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Does Adding Keywords in an Image Filename Help Ranking?

When I was working on a project recently, I realized that the filename you use on an image that is uploaded to Google My Business stays in-tact.  Meaning, when you download the image from the listing on Google, it keeps the same filename.  This made me wonder if keywords in the filename of the image had any impact on ranking in the local pack so we decided to test it.  It’s really important here to remember that we were:

  1. Testing images that are on a GMB listing, not images on the business website;
  2. Strictly tracking local pack rankings, not organic rankings.

When I asked this question at a recent LocalU event, the answers were fairly divided.

To test this, we picked a multi-location dentist in Florida, Tomalty Dental Care.  Because they had so many practitioner listings, we were able to target some niche keywords that had pretty little competition to see if there was any impact.  We uploaded several images using really keyword-rich file names to the listing and waited a few weeks.  We didn’t see any measurable increase in ranking for the keywords we specifically targeted (screenshot taken from BrightLocal).

We tested it a second time on the same dentist but used one of the practitioner listings for an oral surgeon at his office.  We picked a really specific keyword to target and used a listing that had even less competition than the first one.   The city we tested it in was also smaller (population: 70,000).  We saw the same pattern (no ranking increase) and also didn’t see any major increases in Search Console.

Photos on Google My Business Listings Are Not Indexed

Another important thing we learned from this test is that unlike photos on your website, photos on Google My Business listings don’t get indexed or included in Google Images search.  If you take a photo from your GMB listing and run it through Google Images search, it will return no results, provided the image isn’t also hosted anywhere else online.

This article is part 6 of 9 from my LocalU presentation from March 2020.  If you missed the event, the videos are available for purchase here 

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Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Glad to see the question about geo data. Also when testing geodata, it would be great to know how you added it, becuase I’ve found all manner of problems based on what phone & what filetype the phone’s settings are configured to save as. Also very curious: would addition of fake geodata after the fact (not necessarily easy) have the same result as the geodata applied to the image at the time of photo-taking?

  2. “when you download the image from the listing on Google, it keeps the same filename”, great to know. This might be a great place to leave a strong CTA. Brand name at a minimum so the user doesn’t forget. If the user saves your image they’ll have a meaningful title instead of a bunch of gibberish.

    1. I don’t think there is any way for you to save photos from GMB like that – they don’t have the “Right Click Save As” feature enabled on any GMB photos.

  3. Thank you Joy for the useful info.
    I’ve been religiously changing the titles of client’s GMB pics prior to posting on their GMB. I’m curious to know whether you made any other meta changes to the files as well eg title, subject and tags? That would be great to determine if this had any impact.
    I’m assuming if they don’t get indexed by Google then there’s likely little point working on that info too, but would be interesting to get a conclusive answer.

    1. Hey Guy,

      This one was strictly the file name and nothing else. We have several other tests going at the moment for other fields that we’ll be publishing later in the year and sending out via our newsletter.

  4. I ran a test where I made a nonsense word and added it as the title and alt image tag and added it to GMB. Google has not indexed that word in 4 weeks. Google does not index GMB photos. They never have and never will. I used to be a massive spammer. These tactics are not new. They have been promoted since 2009. I have done all of them. Add keywords in the image, geo-coding, using competitor’s photos, reversing the image, adding a tint on the image. None of those tactics work in 2009, 2013, 2015 or in 2020. These are just rehashed tactics and being promoted as new to sell courses or training. If there was an instant ranking trick, I guarantee you, nobody would be selling it. The emperor has no clothes on, don’t let them tell you otherwise.

    1. How refreshing!
      A simple, honest and effective answer ??????????
      All this with the least amount of sarcasm possible!

      Thank You ?

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