Hey You! Stop Posting Naked Photos Online

Hi, I’m John Lawlor and I’m starting a campaign to stamp out naked photos online.

No, not that kind of naked photo. I’m talking about images that are not optimized for Google and other search engines.

It’s been well-known for some time that optimizing text on a Web site, as well as text contained in a site’s source code, is important to the site’s ranking in search engines. This is where most SEO experts place their focus.

The reason for this emphasis has been the growth of inquiries on Google, Google News and Google Blog Search — all text-based products that provide the real estate Google needs to display its “sponsored links,” the source of most of the company’s revenue.

The Rise of Google Images

By contrast, as recently as three years ago, Google Images was hardly a blip on Google’s revenue radar — and was an SEO afterthought as well. This started to change in 2007, when Google introduced Universal Search.

Among other things, Universal Search pulled Google Images results and displayed them alongside traditional text results and sponsored ads. For the first time, photographic images appeared on most results pages.

Today, Google Images provides 5.75 percent of Google’s total revenue and is growing rapidly.

What does all of this mean for photographers? It means that optimizing your images for search is an increasingly important means of drawing traffic to your Web site.

Web Photo Optimization

I started my work life as an on-location advertising photographer; over more than 20 years, I lived and worked for blue-chip clients in London, New York and Los Angeles. Then, in the early ’90s, my fascination with computers and the emerging online world led me to a second career as an Internet strategist, consultant, trainer and coach.

Earlier this year, I decided to combine what I’ve learned from these experiences to become a Web Photo Coach. I realized that Web photos weren’t getting enough respect — especially when it came to SEO. And I decided to help photographers and companies do something about it.

Among other things, I’ve been working with clients to implement best practices for Web photo optimization (a new acronym — WPO). Google is paying attention to WPO, and you should be, too. Which means that, for starters, you shouldn’t be publishing naked photos online.

So, how do you know if you’re posting naked photos?

1. Naked photos lack relevant text accompaniment. Search engine spiders have no way of scanning your photo pixels and knowing if the image is a scenic or a picture of you. Search engines need help in the form of descriptive captions and other text around or near the image. They also need source code elements like “alt text”, “title text” and “meta tags” to accompany your images.

2. Naked photos lack embedded, computer-readable metadata. I’m not talking about camera and lens data, but descriptive information about your photo that needs to be added by the photographer or assistant. As the Stock Artists Alliance explains:

There’s room for more than meets the eye inside a digital photo image file. Regardless of the format, these files can store not only image data but also information about the images. Metadata is, literally, data about data. When included in image files, we call this information “photo metadata.” Metadata is actually part of the image file, effectively a bundle of image data and information about that image.

Although metadata currently is not spidered by most search engines, Google is rumored to be working on this — so it’s only a matter of time before it becomes common practice.

3. A naked photo doesn’t contain copyright or contact information. This can be embedded in your metadata, included in the text and code accompanying your images, or added as a watermark. Or all of the above.

You’re publishing your photographs online because you want them to be seen — and you want people to know who shot them. Don’t waste your efforts by posting naked photos.

12 Responses to “Hey You! Stop Posting Naked Photos Online”

  1. John,

    Google does not index metadata.

  2. Hi Paul -- John does mention that; he's just saying that it's smart to be prepared for when search engines do begin to index metadata.

  3. This post has come at a really good time for me. I've just started my wedding photography business and SEO is very important for me to get to the front page of Google for Auckland Wedding Photographer and New Zealand Wedding photographer keywords. I've built my site using Showit Sites from http://www.showitfast.com They split a flash site into different HTML containers for each page, enabling me to have the look of a fancy flash site, and have the content searched by Google. In the very near future Showit are releasing an update that promises to produce the only flash sites where images are picked up by Google. I'm not an expert at all of this my any means, but I am currently re-tagging all of my images in preparation for this launch. http://www.spilledmilkdesigns.com/blog/2009/09/20/seo-update-for-showit/ Love to know what you think of this.

  4. thanks for this post. now i need to go and redo all of those images i had photoshop "save for web," since that method of saving strips all metadata to decrease filesize and load time.

  5. There have been plenty of talk from people directly at Google that Google Image search does pay attention to file metadata. This is a bit of a secret in the industry. If you don't believe it, then please don't use it. 🙂

    This is official from Google and mentions it around 11 min mark...


  6. Thanks for the post John - great to have this all confirmed.

    Nicholas (and John) I was wondering what the best way to add photo metadata is. I always add through my site, but then should you be addding it in Photoshop as well?

  7. Here, here...metadata is very important for a lot more reasons that SEO and Google. Think about the Orphan Works problem.

    The industry needs to put real pressure on companies like Adobe to make sure that the metadata remains in place rather than being stripped out as it is now...by "Save for web".

  8. Roberta,
    As part of my regular workflow, I use Adobe's Photo Downloader to automatically add metadata from a saved file I made in Bridge. You can also do it in bridge manually. I usually go back into bridge and add shoot specific data that can't be added with the general file... things like shoot location, subject name, rights granted.

  9. Joe Laratro : Actually Google still doesn't read inside the file, only test on the page, so if you want to add copyright, EXIF info etc you have to have it visible on the page. They do however take not of the filename,

    What Peter Linsley actually said at 11:19 is

    "Fundamentally the impetus to all of image search is a text query and the extent to which you have a lot of descriptive text that is on topic and talks about what's in the image, maybe you want to expose EXIF data, maybe.. the image was taken, maybe it has a nice title across the top, all those sort of things are really good clues for us to figure out when an image is relevant enough but more importantly it is useful for the end user. They can read the description, read the caption and learn a lot more about the image,"


    shortURL : Google Image Search http://j.mp/Vzhlc

  10. Nicholas,thanks, definitely helps and have set it all up for myself now 😉

  11. Thanks for these tips. I have started to always use a caption under photographs now even if it is repetitive to the description of the photograph in the body of the blog post.

    Thanks for confirming it is a good thing to be doing.

  12. No mention here of various sites like Facebook stripping exif data leaving them untracable, not only should you optmises the meta data but anything you post should be watermarked across the middle. Will not stop those using photoshop but makes things a little harder for those infringing copyright.

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