3 ways to achieve better SEO in the age of visual marketing

Visual elements—powerful photos and awe-inspiring videos—will always attract viewers. You’ll attract even more, though, if those elements are SEO friendly.

Visual elements—powerful photos and awe-inspiring videos—will always attract viewers. You’ll draw even more, though, if those elements are SEO friendly.

When I want to see just how far behind I am in my SEO knowledge, I head on over to the Google Webmaster Central Blog—the “Official news on crawling and indexing sites for the Google index.”

This is the hot spot for every SEO geek out there, looking for every miniscule edge possible to inch up in the Google ranks. It’s pretty techy stuff, and worth the occasional gander, just to keep your low self esteem in check.

That said, sometimes seemingly random things in my experience accelerate and smash together, turning my head into a mini Swiss Hadron Atom Collider. When this happens, it reveals a tiny, but interesting, insight or truth.

This time, it involved a recent post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog, designed for SEO ninjas; and a story on NPR’s Studio 360, a show for artsy types.

Studio 360 did a story on how psychologists measure creativity—tests they’ve been conducting since the 1950s. Results over the last 10 years or so reveal some dramatic and telling changes. For example, in younger people, there has been a sizable drop in creativity in the written word.

This may seem surprising, considering most young hipster types perpetually text and post. But when you think about it, that kind of writing is often informational, short (even cryptic) and update-like. It doesn’t wield language in a creative way at all.

There has been, however, a spike in creativity with the same crowd when it comes to the visual arts.

This makes total sense, considering the meteoric rise of eyeball-friendly sites like Pinterest, YouTube and others. Even infographics are a preferred medium for complex subjects once conquered by miles of text. Visuals rule.

Which brings me back to that post from the Google SEO maestros. It gave some very boosterish tips on how to index visuals. Most of us, when we think SEO, think text, and that’s how SEO works. But with so many visuals cramming our online experience, it’s important to know how to index your visuals, too, and get the biggest SEO bang for your cyber buck. Here’s what Google recommends:

  1. Use Google-friendly file formats for your images. Google can index GIF, JPEG, BMP, PNG and SVG. (Did you notice that TIFF isn’t in there!?) Most people use these formats anyway, but it’s still good to know them officially.
  2. Make the invisible, visible. Images and video are often not “seen” by Google. The way Google works is text based, for the most part. One way around this is to have the text around your image or video refer to it. Huffington Post is the SEO overlord of this. Any video you see on that site is accompanied by a transcript or at least a synopsis of it. That helps Google see what’s inside that video.There are a few other tricks, too. Many content management systems allow you to tag images or use descriptive text for them. Google reads these, too, and it’s all taken in as part of your ranking.
  1. Call ‘em like you see ‘em. Even the way you name your image files has an effect on SEO. Most folks, if they buy a stock photo, simply place it in their post or on their site. But you’re better off renaming that file to something descriptive. So instead of ST10067439863.JPG, change it to Blue Coffee Mug.JPG. This is especially useful if you’re selling a product. Use the model name, color or some other descriptor for your product images—and do it in a way that sounds human and keyword like, because it makes for instantly better SEO. Don’t “keyword stuff” by free associating every related word you can think of for the image. Just describe it as most people would. Your honesty will be rewarded by the Google gods.Google also advises that if the text around your image doesn’t talk about it, then Google looks to the image file name for clues. So the way you name your file matters.

As those psychological tests show, younger people over the last decade are visually oriented. That tells me that visually driven marketing is here to stay, probably for some time, and will likely increase. For most of us, the competitive landscape is getting tighter each day. So the lessons are 1) To be more visual and 2) Use every advantage you can—right down to having your images work hard for you in your SEO rankings.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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