We’ve all heard the old adage: A picture is worth a thousand words. The role of images in conveying a quick message is, of course, hard to argue against but what is its Internet value? How much is a picture worth in terms of traffic and loyalty building for a growing website?
A recent article on SeoMOZ argues that the potential of image traffic via image searches is highly underestimated, due to the neglecting of this type of incoming traffic and lack or rather sidelining of website optimization for this type of traffic. The article goes to prove that with a few minor code tweaks a site can rake in a lot more traffic from Google image searches. But it doesn’t answer a much more important question: just how valuable is this kind of traffic?
Image clickthrough traffic is usually ignored not as much because of neglect as because it isn’t perceived as an optimal source of traffic. Many users often limit themselves to the image appearing in the search results page without following through to the host website, a problems that never arises in the case of regular Google searches. While the aforementioned tweaks ‘fix’ this problem they do not address the second and significantly more problematic issue, that of loyalty. Simply put, a random image search is highly unlikely to build awareness of the website with the user, hence the common reliance on unsightly watermarks that cite the host website for a bit more awareness (and pulling double duty as copyright protection).
Let’s say you own and operate a pet grooming salon and manage its website. A good picture of a dog that manages to lure users to your website will however result in much less use of your services than somebody deliberately searching for “dog grooming”.
This doesn’t meant that image SEO doesn’t have its uses. It is absolutely fantastic in some specialized areas like stock photo websites, specialized e-commerce (make a note, everyone involved in affiliate program management) and similar sites. It can also help in the case of the aforementioned pet salon through building brand awareness much like social media and other ‘secondary sources’ of on-line marketing. A good looking site that attracts traffic through optimizing for image search can stand out from the pack and can lead to bookmarking for further reference. Somebody looking for a picture of a dog in a party hat, like the one posted for the hypothetical pet salon’s first birthday might not have immediate need of a dog groomer but if the layout and pictures impress (plus a few strategically placed customer reviews) they might pay you a visit come Fido’s next haircut appointment.
A picture is worth more than a thousand words. It is worth traffic and if you’re lucky, customer loyalty.