I consider local SEO to be both an art and science.  There’s data attributes, entities, and risks that must be accounted for (science), and there’s nuances and techniques that only come from experience (art).  This is one of the reasons I love the work of local SEO and search optimization, because creativity and science merge is grand fashion.

It’s not very often with local SEO that we see one specific “thing” stand out so definitively amongst all other “things”.  And by things, I’m mean the strategies and techniques that go into improving your presence and rankings in Google local search.  Local SEO is a long term game made up of many different ingredients that must come together to be effective over time.  But I have to admit, I’m becoming increasingly aware of the disproportionate impact that photos are having on our client’s local SEO campaigns.

You’ve probably heard things like make sure you add photos to Google local listing, or photos are important in social media, etc… dozens of times.  And the reason photos are so important is because:

  1. social media thrives on photos and other digital media assets like video and
  2. photos are fast and easy to consume via mobile.

We live in a mobile first world where photos are the staple of our mobile rich environment, and video is quickly becoming more of a staple then photos.  In the not too distant future, virtual reality (VR) may surpass them both.

Photos:  Your secret weapon in local SEO 

Let me show you how photos are having a disproportionate impact on our client’s Google local listings.  Here’s one of our clients where we recently added around 30 new photos to their GMB listing 1.  We added the photos on October 19th, and less than 24 hours later we already generated over 500 actions from visitors 2.

Screenshot of the last 30 days of actions:

Photos GMB Listing Local SEO

Again, we added only 30 photos to this client’s GMB listing.  And here’s the action data on October 19th (before photos) and October 20th (after photos):

  • Photos views on October 19th:  0
  • Photos views on October 20th:  594

Here’s the screenshot showing photo views on October 19th:

Photos views Oct 19 Local SEO

And the screenshot showing photo views on October 20th:

Photos views Oct 20 Local SEO

The Local SEO value of photos to your Google rankings

As you can see in the screenshots above, the “View photos” action generates exponentially more activity on this Google listing than all other elements combined.  The photo view count on this listing is 7,160 with the next closes action being “Request directions” at 758.  So the “View photos” action generates nearly 10 times as many actions.

So now the question is, what value does adding photos your GMB listing have on your rankings in Google local search results?  Using standard website quality metrics such as pageviews and time on site, I believe the value that photos add to your local rankings in Google is substantial.  For example, here’s a couple of metrics that would impact your local SEO authority:

Pageviews Metric

Pageviews occur every time a particular page in a web property is viewed by a visitor.  In the case of photos on your GMB listing (Google local business listing), a pageview occurs when someone views just one photo.  So if you have 30 photos in your GMB listing, and someone on their mobile phone swipes through your entire portfolio of photos, you just received 30 pageviews.

Here’s a quick video I put together show how easy pageviews can be generated on the Google local listing for your business.  Notice how, in mere seconds, I was able to quickly access my GMB listing and generate 17 pageviews by swiping through the photos:

As you can see, generating pageviews on your Google local listing with photos is super easy!

And in my opinion, pageviews is a metric used to determine the authority and value of any web property.  So if you can start generating more pageviews on your Google local listing than all of your competitors, it would seem logical that you can contribute to increasing your rankings in Google local search by including more photos.

Time on site Metric

The next major metric that’s impacted by photo views is the “Time on site” metric.  In Google Analytics, this metric is referred to as the “Average session duration”, or the average amount of time a user spends on your website per visit.  The higher your average session duration, the more valuable your website is seen by Google, since people won’t spend a lot of time on a site that doesn’t offer value.

Related to your Google My Business listing, and local SEO for ranking in Google local search, increasing the time on site metric can likewise have a positive impact on making your listing more relevant and valuable to users.  Again, if people are spending a lot of time on your GMB listing then it would appear your listing is valuable.

By including a lot of photos on your GMB listing, people will naturally spend more time on your listing to swipe through all of the photos.  As you can see in the video above, it’s super easy for people access your photos on mobile.  And it’s easy, once a visitor opens your photos, to sit and swipe through all of the photos on your listing.

Every time someone swipes to view a new photo, this creates more “time on site” that people are spending on your GMB listing.  And the more time on site, the more value and authority gets attributed to your GMB listing.  And the more authority, the higher your rankings in Google local search.

I hope this article was helpful as you implement your local SEO strategy for your business.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments below.

Or if you would like to talk in more detail about your local SEO, you can contact us here.


1 GMB listing stands for Google My Business listing and it’s the web property that Google shows in the local / Google Maps search results
2 Customer actions on your Google My Business listings shows what customers or visitors did once they found your listing in Google