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Image Search Engines

Optimising website images for better search traffic

The ability to search for images has been a key feature on the main search engines for several years now since this function was first introduced by Google and AltaVista. Image search tools work in much the same way as the main search engine results and can be a valuable resource for users, as well as providing an additional opportunity for business websites to attract relevant traffic to their site, once images are optimised effectively.

All the main search engines now offer an image search functions with a basic search and advanced features that allow users to select results by file size, format or colour. Google's Image Search is the market leader, whereas Yahoo's Image Search has recently made a number of improvements to its service to try to rival Google, and MSN Search also integrates image results from the specialist Swedish search engine, PicSearch.

Websites can attract valuable extra traffic from image search results, either directly or indirectly. For example, sites that sell pictures, such as photos or paintings, can attract a significant proportion of their traffic directly from users looking for a specific subject or location. Sites may also attract new customers indirectly from searchers who may be looking for a product illustration or specific image and come across a site for the first time through this route.

So how can you optimise your site to rank well for image searches?

The first step is to get your images 'indexed' (where the search engine takes a copy of the page or image to use in its results). Most image search engines don't have a facility to submit images directly, so the best way to encourage these to index your pictures is to make sure that your website easy to navigate and also to obtain links from other websites to encourage search engines to navigate to your site and index all the relevant pages. An exception to this is PicSearch (which supplies images to Ask Jeeves and MSN) which allows you submit the location of your pictures to them directly via email, although this can be impractical for large sites.

The next stage is to target the main keywords that people might use to find the image. These should be included in the image file name and on the 'alt' tag for the image. You should also consider optimising the text surrounding the image (in particular any captions or nearby headings) and also the title and metatags for the page. Once this is done you need to review the rankings being achieved, as you would with any page ranking, and revise the optimisation as necessary.

If you would like to find out more about optimising your site for image search engines, please contact us for more information or to request a FREE website assessment to see how well your website currently performs.