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Does Adding Photos in Google My Business Increase Ranking? [Case Study]

Does Adding Photos in Google My Business Increase Ranking 2I often see posts come up in Facebook groups that recommend adding photos constantly to your Google My Business listing because this helps a business rank higher in the local pack results.  Most people say it’s because Google likes “fresh” or “recent” content.


According to this case study:

  1. Adding photos to a Google My Business listing had no measurable impact on ranking in the local pack search results.
  2. The search results didn’t show the photos we added and often defaulted to the cover photo.
  3. Adding photos to the GMB landing page (the business website) did impact ranking due to the alt-text on the photo.

The Case Study

For this test, we took 4 different Google My Business listings that were in various industries (dermatologist, home automation, lawn care, and auto dealer) and added photos of specific things to their GMB listings.

  • For the lawn care company, we added photos of lawns, poison ivy, mosquito treatment, top dressing, lawns being sprayed, and weeds in your lawn and then tracked ranking in the local results for those particular keywords for about 2 months.
  • For the home automation company, we added photos of Lutron lighting and motorized shades and tracked ranking for those related keywords over the course of a week.
  • For the dermatologist, we added photos showing the brands Botox and Dysport and tracked ranking for those keywords over several months.
  • For the auto dealer, we added photos of the various tire brands they sold and tracked ranking for tire-related keywords for a month.

In all cases, we saw no measurable impact to rankings as a result of adding the photos.  We also found that where Google showed an image pack, in many cases, they weren’t even showing the photo we added and defaulted to the cover photo of the business instead.

Next, we wanted to see what happened when we added photos to the website.  We thought the auto dealer was the best to test for this because they literally had no mention of “tires” anywhere on their site.  We added several photos of tires to the page on the website that their GMB listing was linking to.

A few days later, we saw that they actually did start ranking for 3 of the different tire keywords that we were tracking.  It wasn’t a massive improvement, but this grid from Places Scout showing their ranking for one of the “tires” keywords used to be all red (no ranking):

We also noticed that the search results now showed a website justification that mentioned “tires”:

The only place that these words were mentioned on the website was in the alt text of the photos we added.  We repeated this test on another site and observed the same thing. We concluded that, based on this observation, alt text has a minor impact on ranking in the local results.

We have been doing a lot of testing around images in the last year at Sterling Sky.  You can read about the tests we did on geotagging photos, how images impact ranking, how images can drive more leads, and how to utilize cover photo you select in Google My Business.

This study along with several others about images, including how to get an image next to Google search result in mobile SERPs, was presented at the LocalU event in August 2021.  Videos of the presentation are available for purchase here.

Do you have a question or story about how you have seen images impact small businesses on Google? Tell us about it over at the Local Search Forum.

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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. Nice case study to bust a myth that’s pretty prevalent. Loads of people recommend uploading images on a regular basis as google sees it as fresh content. Clearly as you have shown that’s not the case. Times better spent on optimising the local website page instead.

  2. I don’t think this is a statistically relevant sample size. 4 businesses out of tens of millions on GMB doesn’t have enough relevance to draw a conclusion that they have “no impact”. Personally, i’ve seen tremendous lifts in overall search impressions after adding photos to business listings and tracking the GMB insights. Perhaps the issue here is that the keywords and searches influenced are simply not being tracked in your ranking service. Our average client ranks for 250+ keywords each month so it may just be a blind spot. Have you compared with your GMB insights over the last 3-12 months? Also, not that they would tell us verbatim what improves rank but on Google’s own resources they say photos do improve local ranking:

    1. Evan,

      This is labeled as a case study so I never would attempt to claim it’s a statistically relevant sample size. My conclusions at the end were the conclusions of this specific study. You will definitely see an increase in views in GMB when you add photos. I don’t find this metric useful, however, and outline why here:

      I also don’t base any SEO decisions solely on what Google says. I have always found that understanding ranking comes much better by watching what Google does, not what they say. Our rank trackers are great so I don’t think there is anything wrong there. We use a combination of Whitespark, BrightLocal and Places Scout.

  3. Excellent study, Joy!

    I recently noticed that a customer profile was rated for a very specific keyword (chunky middle).

    I didn’t remember having mapped it anywhere and when I got the company the site was even offline, that is, it wouldn’t be possible for the activation of this keyword to be leaving the site.

    After searching I realized that the only place it was present in the entire structure was in the GMB cover photo, which was the company’s facade.

    After that I launched the photo on Google’s Cloud Vision API and it read exactly the aforementioned keyword.

    Google also recognized in the API that it was a photo of the facade. This brought me the following hypothesis: Perhaps Google considers text contained in business facades to determine what type of establishment it is.

    I’m trying to put together more case studies like these, but it’s extremely difficult to find variables like this in confluence to analyze.

  4. Good stuff Joy,

    I have a personal injury attorney client that insist on adding images to his GBP of various places in the area that are not related to his office or practice. They include images of parks, museums, community entrances, marinas, restaurants, etc.

    I am unable to locate anything in Google Support or articles specifically addressing this.

    Can you shed some light?

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