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Is Google Image Search Worth a Marketing Look?

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Today I’m the proud recipient of one of our industry’s most fun and creative writers, Anthony Pensabene (@content_muse).  There are three things I can tell you about Anthony.  One, he can hang later than me at a party.  Two, my fiancé is a little too attracted to him (“when are we seeing Hot Anthony again?”), and three, he’s got style.   Thanks for taking the time, sir.  - Bill


Much like Santa’s helpers, I’ve been busy, tinkering around of late, using my site as a platform to learn some technical and development insights.

In the last weeks, I’ve broken links, torched tags, and performed cosmetic alteration, acting the WordPress Dr. Moreau.  It’s been fun; some alternations turned out looking okay, some not so much.

Let’s take opportunity, and discuss things I could do differently, considering strategy along the way.

Mind Your Legacy

Publishing a well-received post is great.  There is immediate gratification, and you feel like, “Cool, I didn’t spend all that time dressing dapper, donning a bow tie tonight for nothing.”

But, don’t be a temporary gent; be a timeless one.  Think about content’s legacy, not its immediacy. How will your brand be remembered when its pages are old and wrinkly?

Let’s take a look at my blog’s overall impression so far.  This snippet reflects all-time terms searched, leading to Content Muse traffic.

In the beginning, I started this blog as a branding platform, associating my name and grown-up alias, content muse.  I’ve done a decent job; however, what else is getting searched and clicked on?

“best buy holiday overstock shopping spree giveaway” —  “http:redeem..” —  and one other reference to a Best Buy/Overstock issue I got to the bottom of, is quite prevalent.

I could have done better (along the way), considering how I want readers, peers, and clients associating my brand in an ongoing fashion.

I’m interested in content creation, creativity, branding, reputation management, public relations, peer relations, etc.  Turn-ons include nice smiles and big brains.

Let’s consider strategy.  For instance, lately I’ve been digging the leverage of search operators, writing twice on the topic in a short time frame.

Let’s go in Webmaster Tools, taking a look at how the endeavor influenced reader search behavior as well as results.

I’m not taking over the SERs for the term, but I made a small impression’s impact, likely affecting the reception of peers and readers too, creating a stronger association to the topic and endeavor of using operators.  ["Search operators? Oh, Anthony likes playing with those.."]



That’s a good thing.  How do you want your brand remembered?  Develop a branding strategy, infusing branding principles.

Now let’s consider a blunder I made.

When uploading a picture in WordPress(.com), one may create a separate URL to the image, like here.  I noticed my site performing slowly, got to thinking I could improve speed, and began eliminating extraneous URLs.

I (thought) I tested what happens if the URL is eliminated, not wanting to rid the blog of the picture, just the link.

But rather than from the actual HTML of each, I made alterations from the media files, which was dumb.

…I broke the images to those pictures, spending hours making sense of my posts, adding new pictures, but now I know better.

Let’s go back to the notion of legacy.  One can also make a legacy via pictures.

I wrote a post a while back on authenticity, including a visual reference to Plato’s cave allegory.

An included picture was tagged with associated terms, appearing in SERs and attracting click-throughs to my pages.


The traffic is serendipitous in nature, but shows how graphics serve browser queries.

So, I was doing some thinking..

..which is dangerous in itself, but potentially helpful for small businesses.

This is interesting.


My post ranks decently for the phrase, “allegory of the cave.” I grew curious of the phrase’s data.


The phrase and associated varieties get monthly search traffic, despite the obscure, long-tail nature.

Then I got to thinking..more.

Rather than a didactic term or one associated with a scholarly rather than commercial pursuit, what do images look like for commercial-related terms, such as “eighties t shirts”?

I call upon my SEO ninja utility belt and Moz tools.  I look at the first image.  The page’s domain authority is low, has only fair Moz rank, but G serves up an on-page image first for a competitive search term, like “eighties t shirts.”

This page, associated to the first picture of the image search, offers long content.  It’s not outstanding, yet the page offers a mixture of prose, graphics, video, and outgoing links; a consumer may be pleased, confronted with the variety and nature of the content.

The aligned image doesn’t have eighties-related alt text.

That’s a primary, optimizing images on a web page suggestion.

Let’s look at another image, regarding the same “eighties t shirts” image search.

This page has low domain authority, nil page authority, and Moz tools does not think much of it altogether.

From a consumer’s perspective, it offers little, the page continuing on and on in a ridiculous fashion, listing site-wide tag links.

