Picture This, Part 2: For Pix and Clicks Go SMO

In part one, we examined some fundamental tactics to optimize pictures and images used in a Web site or blog. With SEO (define), it’s important to put first things first. Optimizing your site for images is a precursor to successfully venturing in to social media venues, especially with images playing such a visible role in Google universal search results.

Assuming image search engines already pick up your site’s photographs, channel even more traffic to your site by leveraging opportunities at popular photo-sharing sites.

Not all photo-sharing sites are perfect when it comes to social media optimization (SMO). A quick comparison of some particularly popular photo-sharing sites shows that one stands out for its inherently search-engine-friendly design:

SMO for Photo-Sharing Sites
Site Google PageRank Pages Indexed (M) Titles Tagging Heading Tags Links Allowed
Flickr 8 160.0 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Photobucket 8 60.0 Yes No No No
PBase 8 13.0 Yes Yes No Yes
Webshots 8 71.0 Yes No Yes Yes
23 6 1.7 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fotki 6 2.4 Yes Yes Yes Yes
MySpace 8 226.0 No No No Yes
Facebook 8 1.6 No No Yes No

Flickr‘s design is acutely adept for image optimization because titles can be hand-tuned and displayed as heading-one tags, and captions and alternative text can be readily tweaked. Flickr also allows users to tag images and to group photos into sets and collections for further cross-grouping and interlinking. Then other members can share your photos and add comments, creating an environment built for optimal linking hierarchies.

As a result of its basic free services and ease of use, Flickr has become one of the Web’s largest photo-sharing communities. All it takes to get started is a Yahoo ID. If you want a more customized, professional layout for your pictures, you might want to use Flickr Pro, which costs $47.99 for a two-year subscription.

Flickr has an interesting algorithm that can help send targeted search-referred traffic your way when wholly optimized. And yes, Flickr can help raise your site’s overall visibility, especially via image search engines, as well as general search engines that offer blended results featuring photos and images.

There are, however, some things to keep in mind when optimizing images in Flickr. Consider these 12 tips before you get started:

  • Have good-quality pictures. Those with good contrast tend to work better. Don’t hesitate to experiment with subject matter, especially those intended to drive traffic and conversions.
  • Add a unique title, appropriate to the image. Use a keyword or two and stay on topic.
  • Add a description for the photo or write an article to go with the image. Annotating images is critical.
  • Always tag your images with keywords. Be specific, and add as many tags as appropriate, using optimal terms as phrases. Be reasonable with the number and accuracy of descriptive photo tags — don’t overdo it.
  • Make photos publicly viewable. Consider loosely licensing your pictures; share your photos with the rest of the online community. Remember, sharing pictures with news organizations, for example, can help bring valuable inbound links to your site.
  • Use Flickr to host pictures for referencing to your blog, newsroom, contents, and other promotions. If you don’t have a Flickr page setup, consider a placeholder for your business group now.
  • If your photos are location-specific, such as store fronts or travel destinations, geo-tag the pictures. If you have a lot of location-specific pictures, consider using a camera that has GPS built in, allowing photos to be automatically geo-tagged within the EXIF (define) data when uploaded to Flickr.
  • Create thematic sets for your photos, and add each picture to different sets and collections appropriate for specific topics. For example, make a set for store fronts and another set for executive biographies.
  • Search through Flickr Groups to find other people who would be interested in your photos. Stay on theme. Join these groups and add your photos to them. (Note: Flickr has a relatively new penalty for groups that require links, so don’t ask for links; earn them the old-fashioned way with high-quality pictures and targeted descriptions.)
  • To the description fields of your Flickr photo pages, add links to related pages on your site.
  • Post as many pictures as possible on Flickr. More pictures will result in more traffic; more traffic can result in more conversions.
  • Cross-promote your photos by bookmarking each picture’s page at del.icio.us. (Note: free del.icio.us account required.)
  • Most of all, be creative with your photos. If you’re targeting popular keywords, experiment with re-uploading your pictures because image freshness may affect relevancy. If you’re photo-blogging, add a Digg link at the end of your text. Sometimes, putting a note directly on the photo, particularly humorous notes, can send traffic your way. Also, consider feeding all your photos into Google Image Labeler, to improve your tagging efforts and visibility in Google Image Search.


    SMO benefits vary depending on your goals. Most sites and blogs can profit from some form of SMO, but a successful SMO strategy must spring from rock-solid business and marketing goals.

    Optimizing your photos for social venues such as Flickr naturally inspires the creation of excellent, keyword-rich content and photos that can improve an online brand’s overall visibility and continually increase high-quality inbound links over time. In that way, SMO reinforces what a site should be working toward through an SEO campaign: building a crawler-friendly Web site, creating compelling content, and building links.

    A special tip of the hat goes to Chris Silver Smith over at the Natural Search Blog for helping frame up SMO for Flickr.

    Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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