I’ve always loved WordPress Hacks for the practical advice they offer, a recent example of which would be changing WordPress Permalinks to be more SEO-friendly. Thus, I guess you can say I was inspired to talk about my own experiences with SEO. I’ll explicitly say this right now – I’m no qualified SEO expert, and the stuff I’m about to offer you isn’t going to work 100% of the time. I pulled off many of my traffic spikes by choosing the right images for my posts. With almost every post, I try to include relevant images. Some are screenshots that I’ve created myself, but most are images I take from other places on the web. I have personally discovered that the images that bring in the most traffic are usually already found on the first page of Google Images and are perfectly timed.

What’s so great about using images as opposed to worded listings?

Let’s think – why the heck would you want to use images to draw people to your site in contrast to worded listings? Firstly, every blog author out there would be thinking to target words that the chances of one particular blogger (us, in this case) making it to the front page is slim to none. Also, in many cases, there are much bigger sites and blogs that target the same niche that we happen to be in which have higher PageRanks and incoming backlinks, making the chances for us to appear on the first page even slimmer. Secondly, WordPress makes it soooo easy to optimize your images for search engines that it’d be impossible for you to not try out.

Alright – what do I have to do?

Firstly, resolve to add maybe around 2-3 images for every post you make from now on. I’m not going to lie – this isn’t a one-image thing that you can nail, but rather like all SEO, it is a process and good habit that you can commit to. Those 2-3 images could be from a variety of search engines I suppose, but I’ve only given Google a try. Search for a picture of whatever you happen to be writing a post about, then try to select images from the first page on Google Image results, and copy the URL of the image and paste it right into WordPress’ Insert Image tool. Yep – it’s fine to do that, but you have to remember to give credit (I do this in italicized text right below my image).Whoops, a special thanks to David Robertson for pointing it out, it’s actually not fine to use just any picture on Google Images – you have to ask for the author’s permission or use an image that’s not copyrighted (when in doubt, use Yotophoto or SXC.hu). Speaking of credit, this is where most people make the mistake when it comes to using images effectively. When inputting image options, be sure to actually input an image description in the “Image Description” field. As an amateur, I used to input the source URL into the description. As you can figure, I didn’t get any hits at all from those images. The image description is actually the text that will appear on the search listing (surprise – well it was for me!). For example, if you are using a Final Fantasy XIII image, I suggest using “Final Fantasy XIII” or “Final Fantasy XIII Character” as the description instead of a credit “Source:http://blahblahblah.com/image.jpeg”, which I suggest relocating underneath the picture. A little blurb about timing – when Microsoft was bidding for Yahoo!, I had written a series of posts tackling the subject. Sensing that this would make for great SEO, I used my cunning to input Yahoo!’s logo into my posts (to be honest, it was dumb luck that time). The next morning, I was shocked to see hits flooding into my blog via that link – wow, I had learned the power of image SEO. I recently ended up writing about how Sony turned their fortunes with the PS3 around, and fitted in various games I thought would end up fixing their fortunes. Thus, I found a picture of Final Fantasy XIII, and wow – tons of hits from that one. I believe that was my most successful one ever, actually. Simple WordPress tweaks result in great Image SEO!

Of course, the hits continued for a few days, but after the Yahoo! buzz and Final Fantasy XIII hype cooled, I didn’t receive many more hits.

A grain of salt..

Is there any particular reason why the images aren’t always targeted? Yep – and here’s why: from firsthand experience, when was the last time you Googled an image – and actually ended up looking at the site material? You can’t remember, right? Neither could I. Thus lies the weakness in image SEO – the traffic-to-reader conversion is very low. I’m sure that of the thousand visitors I had received, a couple would have stopped and read some of my other material, and I’m grateful that they would do that. As a relatively new blogger in the blogosphere (a mere year!), I really don’t have as much traffic as other blogs such as Engadget, Gizmodo, and Hack WordPress, so I found image SEO to be a Godsend to me. If you’re looking for ways to get more traffic, image SEO is a great way to add to statistics. But, the last thing you expected up my sleeve was…

A little trick to counter that grain of salt

Of course, I had to figure out a little solution to this grain of salt thing. After all, I couldn’t leave you hanging there, could I? I remembered the last time I stopped to look at a site for a random image, it had a huge header at the top with the text “If you came from Google Images, read this!” I then ended up spending a few minutes to glance at that bottom frame – I never actually returned, but they had me for a few moments there. This is a minor landing page strategy, and might not be embraced by all in the blogosphere, as it does take away from the quality of your original post. I don’t know about you, but usually I don’t have the time to change it because I am either already working on another post or because the spike is over by the time I notice (a couple of days later, usually).