I wonder if there is some real potential here for small vendors to make a big impact via image searches.

As mentioned, the first (reading top to bottom, left to right) image is associated to a good (not great) content page, with other pages in the image results having little valuable content, a number being connected to high-authority domains, pulling weight.


Let’s take a look at our phrase “eighties t shirts” using Ubbersuggest (it has no image search suggestions for the term, but plenty for web searches.)  Let’s say we wanted to begin taking precedence in the ‘image’ SERs for “eighties band t shirts.”

I would consider establishing a small business’ content strategy, targeting these eighties t shirt related searches, by emulating a blog rather than product page structure.

For example, let’s relate t shirts to a concert experience, fan opinioneccentricities, etc, formulating stories featuring and relating the product.

Get creative with content, making it enjoyable as well as commercial.

Check From Exactly Where Potential Leads/Traffic is Coming

I want to see if Google makes a distinction between web and image searches related to my sought, “eigties t shirts” term.

It doesn’t when I try to discern in the keyword suggestion tool.   I do a quick search online for discussion on the matter.  Making a distinction as to where exactly traffic is coming/going is important, and I would like to hear from any one with some insight on the image search matter.

There may be opportunity for small businesses to gain traction via image search, though consumers are well conditioned to restrict behavior to web searches only.

Perhaps creating an image-centric browser tool or extension would help condition behavior.  What about teaching consumers to use Google differently, in a way more advantageous to your business?

Does every consumer do this?

No, but every consumer could if conditioned to do so.

Going back to my blog’s alignment with Plato’s cave, I believe it has to do with the obscure, long-tail nature of the search term, and my domain/page’s decent authority/traffic, a situation which could parlay itself to commercial opportunity.

See if specific images are providing traffic.  If so, how is your brand best optimizing on-page elements? If you’re getting click-throughs from images, ensure the page further capitalizes.  That’s conversion-rate optimization.

If you are not optimizing images, consider advantages the enterprise could afford.

Can you influence your consumers to search differently for your variety of services/products?

Google image search may be worth a marketing look, eh?

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    The comments are do-follow. However, any comments that use keyword anchor text as the name will be removed.

    1. James Agate
      December 17, 2012

      Hi Bill and “hot” Anthony,

      I think image search has a great deal of potential for most sites, in particular online retailers (who can capitalise on consumers searching for stuff visually) and of course small businesses (looking for a way to capitalise on some SEO opportunities without going up against the big boys unsuccessfully in the main SERPs.

      It is a case of handle with care though because Skyrocket SEO ranks 3rd in image searches for “Warren Buffett” and gets circa 8-9,000 hits a month – yes a month! I never count it in the traffic because it is useless overall as very few have any interest in what we do but I haven’t switched it off because I kind of think I will figure a way to utilise this as an opportunity at some point.

      That’s just my feeling on the subject really – proceed with caution and remember that not all traffic is necessarily a good thing :-)

      Perhaps you could apply the same logic about Google throttling overall traffic to the domain ( ) ?



      • Anthony Pensabene
        December 17, 2012

        Precisely my thoughts, chap!

        “and of course small businesses (looking for a way to capitalise on some SEO opportunities without going up against the big boys unsuccessfully in the main SERPs.”

        I asked my father (i use him often as a guinea pig to say thanks for him providing his genetics) if he ever uses image search to make purchases on the web. he said, “no, when did they come out with image search?” I said, “no matter my father. just keep growing old gracefully, and don’t worry your pretty head about it.” In seriousness, I discussed how I would have to condition users to begin searching differently, so the enterprise of him using the image search would be beneficial to my clients.

        Have you ever thought about, “how I would do online marketing for Warren Buffet?” – he may have interest in what you do..

        “not all traffic is a good thing..” i hear you, but seems like a great opportunity to re-direct attention if at all possible…

        Thanks for your link and thoughts, dude.


        • James Agate
          December 17, 2012

          Well the post was about things that we as marketers can learn from Warren Buffett. I guess I will just use it as a conversation starter when I eventually get the opportunity to meet him (would really like to shake his hand – what a legend) anyway…

          I wonder if a startup or even an established ecommerce organisation could change the behaviour of people with the right kind of campaign – in the same way that there is that story about the Mercedes-Benz dealership who started calling cars “pre-owned” rather than “used” and changed the entire perception of the buying public…

          Food for thought at least



    2. AJ Kohn
      December 17, 2012

      Image search, oh where do I start! I do quite well in image search though I’m sometimes getting traffic for things that aren’t really related to my business and certainly don’t convert.

