SES: Picturing Better Image Search

    August 21, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Search engines can’t read text in images, which can be a problem for image-heavy sites. A panel at SES San Jose explored the issues of indexing such sites, and working with image-specific search engines.

(Our on-scene WebProNews staff has passed along this latest news from SES San Jose 2007. If you can’t be there, you need to be here with WebProNews this week, for videos and reports.)

Shari Thurow talked about three things site publishers need to understand about search engine optimization (SEO), as a review before considering images content.

Since the search crawlers look for text, the words that accompany other content need to be keyword-rich and in the language a typical site user expects. The site’s architecture should permit spiders to move freely through it without being trapped.

With proper link development accompanying those development steps, not only will the text index well, but so will the graphic and media pages on the site.

Just how intensive a graphic site should be depends on the brand being represented, or the uniqueness of the content. Those images should have distinct file names, since that is text the crawlers can grab. Captions and labels add to the indexability of pictures.

Liana Evans of Commerce360 reminded session attendees that image search is the second-fastest growing vertical. Addressed properly, it’s another avenue of search marketing, only the clicks are free.

As more search engines embrace the concept of universal search, Evans said more images and media will be blended in with people’s searches.

Image sharing site Flickr offers one way to take advantage of SEO. Chris Smith of Netconcepts extolled the many virtues of Flickr: PR 8, over 160 million pages indexed, with titles, tags, and links all allowed.

As a general tip, Smith said pictures with better contrast work better, especially when presented as thumbnails. Experimenting with subject matter, like a manufacturing site showing production steps or a bed & breakfast displaying its interior design, can help those optimized images catch a searcher’s query.

Major Internet players like Google and Yahoo offer services where one can add photos and extend their potential reach. Adding a page to Yahoo’s bookmarking site, Delicious, pulls thumbnails of images on the page into that site.

Services like Yahoo Travel and Yahoo Local, and Google Maps, permit image uploading. Adding images to business listings enhances how a viewer perceives the advertised business. Every image can help a site win a conversion from a viewer.