A CMO’s Guide to Google Image Search in Less Than 5 Minutes

This article is part of a series where we summarize SEO topics in less than five minutes.

Mobile phone taking picture for image search.

If you want another way to maximize your brand’s visibility online, Google Images is it. With Google investing more and more into image search, now is the time to learn and seize the opportunity.

What Is Google Images?

Google Images is a search vertical that allows users to search the web for image content. Searches within Google Images accounted for about 23 percent of all searches in 2018.

People can search within Google Images and see both sponsored and organic image results:

Google Images search results.
Results within Google Images for the query: “outdoor furniture ideas”

Image results can also show up in Google’s main search. For example, here’s a block of images embedded in the Web search results for the same query:

Google Web search with image results.
Results showing within Google’s search results pages for the query: “outdoor furniture ideas”

Did you know that Google Images was created in response to a now-iconic dress that Jennifer Lopez wore in 2000? Back then, the search results page was still just 10 blue links. After J.Lo’s Grammy appearance, searchers flooded the web to find pictures of her wearing the dress. Google noticed.

Iconic image of J.Lo wearing dress that sparked image search engine.
Image source: New York Post

So in 2001, Google Images was born. Since then, it has undergone drastic changes. Now, Google is making images a cornerstone for search, and that means more opportunities for brands.

Why Should CMOs Care About Google Images?

Google Images represents a growing opportunity for brands to be found online.

Google has made significant investments in improving its image search engine over the past couple of years. In September 2018, Google announced a major rehaul of Google Images.

The next month, Google announced that its AI-powered Google Lens would integrate with Images search. This meant being able to conduct more complicated image searches.

At the 2019 Google I/O developer conference, images were once again the focal point. Google announced new functionality that would marry the physical world with the World Wide Web through imagery.

… with Lens, we’re indexing the physical world, billions of places and products and so on, much like search indexes.

Reports came out in 2019 of images increasing in the search results. Data showed that images were not only showing up more but also showing up in the top three positions for queries.

Graph showing rise of images in top 3 positions.
Image source: Search Engine Land

All this is to say that Google sees a future where images are a central part of how people find things. It’s up to your brand to decide if you are going to be a part of that.

… sometimes, what’s most helpful in understanding the world is being able to see it visually.

–Sundar Pichai, Google CEO

How to Optimize for Google Image Search

In short: Brands need to optimize their website images and the webpages they are on.

When Google overhauled Images in 2018, the following ranking signals became more important:

  • Satisfying the intent of the searcher. Google used an example of an image search for “DIY shelving,” where results should return images within sites related to do-it-yourself projects.
  • The authority of the webpage that the image is featured on.
  • The freshness of the content of the site (or more likely, the individual webpage the image is on).
  • The position of the image on the page. Top-ranked images will likely be central to the webpage they’re a part of.

Optimizing for Image Search

To optimize for image search, first look at the principles found in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. You want to ensure that webpages are up to par with Google’s definition of quality and that they create a good user experience.

With AI resulting in image search content more and more, we need to understand how that will impact our SEO efforts now and in the future. For example, AI technology encourages more image-based relationships and increases the frequency of images in the search results.

To explain that concept further, when the search engine determines that showing pictures would be useful to the searcher, the system automatically makes the decision to show them more often.

And, as AI progresses, Google is able to understand what an image represents and associate that image with a query. Relevance will improve, and the frequency of images in the search results will increase. But there is much you can do to make sure the search engines understand your images properly.

For more technical details on how to optimize for Google Images, read:

If you’d like help with your website optimization, let me know. Contact us for a free consultation.

FAQ: What are the key factors for improving Google Images Optimization?

Optimizing your online presence is vital for success, and Google Images plays a significant role in that journey. To improve your Google Images Optimization, consider these key factors:

  1. Image Quality: Start with high-resolution images that are clear and visually appealing. Google’s algorithms favor sharp and well-composed images.
  2. Relevant Filenames: Use descriptive filenames that include your target keywords. Avoid generic names like “IMG001.jpg.”
  3. Alt Text: Write concise and informative alt text for each image. Alt text provides context to search engines and assists users with disabilities.
  4. Image Size: Compress images to reduce loading times while maintaining quality. Faster-loading images leads to a better user experience.
  5. Image Sitemap: Create an image sitemap to help Google index your images efficiently. This XML file should list all image URLs on your website.
  6. Page Load Speed: Optimize your website’s load speed. Google Images Optimization is closely tied to the overall website performance.
  7. Mobile Responsiveness: Ensure that your website and images are mobile-friendly, as an increasing number of searches happen on mobile devices.
  8. Structured Data Markup: Implement structured data (schema markup) to provide search engines with additional information about your images, such as product details or recipes.
  9. Contextual Relevance: Place images in relevant content. Google’s algorithms consider the context of images within the surrounding text.
  10. Backlinks: Earn high-quality backlinks to your images. This boosts your image’s authority and search engine ranking.
  11. Social Sharing: Encourage users to share your images on social media. Popular images can attract more traffic and improve optimization.
  12. User Engagement: Focus on user engagement metrics, such as click-through rate and bounce rate, to understand how users interact with your images.
  13. Google My Business: If applicable, optimize your Google My Business profile with high-quality images, enhancing local SEO.
  14. Consistency: Maintain a consistent style and branding in your images. This helps users recognize your content easily.
  15. Competitor Analysis: Study your competitors’ image optimization strategies to identify opportunities and trends.

Step-by-Step Procedure for Improving Google Images Optimization:

  1. Assess the quality and resolution of images featured on your website.
  2. Rename image files with descriptive, keyword-rich filenames.
  3. Add informative alt text to each image.
  4. Compress images to improve loading times.
  5. Create an image sitemap to aid in indexing.
  6. Optimize your website’s overall load speed.
  7. Ensure mobile responsiveness.
  8. Implement structured data markup for images.
  9. Place images contextually within your content.
  10. Build high-quality backlinks to your images.
  11. Encourage social sharing of your images.
  12. Monitor user engagement metrics.
  13. Optimize your Google My Business profile if applicable.
  14. Maintain consistency in image style and branding.
  15. Analyze competitor strategies for insights and trends.

By following these steps diligently, you can master the art of Google Images Optimization and significantly enhance your online visibility and user engagement.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (2)
Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent SEO posts is better than the last!
Bruce Clay on May 8, 2024
The Always Up-to-Date SEO Checklist
Bruce Clay on April 4, 2024
What Makes an SEO Program Successful?
Bruce Clay on April 3, 2024
How Can I Improve My Website Rankings Through SEO?

2 Replies to “A CMO’s Guide to Google Image Search in Less Than 5 Minutes”

Fine way of telling, and pleasant post. Nice info! Thanks a lot for sharing it, that’s truly has added a lot to our knowledge about this topic. Have a more successful day. Amazing write-up, always find something interesting.

Amazing sharing. Thanks for this post. I always create images and unable to receive any response from google. You are great to share it,


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Serving North America based in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area
Bruce Clay, Inc. | PO Box 1338 | Moorpark CA, 93020
Voice: 1-805-517-1900 | Toll Free: 1-866-517-1900 | Fax: 1-805-517-1919