There was a time when the primary concern of bloggers was search engine optimization (SEO). Since then times have changed to an extent. SEO is still a vital consideration, but it now shares the platform with another, equally important element: user engagement.
Most SEO’s will tell you that a page with a bounce rate of 90% and up probably won’t rank high on any search engines. It won’t matter how much you try to optimize the page off-site, there is only so much you can do with horrible bounce rate figures. This complicates things for online publishers, but it’s actually a positive development. User engagement focuses on human interaction, not search algorithms, which is good for publishers with quality content because they can compete based on the merits of their content and the experience they offer users — not just how well they play the search game.
To win the race to draw more clicks, views and more interaction you need a simple, yet important element on each and every page: images. Images highly support SEO and user engagement, so by using quality images in a productive manner, bloggers, online publishers, and marketers can boost their search engine rankings and their engagement with readers.
This Post Discusses:
- The connection between Images and SEO
- How images lead to engagement
- In-image adverting and it’s connection to monetizing engagement
Images and SEO
SEO has become synonymous with keywords, due in large part to the ubiquity of keyword stuffed online. Today’s search engines are, of course, far more sophisticated, but that doesn’t stop keywords (when handled with finesse) from having an effect. Nonetheless, quality and relevant content usually trump any black hat technique in the long term. Yet, quality and relevant content can still be lost in the shuffle when it comes to SEO thanks to how steep the competition is. One way to boost search engine rankings — when there’s already quality textual content — is the inclusion of high quality content related images for SEO. A good image is always related to the text.
Part of the reason for this is the growing popularity of image searching via search engines: i.e. Google Image Search and similar services. These searches have reached a level of sophistication that allows them to serve content users what they want, when they want it — and users frequently want images — so their popularity has exploded. Which means what?
- Companies with search engines (such as Google and Facebook) are putting more time, effort and expertise into indexing and rating images for SEO on websites to serve users content. If you need proof that this has been happening for a while, you can just check out the wiki page of Face.com, it will give you an idea how much money these companies are willing to invest into understanding images.
- The relevancy and quality of those images is being used to affect your site’s search engine rankings.
Even if you’re not serving images, which users are explicitly searching, the images for SEO on your site matter. Indexing is taking into account alt text, file size, and file name, in addition of course to bounce rate.
Bounce rate is the time the user spends on the site they’ve chosen before heading back to the search engine. It’s important to both the SEO and user engagement aspects of image inclusion, because it affects one and is an indicator of the other. A bounce rate that is too high (that is, users are clicking through to your site and quickly abandoning it) will negatively affect rankings; it is also a good indicator that your levels of engagement aren’t optimal.
Too few images, and images for SEO that are low quality or irrelevant, can lead to high bounce rate. Images are good for view rates. In fact, articles featuring images get 94% more total views, which is quite significant, but if your view rates are increasing along with your bounce rate, you may find that the benefit cancels itself out.
So, images have become vitally important to SEO but those images must be worth viewing, and must be a catalyst for engagement.
Images and User Engagement
As mentioned above, studies show that images result in 94% more views, which shows a clear user bias toward articles with images. So how important are images to engagement, really? Very important.
Photos and videos in press releases increase views by 45%, which is significant because users view press releases for very specific purposes. Usually a user reading a press release is considering increasing their engagement with the company mentioned in the future. Over half of consumers are more inclined to contact businesses which include an image in their search results locally. Over half of consumers are more inclined to contact businesses which include an image in their search results locally.
When purchasing a product online, a staggering 67% of consumers note that the quality of the image depicting the product is of great importance in following through with a purchase. In fact, most users feel that the quality of the image outranks its description, its specifications, and even ratings or reviews.
And when it comes to Facebook, engagement with photos is 37% higher than engagement with text.
In short, the importance of images to user engagement simply cannot be overstated. Again, however, with a caveat: users have high standards for images, as they do for all content now. Images should decidedly add to the overall user experience to increase interactivity and SEO.
Leveraging Images to their Best Advantage
There are two main things for marketers, publishers, bloggers, and social media experts to keep in mind in regards to images for SEO and engagement:
- Inclusion of images: Images, generally speaking, increase views
- Images included must be both high quality and relevant to increase engagement in a meaningful way and to reduce bounce back, which would negatively affect SEO
Images also provide something else: the opportunity for quality, engaging monetization. Their appeal to users and their potential to improve the user experience make them ripe for monetization, if it’s done in a tasteful, engaging, experience optimizing manner.
In-image advertising is one way to take advantage of the value of images while improving user experience, views, and engagement. In-image advertising also has multiple advantages over traditional advertising; it isn’t subject to “banner blindess” (the phenomenon of users ignoring content-extraneous advertising), and it can be fully integrated into content in an engaging manner.
In-Image Advertising and Images for SEO and Engagement
Of course, all of the advantages and benefits that images can bring to your blog, publication, or social media interactions depend upon the ability to source quality, relevant images. This can be simple for certain marketing goals, because the content lends itself to image collection. For other goals, and for independent bloggers and publishers, it can be a more complex procedure. There’s a way to streamline the process for those who wish to monetize their sites with in-image advertising.
In-image advertising platforms like imonomy (full disclosure: I work here) can actually provide content in-image ads packaged with high-quality, content-relevant images. For example, if the content is a recipe, the image might be a photo of relevant ingredients being mixed with a commercial mixer; should the user mouse over it, they could be presented with links to ads for kitchen appliances.
The recent success of sites like PlayBuzz, BuzzFeed, Viral Nova and Bored Panda is mostly attributed to their emphasis on putting images in the spotlight. Most viral content websites today know that an interesting thumbnail is sometimes all you need to create a viral news post. Ask yourself this, would these images be even remotely successful without their heavy systematic use of engaging images?
Users want images and they are far more willing to view a site which hosts images, and far more willing to engage with a site that hosts high quality images. Images are key to increasing SEO and user engagement. Ambitious marketers and publishers should take advantage of this, not only by serving their users the image-based content they want, but by marrying those images to non-intrusive, exceptionally relevant, interactive in-image advertising. Banners and textual ads have become easy for users to ignore. However, users can’t ignore the very quality content they’re clamoring for, so long as the ads are delivered in a positive, experience enhancing way.
The way I see things might astonish some of you, but I think the next trend is going to be sites with much less text. Today people are talking how words equal better SEO and I don’t necessarily agree. I personally like to think that content will be reviewed by search algorithms in a much more advanced way. In the next couple of years, text won’t be the main things algorithms try to understand, the reason? A picture is worth more than a thousand words.