it takes you to page where the image is hosted.

The company name is also clickable — Run your mouse over Grommet Mart directly beneath the image title. Clicking it takes you directly to page where the image is hosted.

Image description not clickable — Google pulls the brief description, “SPGW #2XL (3/8 inch ) X-Long Neck Self Piercing Grommets,” either from the alt tag (more on this in a bit) or the page description.

Users can choose to visit the page, view a larger version of the image, or share it — Simply click the appropriate boxes.

Users can view other images — Because Google likes to be helpful, it presents users with related images from other websites. In this case, three of the images are for Grommet Mart products, with the others coming from competitor websites.

Three ways to improve your organic Images Search results

Getting your images to appear in the Images search results is pretty easy — it mostly just takes some time and attention.

1. Optimize your images

Assuming you have a WordPress website, when you upload an image to the Media Library, you have four places where you can add keywords that describe the image and help with SEO / search (Figure 4).

Figure 4: WordPress Media Library upload.

File name — Instead of using something like “figure-3-lores.jpg,” use keywords to describe the image: e.g. long-neck-brass-grommet.jpg

Alt Text — The alt tag is one of those minor tags that help enhance SEO. It’s good practice to add a descriptive keyword to this tag (just don’t overdo it). In Figure 5, you can see the alt tag for Grommet Mart’s long neck grommets. (Note: The alt tag is a little long and could be better written as “SPGW” has zero meaning except to Grommet Mart.)

Figure 5: Grommet Mart alt tag.

Caption — I like to add captions to images as it helps people understand what they’re viewing while skimming a page, it helps those who are visually impaired, and it’s another way to add a few keywords to the page without being spammy or forced.

2. Use a URL that includes your keyword

What I noticed, while doing the research for this article, is that when you run your mouse over the image grid on the SERP, you can see the URLs. Some of the companies used the search phrase in the URL, as you can see in Figure 6.

Figure 6: URL showing in Google SERP image grid.

While this may or may not get you more clicks, it can’t hurt. Plus, it’s another way to tell Google what your page is about — thus enhancing SEO.

3. Use high-quality, professional images

While meeting with the client noted above, the sales manager mentioned that a prospect had called looking for a specific product.

The prospect was on the website and said, “I want something like X that you have featured on this page.”

The sales manager noted that the photos on the website were helping the inside sales team talk to prospective customers to determine what they need.

Whether your website features e-commerce or not, it behooves you to invest in professional product photography.

Your website is the visual representation of your company, and poor quality images, taken by someone internally with an iPhone, communicates the message that your product quality is probably sub-par too.

In addition, high-quality images look good in Google’s Images search results — where they’re competing against hundreds of other similar images.

Help yours stand apart with professional quality photos. (Our recommendation: call Al Ferreira. He specializes in industrial photography and goes way beyond simply placing items on a light table and taking a picture.)

In conclusion . . .

To give your SEO a boost, give some love and attention to your product images.

Go through your website and update file names and alt tags, add captions if possible, and replace blurry or out-dated images with high-quality professional images.

Then, track your results. You should begin to see your images appear on the traditional SERP and in the Images search results.