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.