I 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:
- Adding photos to a Google My Business listing had no measurable impact on ranking in the local pack search results.
- The search results didn’t show the photos we added and often defaulted to the cover photo.
- 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 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.