Search Engine Optimization for Photographs – An Interview With SEO Expert Pam Card

Professional Headshot of SEO Expert Pam Card photographed on a whet background.

SEO and Online Marketing Expert Pam CArd of Surefire Online Marketing was photographed at SRK Headshot Day in San Francisco, CA.

We asked Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert Pam Card of Surefire Online Marketing to tell us how to make the most of our photography in social media and online marketing. She gives a lot of tips for getting the most exposure when you post your photos.

Tell us about your background and business as an expert on SEO.

I’ve been doing online marketing for nine years. I have a background in traditional marketing and website development so I pride myself in my solid understanding of both the technical and marketing aspects of online marketing.  My company, Surefire Online Marketing, is a boutique online marketing agency specializing in search engine optimization, website conversion optimization, paid text advertising, email newsletters and social media strategy. I work with a wide range of clients, including: Groupon, Deschutes Brewery, UC Berkeley, FunctionOne IT, grassrootsPR, Cheryl Heinrichs Architecture,, SRK Headshot Day, Macdonald Fernandez LLP, New Eco Landscapes and Luna Family Hearing, to name a few.

 1. What are some key things that people can do to make sure their favorite photo is most likely to show up on a Google Search?

I could go on and on but I will just stick to the top 5 here:

1) Optimize your photos so they load quickly.  This is especially important now due to the growing number of mobile phone users. A good rule of thumb is to try to get images around 70kb.  Yes, sometimes it’s impossible, we know, but it is a line in the sand.

2) Name your photo descriptively and in plain english.  For example, if a photo of your car is named DCMIMAGE10.jpg, consider changing it to 1975-mercedes-benz-450sl-blue.jpg.

3) Optimize your image alt tags intelligently.  Describe your image in plain English, don’t keyword stuff your alt tags and don’t use alt tags on decorative images.  From our earlier example your car image, 1975-mercedes-benz-450sl-convertible-blue.jpg may have an alt tag that says 1975 “Mercedes Benz 450SL Convertible Blue”.  By the way, did you know that screen readers for blind people use alt tags to describe the images on a webpage.  Keep this in mind when writing your alt tag and know that a nice, descriptive alt tag has a greater benefit outside of SEO. (For a definition of an Alt Tag click here.)

4) Create an image sitemap and submit it to Google through Google Webmaster Tools.  The easiest way to explain this is to let someone else explain it for me.

5) Make sure your page copy and other page elements support your image information.  Again, you send mixed signals if the photo of your car is on a page about handbags.

2. When putting a photo on Social Media, like LinkedIn, is there any special tagging or labeling that should be done?

Not that I know of.  My recommendation is to follow the size, dimension requirements and other image guidelines for each social media channel. Proper naming and size optimization is always helpful, no matter where you put your photo. For LinkedIn, there are special considerations about optimizing your page, which is far more important for getting yourself found in on-site searches.

 3. Are there any standard practices with tagging photos, captions, etc. that can actually hurt a photo being indexed highly by search engines?

The top mistakes that can get you dinged by search engines are keyword stuffing your alt tags, not optimizing your images so they are slow loading and giving your photo a random name.

4. On the About Page of a website, what do you find are effective ways to display photos?

Let’s start here – the best way to have your headshot show up in search engines?  Have a dedicated, descriptive bio page with a correctly optimized headshot photo in it. You can reach this page from a general “About Us” page, that has thumbnail headshot images of each person, a bio summary of each person and clickable links that go to each bio page.  The clickable links should be on the headshot thumbnail image as well as the name.

5. Which social media sites would you say are most effective for marketing a business online?

It depends on the business, the goals and strategy of the business, how much time and resources they can commit and how much engaging content they feel they will be able to consistently create….and of what type. My sage advice is that an effective social media channel is one that you nurture, post to, engage with others on, reciprocate on and pay attention to.  If you do these things on even a single, lesser known social media channel you will positively impact your business.

6. How important are photos when talking about Search Engine Optimization? Isn’t google just looking at words?

Photos are really important.  Especially when they are optimized correctly, they are the icing on the website cake.  Google wants a website’s user experience to be awesome, and sometimes that means a website will have a lot of images.  Google can work with image heavy websites and will glean the most information they can from them.  That said, more descriptive copy on a website is better for search engines – I aim for at least 250 words per page rule of thumb.  I should also mention that search engines cannot understand or index websites made in Adobe Flash, which is one reason why Flash sites are no longer in fashion.

7. Any other thoughts or advice about online marketing?

Your business will benefit if you keep one eye on the world of online marketing. This year beware of paid-linking, hiring guest bloggers and online PR.  Think about creating usable content, G+ authorship, trying Facebook ads, making your website mobile friendly, and dreaming about what mobile app you would want to create in the future.

Note from Scott R. Kline. When we created our website, Pam Card was instrumental in helping us understand all the issues with optimization for search engines. The result is a simple site that is easy to navigate and easily found by people looking for our professional headshot service in the San Francisco Bay Area. I wanted to share Pam’s expertise with all of our customers and fellow photographers.



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