Image SEO is a great way to draw spikes of traffic to your blog, and if you’re good at it, the same people might end up coming twice on different image results and as a result, stop to read your blog. Look at it this way – even though the traffic-to-reader conversion rate might be a bit smaller than usual, at least you’re getting an extra couple of readers. And all it took was finding someone else’s image and some luck (now that I put it that way, it sounds easy, right?). Either way, if you want to give it a try, do it over a period of time – say, a month or so. That gives you around thirty (on average) posts with 2-3 images, some bound to be quality ones. That gives you around 60-90 images out there in Google Images – I believe that at least one of them will end up drawing huge amounts of traffic. How about you? Have you ever experienced a spike in traffic due to your simple image SEO? Or are you feeling a bit skeptical? I welcome everyone to comment – I’m looking for constructive criticism, but also for discussions (please, no flaming).

Edit: Check out this followup post by Herbert Lui: Copyrighted Images and Ideal Solutions.

This guest post was written by Herbert of Digital Media Break, where he writes about the latest digital technology.

The above article was contributed by a member of the WPHacks community. If you are interested in participating, you can find our guidelines for contributing an article here.

  1. Troy Duncan says:

    I love the landing page idea for Google image results. Maybe I’ll create specific/ random posts as landing pages for my targeted keywords?

  2. David Robertson says:

    “Yep – it’s fine to do that, but you have to remember to give credit (I do this in italicized text right below my image). ”

    No, its not fine to do that. You are encouraging your readers to break the law. Most images are copyrighted and can only be legally used with the copyright owners permission. Just because an image is found via a search engine does not make them available for use.

    Ask permission, or go and take your own images.

  3. Herbert Lui says:

    Troy, I think that could end up working quite well for you, as long as you’ve got a quality non-copyrighted image (for more information please read the revised post).

    DAVID, I want to thank you for pointing out what could’ve been hazardous. I checked Google’s own FAQ about this (http://www.google.com/help/faq_images.html) and realized I’ve made a huge mistake. I apologize to everyone reading this for making such a mistake and sincerely hope no one gets in any trouble and have made the corrections as required. Thanks again, David.

  4. Jeffro2pt0 says:

    Good writeup. I can vouch for the claims that giving an image a good title with a good description can net you traffic. I saw this happen on an image I appended to a post which contained a large amount of Web 2.0 company logos all within one image. I named the image web2.0 logos and thats what brought me a large amount of traffic. I’ve also seen this happen on other images as well.

  5. David Robertson says:

    Many thanks for making the correction.

  6. Herbert Lui says:

    Jeffro, thanks for confirming my observations – and I hope you can continue receiving traffic through image SEO. Was your image original, or did you find it somewhere else? Giving us ideas of how you made it so popular would be great.

  7. Kyle Eslick says:

    @ Herbert – Great post! I know it was written with the best intentions, so I’m glad you updated the post. As you can tell, I rarely use images so I wasn’t aware of this stuff either.

  8. gayle says:

    What you’re describing above regarding the images is called image/bandwidth theft. It isn’t enough to give credit or get permission from the owner of the image. The copyright issue is another issue.

    The premise of your post, and the biggest sin of all, is stealing the bandwidth from someone else. This is direct-linking, and it uses up someone else’s bandwidth every time your page is accessed with the direct-linked image(s).

    Whenever someone uses my images, I find out by looking at the cPanel. I tell these people that they can use the image, with credit given, as long as they download it to their hard drive and upload it to their own server space, and NEVER use my bandwidth.

    Of course, since your SEO tactic calls for stealing bandwidth, your idea is close to being illegal — it’s unethical.

    You’re basically teaching other people to “steal” bandwidth from other people.

    If you want to learn more, just plug the following keywords on Google: direct linking, image bandwidth theft, hotlinking

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