This post is part of Made @ HubSpot, an internal thought leadership series through which we draw lessons from experiments conducted by our own HubSpotters. Cliché: A picture is worth a thousand words. Fact: HubSpot images are worth 120,000 clicks. Last year my colleague Karla Cook gave our readers a look at 3,000 words behind the curtain of a new SEO strategy that we implemented in early 2018. That strategy, which was designed to fix a traffic plateau across the blog, increased our organic traffic by a 25% year after year. – to eight million organic page views per month. It’s about three million new organic views that we didn’t have in early 2018. Where that traffic is coming from is just as exciting.
Like I said, our new SEO strategy launched our organic blog traffic to heights never seen before. But that strategy had another somewhat unintended consequence for us. While we increased our total organic traffic by 25% from last year, we increased our image search traffic by … wait for it … 779%. This refers to traffic that comes from people who search on Google, or a similar search engine, and click on an image result that leads to the HubSpot Blog. “Pictures or it didn’t happen, Braden.” As you wish: Source: Google search console
Take a look at the royal blue mosaic in the table above. Between April 2018 and April 2019, HubSpot literally increased its organic traffic from 14,100 organic views per month to 124,000 organic views per month, a nearly 8-fold increase. Our image traffic represents just under 2% of our blog’s total monthly organic traffic, which, in the scheme of things, isn’t that significant. But even though the vast majority of our organic traffic still comes from web search (the written blogs themselves), the rate of increase for our image traffic (779%) is vastly disproportionate to that of our total blog traffic. (25%). And let’s be honest, 2% of 8 million is not negligible. But what made the difference, if not just our new blog-aligned SEO strategy?
Image SEO Best Practices We Learned
Turns out we had a few other tricks up our sleeves along the way that gave our images a little extra juice on search engine results pages (SERPs), all of which are just recommended good practices in creating commercial content. .
1. Optimized alt text
At HubSpot COS, we have almost always filled image alt text fields with text that (tries) to describe the image it is associated with. However, last year we started taking alt text a lot more seriously. Instead of automatically filling the alt text of the image with the name of the image file, something that HubSpot COS it does it conveniently for you, so this field is not left blank; now we optimize every image we embed with the keyword the blog post is targeting. Then we add language that puts this keyword in a context that reflects the image it describes. For example, if we are incorporating the image below into a blog post on “college courses on SEO”, our alt text might look like this: “Marketing professor showing SEO to college student on his computer screen” Now let’s calculate modestly that one in three HubSpot blog posts (33%) has at least one image embedded, not including the featured image of the article. HubSpot publishes (or republishes) approximately 260 blog posts every three months. If we extrapolate this alt text process for 33% of these blog posts, it’s at least 87 images that can potentially capture new organic traffic for us each quarter. And if the average blog post is targeting a keyword that receives 3,500 searches per month, a rough estimate based on the HubSpot Marketing Blog editorial calendar, that’s a landscape of 304,500 searches per month to which we are adding more content from HubSpot (87 images x 3,500 searches per month). In other words, we’re placing ourselves within hundreds of thousands of Google image galleries that we weren’t ranking for before. Read more about our team’s approach to alt text in this blog post.
2. Branding images and templates
At HubSpot, we create a ton of valuable resources for our readers to download, making them a qualified potential customer for the business. However, there are still a ton more resources that our readers want for which we don’t necessarily have a lead generation strategy, but we still get valuable organic traffic. And these resources appear in image form in many SERPs that are important to us. These resources include inspiring business quotes, resume templates, sample emails, and even image thumbnails featured in Google Featured Snippets. To identify these images, the SEO team analyzed where HubSpot was getting the most image traffic from and classified these sources into image types. Then we work with the HubSpot UX designer Amanda chong and the rest of our creative team to develop original HubSpot image templates for each image type. These new image templates allowed the blog team to effectively “flag” multiple images that they might not otherwise be able to embed in a blog post and add alternate text for each image using the style outlined above to expose them to the correct SERPs. Here are a couple of examples of these branded images that are now available in HubSpot content:
3. Search statistics report
HubSpot’s “Search Statistics Report” is a quarterly manifestation of our SEO strategy, delivered directly to the blog team every three months. These reports consist of over 200 blog post topics, all based on searches for which we want to appear in a SERP, that our writers pick up and post over the course of 90 days. And while we’ve obviously taken deliberate steps to capture more image traffic over the last year, the radiant effect these reports have on our website traffic cannot be overstated. On the one hand, as we create these search statistics reports each quarter, we are leveraging topics that are increasingly found in the form of images. There’s even data to back this up – here’s a five-year trend line showing an increase in Google image search for all “marketing” related queries: Source: Google Trends
Here’s one for all searches related to “sales”: And finally, for “customer service” – Conveniently, these three topics reflect the target markets of three of our blog properties: the Marketing Blog, the Sales and Service Blog. But image traffic has increased across the board, which means more image search traffic has become a by-product of our new SEO strategy, one that has continued to grow as we capture more space in SERP than before. We did not have. Additionally, having a document that distills all of our possible content topics and aligning the content team with this document has allowed us to rank in some of the most competitive search engines we’ve ever seen. It stands to reason that we see a little (okay, a lot) more image traffic as a result. It’s easy for marketers to attribute increased website traffic to good SEO, but these results are ultimately not possible without the time, creativity, and good judgment put into the content.