Three Skills You Need to Get Your Photos onto Google Images

An artistic interpretation of Google's algorithm, which you'll need to understand to get your photographs ranked on Google images.

An artist’s rendition of the complex Google algorithm you’ll need to work with to get your photographs ranked on Google Images.

The folks over at Search Engine Watch know SEO, and they’ve just written an article on optimizing images to be found by search engines. But how can what they know be modified for use by photographers?

Whether you’re a wedding and event photographer, you primarily focus on creative or artistic work, or you’re trying to make money selling stock images, the best tool you have for marketing yourself is your portfolio of work. No one will hire you as a photographer without knowing you can shoot great pictures – and obviously no one will pay you for photographs they haven’t seen.

So getting your photographs onto Google images, especially for searches from potential customers in your immediate area, can grow your business overnight. But there are a lot of pictures out there, and making yours stand out requires a lot more than shooting a great photograph. Here are three of the most important things you’ll need to do to get your image to rank on Google.

1. Make sure your images are a reasonable size.

If you upload very large images – and most shots taken with a digital camera or a high-quality phone camera are overly large – be sure to resize them when including them in your website. Too many large images makes your site load more slowly, which can negatively affect your SEO. Anything over 500 pixels wide or tall is pushing it, especially if there are many images on a page.

At the same time, you want large images for potential clients to look at, right? To do this, you could link the images on your site (the small ones) to the original-sized image elsewhere – then focus on optimizing the smaller versions for search engines (because these are the ones that will help your site rank higher).

2. Use text to your advantage.

When you upload an image to a website editor such as WordPress, you’ll see several text options for images including Title, Description, Caption, and Alt-Text. Some of these are searchable by Google and some are not; all are worth filling out to make things easier on you (and in case any of the other criteria become searchable in future).

The alt-text is the main field you should worry about when it comes to SEO. Because Google’s text-based algorithm cannot “see” images, it reads the alt-text to understand what the image is about. The alt-text is also used as a replacement for a visual image when the image does not load, and as the description of an image for visually impaired users who use screen-reading programs or functions.

Some less reputable SEO marketers will use the alt-text as a place to spam with keywords, while some ignore it entirely or only use it as an opportunity to describe their image.

Using the alt-text simply to spam Google is unethical and could be punished by search engines, and could also alienate visually-impaired users. However, you can still use it as an opportunity to promote your work if you use search keywords and phrases such as “photograph by [your name]” within an accurate, legitimate piece of alt-text.

3. Make sure the world knows the images are yours.

Often, a small watermark in each of your photos is a good idea to discourage people from stealing images or re-using them without your permission.

You can also do a reverse image search to see if your image is being used elsewhere, and let other internet users know that it is your copyrighted image. Often this happens by accident, so it’s good not to be rude, but you also can’t allow just anyone to use your images – they are, after all, your art and livelihood.