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How to Use Images to Increase Search Visibility and Get More Clicks

Is your content ready for the increasingly visual results on search?

As Google shifts emphasis to mobile search, visibility is crucial. More and more, search results feature an image along with the meta description:

.@Google’s emphasis on #mobile means images w/ meta descriptions are critical, says @SEOSmarty via @cmicontent. #SEO Click To Tweet

How can you use images to build organic visibility? Here is what you need to know.

1. Think images, images everywhere

Because images naturally draw the human eye, visual content becomes an organic search competitive advantage. A search snippet with an image is more likely to be clicked than a text-only snippet:

Visual #content is an organic search competitive advantage, says @SEOSmarty via @cmicontent. #SEO Click To Tweet

But adding an image isn’t enough. On-page quality is important, as it now influences click-through rates (and thus traffic).

Imagine yourself a die-hard Harry Potter fan: Which result would you click?

In the top image you can clearly see the Harry Potter stars, but the second image is an awkwardly cropped book cover.

How to generate visual search snippets in Google

No clear guidelines exist to make sure Google includes a thumbnail image in your page search snippet, but there are a few things you can do to optimize the potential:

The first point is as obvious as it is important. Make sure there’s a clear, high-quality image on every page of your site. And I emphasize “clear” because the image needs to be readable when viewed as a thumbnail on a small mobile screen.

So, once again, the featured image on every page of your site should be:

  • Minimal and clear (to be readable)
  • Well-branded (to create brand recognizability)

The featured image on every page should be clear & well-branded, says @seosmarty via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet 
Content creators have no shortage of visual marketing tools these days. But, as I stressed, articles and blog posts are not the only pages that need images. Here are a few ideas for including images on different types of web pages:

  • On About and Contact pages, include high-quality team pictures. You want your founder and team members to be recognized in search, but you also want them easily associated with your brand.

To get inspired, note Joe Pulizzi’s choice of color on most of his digital photos. Orange makes it incredibly easy to associate him with the Content Marketing Institute brand.

  • On your press or media pages, add your high-resolution logo and make it downloadable to encourage use by bloggers and journalists in mentions of your brand. (This could generate more visual snippets from third-party sites that you are not connected to.)

A great example of this is Instagram’s brand assets. The page ensures that media outlets have enough visual options to illustrate the brand in their coverage.

  • On takeaway pages – landing pages, event page, book promotion page, anywhere where a searcher may be interested in “taking something home” – include printable images (e.g., downloading a preview, a checklist, an event planner, etc.). This likely will improve both click-through rates and on-page engagement.

Piktochart offers a separate section to minimalist-style images that would be perfect for the purpose:

2. Get your images featured

Apart from thumbnail images, another prominent section within Google search result pages can steal attention and clicks: featured snippets. The selected search results that appear on top of Google organic search results provide a quick answer to the query.

Lots of featured snippets contain an image, which makes them even more eye-catching:

In many cases, Google picks an image from a different site to include inside another site’s well-deserved featured snippet either because the originating site lacks a fitting image or it isn’t optimized:

Now, not only is the image stealing clicks, it may create the wrong brand impression (i.e., creating disappointed visitors who click the site for the text-based answer):

To identify opportunities for featured snippet images, you can use several tools. Keyword research tools, including Serpstat and SEMrush, can be used to identify featured snippet opportunities. You can explore which ones have images and where the images align with the text (i.e., they’re from the same site).

Keyword research #tools such as @serpstat & @semrush can be used to identify featured snippet opportunities, says @seosmarty via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Internet Marketing Ninja’s Featured Snippet+ Tool also can help. (Note: I work for this company.) It identifies featured snippet opportunities for your site and notes whether existing snippets feature an image.

NOTE: For any featured snippet opportunities, a clear, well-optimized image for Google is a must.

3. Promote with consistent image

Images inside Google’s search results set expectations. Searchers already know what they will find inside each page. Those who click would land on your page with a strong intent to download it.

These search thumbnails clearly give a glimpse into the downloads the user is likely to find:

To take this idea further, use the visual asset featured in Google SERPs for on-site retargeting campaigns.

You can reuse the same image to follow the user around your site (or even after they return to your site days later). This way you have a greater chance to convert those people who failed to opt in and download your lead magnet right away.

This example, using a retargeting tool from Finteza (where I am a brand ambassador), first reveals the results the searcher sees then clicks from their mobile device:

Now, as that visitor explores or returns to your site, they will see these ads until they download the checklist:

It also makes perfect sense to use the same image for your Facebook retargeting campaign.

See the opportunities

Visual marketing has always been an effective way to build brand recognizability. These days, as Google’s mobile SERPs become more image-centric, visual marketing can make or break your organic visibility.

To ensure that your site stands out in organic search, make sure to:

  • Use unique, clear, well-branded, and well-optimized images on every page of your site.
  • Monitor your site’s visual featured snippet opportunities to ensure that your visibility is not stolen by competitor images.
  • Reuse images that appear in organic search (both inside organic search snippets and featured snippets) on your site in retargeting campaigns.

Good luck.

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute