Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

I’m going to start this post by making a few assumptions:

  1. You want more people to find you in search engines such as Google
  2. You’re interested in more search traffic so more people will find and use your business
  3. You want those people who find you to share information about your business with their friends, family, fans, and followers

Assuming all three assumptions apply to you, you must—not “should” or “might want to” or “ought to think about”, but must—improve the quantity, quality, and size of your brand’s images immediately. Not next year. Not next month. Now.

While it’s long been true that a picture is worth a thousand words, increasingly, pictures (and, to an increasing degree, video), are worth thousands of clicks for your business.

I’ve been talking about the visual web as the biggest digital marketing trend no one’s talking about for a while now. But lately it’s too hard to ignore. Consider the following recent news items:

  • Twitter acquired Vine, a social site for posting 6 second videos
  • Instagram launched new tools for uploading 15-second videos to the popular image-sharing site
  • Facebook just launched the ability to include images in comments—and of course, don’t forget that Facebook already receives over 300 million image uploads every single day.

Now, those items might not look like much of a trend to you. But, then consider two recent announcements from Google:

  1. The search giant just introduced Local Carousel, including a stream of images to the top of local search results—above the first paid listing and the first organic result, pushing additional organic results well below the fold.
  2. AdWords has launched an AdWords Images Extension beta, including images as part of advertisers’ paid listings.

When Google starts to put its money—and its search engine results pages—behind something, you know it’s a trend worth watching. What Google seems to have learned is that consumers click on items with images more frequently than those without.

And when you consider the continued growth of sites like Pinterest, Snapchat, and YouTube (which as my Biznology colleague Rob Petersen recently pointed out represents the world’s second largest search engine), satisfying your customers’ visual needs must become integral to your digital marketing strategy. A recent review of global Internet trends further underscores the significance of visual content.

And, finally, take note of the increasing size of mobile phone screens. Your customers clearly expect a rich visual experience. Isn’t it time you provided that?

Here are a few tips to help you get started improving the visuals across your web presence:

  • Place high-quality images for your products and services across your web presence. Plenty of data reinforces the notion that images make posts more sharable. What’s really fascinating here is that Google is choosing which images to display in its Local Carousel almost certainly based on which images generate the most clicks. Ensure Google selected images you want displayed by filling your website, Facebook brand pages, LinkedIn business pages, and other elements of your web presence with the highest-quality images you can afford to produce.
  • Where possible, leverage existing assets. Of course, the need to put high-quality images online doesn’t mean you need to create them from scratch. Most businesses have loads of brand imagery around already from print campaigns, commercials, etc. Whether photos or videos, share the content on Pinterest, YouTube or Tumblr (with links back to your site, of course) as well as on your website.
  • Encourage your customers to create visual content. Do you know anyone who has a phone without a camera any longer? There’s a reason Facebook, Instagram, Twitpic, Vine, and others get so much content uploaded daily. Encourage your customers to share their experiences with your products and services via photos across your web presence.
  • Size matters. I noted a moment ago the increasing dimensions of your customers’ mobile phones. Additionally, increased pixel density (the number of pixels per inch) in mobile phone, tablet, and laptop screens has increased consumers’ appreciation of large, rich images. Don’t be afraid to make full-screen or near-full-screen images available to your customers.
  • Develop quick, clear titles and useful alt text. Of course, it’s still helpful to include a title and caption for your images and videos. And developing appropriate alt text for your visual content helps both search engines and visually-impaired users understand your message, too.
  • When using video, keep things simple. Obviously, a picture is worth a thousand words, so your images already represent a simpler offering than a lengthy article or post. But if you’re considering video along with your images, Rob Petersen noted that videos of “…15 seconds or shorter are shared 37 percent more often than those that last between 30 seconds and 1 minute. If you make your video longer, that stat goes down.”

It’s pretty clear that consumers value improved visuals online, that they’re more willing to share those images and videos with their friends, and that the search engines are increasing the screen real estate available to visual content. Assuming your goal is to get more attention from both search engines and real, honest-to-goodness customers, it’s equally clear that a picture is worth more than just a thousand words to your business. They’re also worth thousands of clicks.

Of course, images only represent part of the total story. If you want to learn more about how to improve sales, increase conversions, and reduce the costs from your search marketing, check out our Biznology Jumpstart Workshop, On-site Search Marketing Training. Taught by three Biznology search marketing experts, you’ll learn how to make your search marketing work for your business. Interested in learning more? Check it out.