      But that’s besides the point, though it was fun when I was getting tons of traffic from Bing for ‘New Kids On The Block’. They’ve since changed that thankfully, though now they think I’m Ryan Gosling.

      Anyway …

      I’ve also noticed that image search seems to default to sites that are more blog oriented. Because of this, it looks like they avoid larger sites and instead grab images from smaller ones. I think that’s just a by product of the image search algorithm as it seeks out strong file names, alt text, captions, surrounding text and topical page relevance (i.e. – small fan sites).

      It could also be that Google doesn’t want to overwhelm major sites with image crawls, particularly since image search (for most eCommerce) isn’t particularly effective. Or, it isn’t on a one-session basis. Perhaps it’s part of the research and purchase cycle, though do those looky-loo visits at one site translate to sales at the same site?

      The thing is, Google doesn’t make it easy to use multi-channel attribution or … to do anything of substance with image search which is surprising and frustrating. Your post renews my interest in using the referrer to construct an image search bucket, though I still don’t see the term as a parameter. But it does seem like you could break out image clicks by ‘page’.

      I find the lack of image drilldown to be odd given that images are essentially the milk of the Interent these days. I’m hopeful that Universal Analytics might address this issue, though that’s a far more ambitious project.

      One of the ideas i’ve had but haven’t implemented yet is to create a photo feed for a site, essentially mimicking the blogs that Google seems to like. In short, create rich photo content without all the clutter and see if that’s the way to crack image search.


      • Anthony Pensabene
        December 17, 2012

        thanks for the read and thoughts, AJ. Your posts have definitely fueled my interest in content legacy and pictures. i’m very interested to hear of any projects you cook up in the near future (i really dig that photo feed idea). One of the elements I love about search is the experimentation and thought strategy, the hangin tough and developing new strategies for clients to explore :) #NKOTBFTW


    3. Anthony Pensabene
      December 17, 2012

      #Sebald, thanks for the opportunity to write on your blog. I’ve been a fan for some time, so it’s super cool to feature thought here.

      at twelve-years old, i stayed at an uncle’s house, my cousin and I to go ice skating. i didn’t bring clothes, so i had to borrow my uncle’s green sweatpants and perhaps the ugliest sweater known to visual stimuli, which was a fusion of pastel colors. Union this outfit with Clark Kent glasses the size of my head, braces, social awkwardness, and limited ice skating skills, and you’ll get a young man making a fool of himself.

      I took interest, as young men do, in a young lady, asking her to skate. She was timid and rather taciturn when i approached her and friends, yet her friend was quite verbal in alerting, “my friend doesn’t skate with dorks.”

      in present day times, when screaming Content Muse fans are chasing me down the streets of Phildelphia, not so much like the Beatles but more in a Monkees fashion, i stay humble, remembering that inside i’m still that dork, wearing my uncle’s green sweatpants and the vomit of colors and material, which was his provided sweater.


    4. James Norquay
      December 18, 2012

      Image traffic can really drive a crazy amount of traffic to your website if you optimize it correctly. You really have to follow the trends of the market is my advice. I did make some great money from Olympic keywords this year ;) But that been said the keywords I was ranking on page one for were highly tailored for their specific markets.

      Google has also been quite naughty on how it treats image search pages been displayed to users, their were a few nifty java script tricks where you could instantly refresh Google visitors to your page and not allow them to show their landing page. They have since removed this from the website which is annoying.

      But yes I have done a few image strategies for marketing teams in the past, it is defiantly a huge area.


    5. Matt Antonino
      December 27, 2012

      Great post and something I know about. I worked on the SEO campaign for a stock photography agency for quite awhile. It was interesting to see how things shook out. Long form content is the key here – if you have under 500 words and over 50 images (including page graphics) you usually don’t rank very well at all. If you interlink pages, you usually do. That’s one reason (conversions being another) that stock agencies will always have “similar images” on every image page. It helps.

      Also, when going for Image Search, it doesn’t hurt as much to have more keywords. People want to keep image keywords to 2-3 and that’s fine – but we used to regularly rank for VERY competitive keywords on images that were using 8-10.

      A quick image search for “business woman” will show you that 123RF and Deposit Photos are winning the microstock image search world and billion dollar Getty doesn’t even win the top 50.

      On the other hand, search “royalty free business woman” and you will see that ClipArtOf is absolutely #1 and nobody else is close. If you tear those two results apart, you should know everything you’d ever need to about image results.