This is a special holiday series to get you ready for the new year! This is part 3 of a 3 part series covering real estate SEO for commercial real estate professionals. We are so grateful to Michael Hayes for providing this special series for our audience!
The Internet is a very visual place, especially when it comes to research and shopping, and more and more marketers are starting to realize this. Bigger players have long grabbed on to this trend. Does anyone remember the rise of Pinterest? It was probably the (seemingly) fastest rise to power I’ve ever witnessed for a website, especially one so seemingly simple as pinning images to lists.
This speaks to the power of beautiful and evocative images for driving engagement, promoting sharing, and easily conveying a message. “The picture is worth 1,000 words is probably an understatement in our business”, says Ed Cook, a long time real estate broker in Florida. “If someone doesn’t have a visual of what they are buying, no amount of words will convince them to buy”.
Therefore, having beautiful, high resolution, professional quality images of your commercial real estate properties is at least a huge leg up, and at worst a crucial need, when it comes to serving the customer. But did you know there is a whole other advantage to have a proper image strategy in place?
Well, there is, it’s Google image search, and it represents a huge opportunity for exposure, especially for smaller sites that can’t necessarily compete with goliaths in the regular organic rankings.
What is Google image search?
Google image search is not a new feature, as it dates all the way back to 2001. It’s a standalone search engine that can be use to search for images based on either a standard keyword search, or using a “reverse” image search (introduced in 2011), which takes an image file and attempts to find that image or similar images online.
The real value for webmasters and business owners comes from Google’s integration of images into the standard web search. Through what they call “universal search”, Google will sometimes include other products, such as video, maps, shopping, definitions, carousels, and of course images, within the standard web search.
Let’s take a look at an example below, this appeared in a search for “retail storefronts”:
Taking advantage of this integration can allow you to capture a spot (or multiple spots) on the first page of Google. But how is this any different from “regular” SEO?
How is it different from Google Search?
The algorithm for image search is different from regular web search, and while I won’t purport to have insider knowledge of how exactly the algorithms are differentiated, I can say from experience that image search is a bit simpler and easier to tackle than the standard algorithm.
I hypothesize that this is because of two factors:
- The algorithm is advanced, but not complex (we will go into the ranking factors below).
- Competitors often under optimize their images, clearing the way for you to rise past them.
This presents a big opportunity for us! Let’s take a look at how we can take advantage of it.
Google Image Search Ranking Factors
Here’s what you have to optimize when it comes to your images:
- Filename – What the actual .jpeg file is named, include your target keyword.
- Alt Text – An attribute of your pages HTML <img> tag (i.e. <img src=”luxury-house-miami.jpg” alt=”Luxury House in Miami”>)
- Image surrounding the text – You probably won’t have a problem with this if you are hosting your images on your category pages, but just double check. A handy way to make sure of this is to put a “caption” on all images with the city/town and/or address (with zip code!)
- Geotagging Images – You can find guides on how to do this online, but it’s basically adding latitude/longitude code to the meta data of your jpgs. Super easy and not many people do it!
- Links/Image sharing sites – Backlinks are a huge ranking factor in image search, just like in regular web search. A quick and legitimate way to do this is with image sharing sites like Pinterest, Flickr, and Imgur.
Handle these 5 items and you will likely be way out in front of your local competitors.
Here’s some additional pointers for how to best approach an images strategy.
Watermark your images
Important for copyright considerations, it’s also a handy branding mechanism. If your images gets seen or shared, you’ll be getting branding impressions as well.
Instagram and Pinterest Accounts
Use your most striking images to build followings on visual social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest.
Build Relationships with Photographers
Use this opportunity to reach out to local photographers to feature their work (if relevant). You will have to keep their watermark on the site, but the relationship can lead to benefits like links, articles, or even word-of-mouth referrals.
I’ve written several times about ways to circumvent the uber-competitive nature of SEO and find success with some crafty strategies. Image search falls in that category.
Even veteran SEOs sometimes neglect to optimize their images, and if SEOs are forgetting to do it, you know the larger competitors are probably neglecting it as well. This leave a wide-open opportunity for us to get tactical and gain additional exposure for our real estate companies.
About the Author:
Mike Hayes is the founder and CEO of Darby Hayes Consulting, a full service SEO and PPC agency in NYC. He can be reached at mike (at) darbyhayesconsulting.com.