Google search results now include images 34 percent of the time, according to a study published this week by seoClarity, a search engine optimization platform. Those images reduce the above-the-fold real estate for traditional listings.

Google search results for “red high heeled shoes” includes a grid of 14 images
Google search results for “red high heeled shoes” includes a grid of 14 images.

More Images

The report by seoClarity describes a 42-percent increase in image results — the section in Google’s search results labeled “Images for red high heeled shoes” above — in just the past few weeks.

Not only is Google showing image results more frequently, but it is also showing them more prominently. Almost half the time those images are at the top of the search results page, among the first three positions.

Whether this is a permanent move for Google or a short-term test remains to be seen. It’s a sharp spike for a long-term change, but Google has made substantial changes without warning before.

On the surface, this is another blow to SEO and the amount of visibility you can reasonably expect to gain from traditional web search results — the 10 blue links on the page that we all know and love. But that’s a narrow view.

SEO has always been about experimenting and adapting. This is an opportunity to embrace change and modify strategies.

Image Optimization

Optimizing images for search engines is based on relevance to a keyword theme, as is optimizing textual content. For images, however, the lack of visible text means that the process is different.

The key is to focus on optimizing primary category and product images since those are the ones with a realistic chance to drive traffic and conversions, not temporary promotional images. Presuming the product and its imagery are visually compelling, you have a chance of snaring a shopper’s interest directly from the image search results. But first you have to show up in the results.

Attempting to optimize a temporary promotional image, such as the one at left from Designer Shoe Warehouse, is likely not worth the effort. Instead, focus...