Have you ever heard the cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words? Online, that picture may be worth quite a bit more because of two interesting facts that most small businesses never consider when promoting their products or services online:
- Google presents something called blended search results, which means they show images and videos alongside text links for ANY search conducted through their site.
- It is much easier to get an image onto the first page of Google than it is to get any kind of text link or website.
If you consider both of these facts, along with the obvious fact that photos can tell a story about your business in a way that even the best written marketing language cannot, it should come as no surprise that having images as part of our web marketing for your business is quickly becoming imperative. Of course, just saying so and understanding this doesn’t provide you a great action plan to do it. So, in this post I’m proposing a simple experiment for you to try – and it starts with a single task: get 10 great photos of your business.
For this, you could hire a photographer, but you could just as easily create some images of your own that will bring to life what is great about your business. To get some ideas, just login to www.istockphoto.com or www.gettyimages.com or another stock photo agency and start looking around at the images. Get some ideas for photos that could work for your business and start to think about how you could best obtain them. Your goal is to get 10 images – no more and no less.
Once you have these 10 images, below is a step-by-step plan for how you can use those images to jumpstart many of your online marketing initiatives that you may or may not have started yet:
- Retitle your files – The first thing you need to do is retitle your image files. Chances are your digital camera probably named them something like”IMG_8746.jpg” and if you leave them that way you may as well tell Google you’re not interested in having them show up on search listings. Those image titles mean nothing to a search engine and are therefore invisible. Instead, rename your image files to something meaningful like “starbucks_coffee_lobby_1.jpg.” An image title that uses keywords is the first way to optimize your images online.
- Upload to Flickr – If you don’t have an account already set up for your business on Flickr, this is the perfect time to set one up. It’s easy and free for the first three galleries you create – plenty of space to post your first 10 images. Once you have them up, make sure to add keyword tags and descriptions for each of the photos. Group them together in a set and ensure that your photos are public and searchable by Flickr users. Upload the highest resolution you can, as Flickr will automatically shrink your image into a few different sizes.
- Add an image gallery – There are a few ways you can add an image gallery to your own website, either through linking and pulling the images directly from Flickr, or just placing them in a directory on your website that anyone can see. The benefit of having these images directly on your website, though, is that they are linked to your main URL and this (again) is beneficial from a search point of view. The other positive is that you can have a direct URL on your own website to each of the images to use as a link to share with anyone. The other search tip for these images is that you should be sure to add “alt text” which is the text added in the code behind your image so that you describe it for those who cannot see it for any reason. Search engines also read this text to understand what the image is of.
- Promote the images – Now that you have the images accessible in a few different places, it’s time to start actively sharing them. One way you can do that is to find relevant fan pages or groups on Facebook that relate to your area of interest. Join them and pay attention to the conversation. When you feel you have something of value to contribute, add your point of view and you can link to one of your images to share. In addition, you will want to try and share your images anyplace your business has an online profile. So if you’re a restaurant and you’re reviewed on Yelp, sharing your photos there. If your business has an online yellow pages profile, link your images to that. The goal is, anywhere online where someone can learn about your business, you want to link your photos so they can really see what your business is all about.
- Test and optimize – The last step of this process is to continually test and optimize. If you do a Google Image search for real estate agents in your zip code, what images come up? Why do they come up and how can you displace them? Starting to think in these terms can help you to rank your images more highly on search. The other thing you will want to track is how you are converting business and interest in the places where you have your images bringing your business to life beyond just text links or stock photography.
There is a reason I focused this entire post solely on adding more images online, and it is simply that for many small businesses this is a completely ignored area of online marketing that could have a huge impact on your bottom line and how many customers proactively find out about your business.
Once you do this things, you will have optimized for something most business owners don't, created some useful marketing collateral, added authenticity to your efforts, increased the reach and find ability of your business, and given potential customers a reason to work with your business by making it more tangible. Not a bad return on taking 10 photos and merchandising them,eh?