It’s increasingly important to conceptualise SEO not as one monolithic search results race for text, but rather as a series of events for various formats. Search engine optimised textual content enters you into the main event, but a webmaster might also choose to compete in Google’s alternative races, such as Google Images, Google Videos, or Google Maps.
Given that these sidetracks may be undersubscribed by your competitors, you potentially stand to gain an advantage through your focus on the unconventional. The question you should be asking is what steps you can implement as a to boost your website’s rank in these alternative searches.
Considering that nearly all modern websites use images, image search is probably the most common side event, so let’s use Google Images as our example. While it’s true that Google increasingly uses AI algorithms to recognise objects in images and match searches in this way, you can still exert influence by taking the following steps:
Output Public-Facing Images Through Your Software
Do your users upload images? If appropriate, make these public. What if they don’t? Consider generating images out of other content. In the screengrab below, you’ll notice that the top five results for one of my valuable keywords, “land law notes”, are all image representations of the documents uploaded by my authors. Lacking any real product pictures for these electronic documents, I instead have an algorithm that photographs the first page of each document. This allows the customer to appreciate the formatting of the document without having to download the PDF, and it has the nice added benefit of ranking well in Google Images.
Add Alt Text to Your Images
The alt text directive has two big purposes. First, it provides accessibility for readers with vision difficulties. Second, it shows a text-based description of the image when a connection isn’t fast enough to fetch an image. For the time being—a time before Google’s object recognition algorithm has flourished—setting an alt tag on images works surprisingly well as a ranking signal, so don’t forget to add it.
Choose Informative Filenames for Your Images
Many websites have auto-generated filenames for images (and other assets) that are incomprehensible to humans. If you instead write a descriptive filename containing your keyword, then you stand to rank higher in search results and to appear whenever users search specifically for files of certain formats in Google’s primary search. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to assume that “british_shorthair_cat.png” will rank higher than “01231231312.png” in a search for “British shorthair cat pics”.
Write Captions to Accompany Your Image
In their image publishing guidelines, Google specifically mentions that they scan captions and other accompanying text for clues about how to rank your images.1
Generate and Submit an Image Sitemap
Image sitemaps, like normal sitemaps and video sitemaps, ensure that Google finds content on your website that they might otherwise miss. It’s trivial to generate these sitemaps with open-source plugins, so you’ve no excuse not to.