Quality Photos Boost Your Business's Online Presence

The Google algorithm has become better at recognizing images and tying them to your business and the services you provide. Since potential customers are more drawn to photos, it’s wise to take advantage.

Quality Photos Boost Your Business's Online Presence

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill

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Did you know that up until March 2017, there were no pictures on Google Search? Fast forward to today and there is hardly a search that doesn’t bring up photos. 

What most companies don’t realize is that Google is getting better at recognizing what those pictures are all about. The real question is, are you using this to your advantage?

Laying the groundwork

Back in 2017, Google did a survey and discovered some photos-based numbers it could not ignore:

  • 90% of purchasers are more likely to use a business that has photos on a search/map results page.
  • 74% of shoppers say that photos on the results page indicate a more reputable business.

These numbers show that pictures of what you do or the products you sell build trust with your audience. But not just any old photo does the trick. The best photos to use are good quality photos that are original to your business. That means the use of stock photography will not have the same impact on the consumer and Google alike. And while we are talking mostly about Google search here, these are the same trust factors we find having an impact in social media channels as well. Great quality images can be used across all channels and are worth investing in for multiple reasons.

Now, back to Google.

Increased conversions

Because of the way people search these days, an increase in conversions has actually become more important than an increase in rankings. We find that marketing companies have done an excellent job selling “rank” as an indicator of success. And while we understand the importance of rank, we have seen multiple occasions where companies rank well yet still struggle with conversions. 

On the flip side of this, we have seen companies slammed with new customers that are not ranked in the top tier but do a fantastic job with conversions. 

In one of Google’s Business Profile Help documents, "How to improve your local ranking on Google," the company says that “not only does adding images improve local rank and visibility but that it likely increases conversions as well.” That simply means that increasing the quality and share of images in search helps with rank, visibility, and conversions.

Joy Hawkins, owner of Sterling Sky Inc., conducted a case study, "Do Images Impact Ranking on Google?" The case study found organic ranking improvement for website results by using images that were similar to websites that already ranked. According to this case study:

  1. Larger/better quality photos are better for ranking.
  2. Having a photo that matches what Google is looking for can have a positive impact on ranking. Having a photo that doesn’t match can have a negative impact.
  3. How much images improve ranking likely varies based on the query or industry.

This all makes sense if you are searching for a couch, right? Visuals matter. But they also matter for service businesses in the following ways:

  1. People want to know what you will do when you are in their house. Using a series of photos or a video helps you tell that story to the potential customer.
  2. Telling stories with photos and videos builds trust, and trust is everything when it comes to securing new business for a service company.
  3. Having great images allows Google’s AI to identify your services and help your company show up on search results.
  4. Because Google’s intent is to show the best results in a given area for the searcher, Google trusts those clear photos that can be identified. 

As Google understands more and more about your business through pictures, this lends confidence to your business with Google and the consumer. This is why high-quality photos can make a difference in both search and conversions, which in our minds is a win-win.

From a marketing perspective

One of the ongoing conversations we have had with other marketing companies in the service business space over the years is the difficulty of getting good-quality photos and videos for marketing purposes (think websites, social media and print). While the struggle has been real for years, it’s become very clear that this is a must-have item for your overall online marketing efforts. 

It doesn’t matter if you use a marketing company or have someone on your staff handling the marketing. The quality of your photos and videos is starting to matter in a way that businesses can no longer ignore.

Let’s be clear that this doesn’t mean you need to go out and spend tons of money. There are very good (and affordable) photographers and videographers everywhere who can be hired to do the work for your company. The key is to let them know what you need. 

Talking with the people who do your SEO (search engine optimization), manage your website or social media, and manage your local optimization should help you create an overall plan and shot list for your company services. This is a key piece in getting the right photos to be more successful online.

Best practices for visual elements

Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Maximize the benefits for your local listings by making sure you have multiple photos for every service or product, and that those photos are great. Since you never know which photo Google is going to choose to show, give it options.
  • Encourage users to share their photos with the world and make sure you know which ones are which. If they don’t reflect well on the business or are outdated or highlight a service or product you no longer provide, report them through the Google Business Profile dashboard. You can also add your own quality photographs to lower the visibility of user-generated pictures Google might not remove.
  • Hire a professional photographer or videographer if you can’t seem to get the right or best photos from the people and staff you have. Given a proper shot or video list, the pros know how to get it done in only a few days, and they should be able to produce enough material to last you a year or more and maintain a good status in your Google listing. You can also use them for other marketing channels, such as print and social media.
  • For multiple locations, you will want to maintain brand consistency by using a professional that can handle the complexity of brand management and the hassles of shooting in multiple locations.

The future of visuals in Google

While no one can predict what Google will do in the future, it is clear for now (and at least the next 5 to 10 years) that visuals will be gaining more importance. Do what you need to today, and see how things change or moderate in the future. We know for sure that taking and using high-quality images so that Google's Image AI "understands, with a high degree of certainty, that the image is directly related to the categories, goods, and services you currently sell or service” is the way to go.

Using great photos levels the playing field. It doesn’t matter if you are a mom-and-pop service business with one local location or a multi-location service business, photos will play an important role in everyone’s search success. The sooner you get on board the better. 

It’s old thinking if you do not think great photos and videos matter. This is coming straight from Google. When your marketing company tells you it needs great photos and/or videos, you now know why it can make a big difference today and well into the future. 

About the authors 
Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the authors of Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love and the owners of Spark Marketer, a "no bull" digital marketing company that’s been getting sh*t done for home service businesses across the nation for a decade. They’re trusted thought leaders in the industries they serve, which is why you’ll find them regularly speaking at service industry trade shows and conferences and writing for trade magazines. Tired of empty promises and ready for focused digital marketing and balls-to-the-wall dedication that gets your business seen? Visit www.sparkmarketer.com.  


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