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Does Geotagging Photos Influence Ranking?

When people talk about what strategies they utilize in Local SEO to get their client’s ranking, I often hear references to geotagging images.

TL;DR

Adding geotags to images in Google Business Profile (GBP) listings had no measurable impact on rankings in the local pack.  Similarly, adding geotags to the photos on the business website had no measurable impact on organic or local pack rankings.

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What is Geotagging?

photo geotagsGeotagging photos is the process of adding latitude/longitude tags to an image so that where the photo was taken can be identified.  The Exif format has standard tags for location information. As of 2014, many cameras and mobile phones have a built-in GPS receiver that stores the location information in the Exif header when a picture is taken. 

Not all platforms support geotags

During this test, we discovered that certain website platforms don’t support geotags and actually remove them when you upload the images.  We also discovered some programs do this as well – both Google Business Profile (GBP) and Slack removed the geotags off the photos after we uploaded them.

The Methodology:

To test this, we picked 5 different GBP listings that were not actively being worked on.  They weren’t listings that had any other SEO efforts at the time of the test.  For each listing, we added 3 different images and used an online tool to manually add geotags, a document name, and an image description to each photo.

We also tested adding the geotagged photos to the website for 3 of the businesses in the test.  We specifically made sure we added them to the page on the website that the GBP listing was linking to.

The Results:

Other GMB fields that impact ranking such as the categories, business name, or website field, generally result in an increase in ranking within 48 hours.  We tracked this over the course of several weeks and saw no measurable increases in ranking either organically or in the local pack results.

ranking impact from geotags
We also saw no measurable increases in traffic to the page on the website that we added the images to or the page the GBP listing was pointing to (we could separate the 2 because of UTM codes).

traffic from geotagging photos

Google My Business traffic from geotags


Conclusion:

If you spend time geotagging photos as a part of your local SEO strategy, I would advise spending that time elsewhere.  When I asked Joel Headley what he thought of geotagging images before adding them to Google Business Profiles, he said “it wouldn’t matter since the ‘tagging’ is happening upon upload. It doesn’t matter if metadata exists.”

This study along with several others about images was presented at the LocalU event in August 2021.  Videos of the presentation 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 20 Comments

  1. Hi Joy,

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with the SEO community. I would appreciate if you could say your word about if there is a positive impact (or not) doing geotagging photos on the Google Images search. Would you do it for your clients?

    Thanks!

  2. Has anyone tested if you use the GMB app to take the photos when you are ON LOCATION at the business, so the GMB app automatically adds the geotags when they are uploaded to the google maps listing?

    1. Hey Chad,

      GMB actually deletes the tags. They are gone if you download the photo after adding it. We didn’t use the app but if adding a photo on location geo-tags it automatically (depending on what app you use) it would have the same effect as manually adding the geotags. Either way, the photo would be tagged when it was uploaded.

  3. I have always geo tag my photos and i do extremely well in first position on google for mini searches. I am now testing particular areas in my town and certain pages on my website and gmb listing. I will see how it all goes

  4. Very interesting, I am glad you brought this topic up, as I was just wondering if the category, tag, subject, author, and all of those meta geo tag fields made a difference, i definately believe they do, especially for image search.

    1. We didn’t look at those fields but this test was specifically only looking at ranking in the local pack. Images added to GMB don’t show up at all in image search so that wasn’t looked at.

  5. I use the Geosetter tool to tag images before adding them to citations on local directories. Some directories suppress the exit data while others don’t. Do you think it is a good offside local seo strategy to add geo tagged images to local directories other than the GBP?

  6. Has this changed since this went live? I have heard recently that geotagging photos is now a thing and it drives ranking. Is that currently true or is your article still valid?

    1. Nothing has changed to my knowledge. People have been suggesting geotagging as a tactic for almost my entire career and I’ve never seen it make a difference on local pack rankings.

  7. Thanks for sharing this informative Content. My question is “when an image is geo-tagged and we use this image for creating off-page links like business listing, and image sharing on different platforms? Does it impact ranking?”

    Thank you

    1. Hey Steve,

      We didn’t test that but if it doesn’t make a difference when you geotag photos on your own website, I’m not sure how it makes sense that it would make an impact if it was on another site.

  8. Came across this post today based on Moz’s new blog post that linked you.

    Good timing for me as I’ve been mulling over a similar question. There are review based services Nearbynow and a newer one Realwork Labs that are basically review management software, but GPS tag the post and I think image, and can provide a map widget for your site that shows reviews placed by location.

    From a purely SEO standpoint, do you see this helping rankings other than just getting more reviews? I mean the widget on the website can look nice to prospective customers, and I guess it adds more content with keyword rich info, but that could be done with any normal review widget like BrightLocal etc.

    I don’t see anything special about it to justify the cost, but can’t really find any reviews from SEO experts on them.

    1. I think the actual content they’re generating and adding to your website could potentially impact ranking but you could also craft content yourself and put it there instead of paying a reoccurring fee. I would say that if the SEO benefit is the only reason you’re utilizing the service, it’s not likely worthwhile. If you were looking for a good way to showcase reviews to help conversions then it’s worth considering.

      I had a client that used one of these years ago and never saw any massive impact but it’s also hard to isolate because we were doing a lot of other things with the site at the same time.

  9. Hi Joy,

    Thanks for sharing this informative Content.

    You mention GPB removed the geotags off the photos after we uploaded them. OK. But In takeout tool of Google to get all information of yours upload to Google network, include pictures in maps, I can say Google still keep raw picture. So I think they still keep this exif data to do anything we just dont know.

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