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The Google SERP, and the local results contained within it, have evolved a long way in the last 6 or 7 years. The Google Business Profile – the latest version of Google My Business, has developed in tandem with that. One of the most striking changes is the move to an ever more visual set of results. Your Google business profile photos have become an even more striking part of that evolution.
comparison of local search results between 2016 - 2022 showing increased prominence of images courtesy of Near Media.
Google has worked hard to make it easier than ever before to get your business on Google with a professional looking business profile page. Sadly in many ways… but great for the more astute businesses; not many people are taking full advantage of the new style listings. There are still many things that you need to consider when taking pictures for your business page. One of the easiest wins is to upload photos on a regular basis. Which image will you set as a cover photo? There are several aspects of your business profile photo that will make a difference to whether people visit your premises, click to call, or click through to your website. Recently, Bright Local organised an event, “Local SEO for Ukraine”. It was intended to raise funds and awareness for the plight of many of their staff, who are based in Ukraine. It revealed a whole trove of new observations that have emerged recently, particularly in relation to Google’s ability to interpret images in a more human manner. This has had implications for the images we use across our digital presence, particularly for the latest version of Google Business Profile listings.

Google Business Profile Photos: Know What’s Important.

  1. Make sure your logo is one of your images and you’ve added it to the right image category in your profile.
  2. The cover image should represent the reality of your business and how it benefits your clients.
  3. The best images for your business avoid using too much text… though Google’s image AI is beginning to blend OCR into its interpretation of an image.
  4. Add different photos that represent your business inside and out to help customers understand why you are their best choice.
  5. If you sell physical products or deliver a service with tangible end results, include clear images of the products or before and after shots of your handiwork.
  6. If you are a service business, such as a solicitor, your photos might need to be you, or your team, at business meetings and events or at a client’s premises, (with their permission of course).
Searching for an Italian restaurant in Carlisle shows a selection of interesting thumbnails.
A search results page for accountants in Carlisle which shows that Google doesn't rank imagery as especially important for this industry.

Be Creative! Take Photos That Show Off Your Brand’s Personality.

It’s no longer just a case of boosting your online visibility. The relatively small number of searches in a particular locality mean that it’s much more about converting, or hooking in, the occasional visitor. For many local based searches with high buyer intent, there may only be 10 or less searches per month. You want to make those visits count! You might think that you just need to post pictures of your products or services, but there’s more to it than that. Think about what makes your brand unique. What do you offer that other businesses don’t? How does your company stand out from the crowd? Try to create a set of images that shows off your brand’s personality. It’s also wise to rely on stock photography. It’s fine to use stock imagery as part of your branding strategy, or as a temporary measure while getting photography done. Because Google’s AI can now recognise elements and entities within a photograph (to a degree) and because the machine learning has enabled it to grasp fundamental rules of what a good photo is; it’s worth thinking about getting a batch of professional photos done. One of the studies that Mike Blumenthal revealed during the SEO event recently, was the massive jump in clickthrough and phone calls when the digital agency Patient Pop, replaced the stock photos on a dentist client’s website and Google Business profile, with professionally shot images. The unique thing here though, was that the photographers, working for Aircam.ai checked the images in Google’s cloud vision service to check which ones were most readily identified as “dentist photos” before they were uploaded. There was a clear increase in conversions from the Google Business Profile.

Stock photo replacement study results from Patient Pop's Joel Headley

The Future of Visual Elements in Google Search

It all seemed so simple when we were talking about Google My Business Photos… Now it looks like image SEO and “semantic photography” are going to be another new frontier for anybody needing to market a business. The Big G has been investing massive resources into image interpretation. There are a host of new visual elements appearing in the search results your customers see.

Graph showing growth in impact of visual elements in SERPs 2016 - 2022
Google has changed the goalposts again, so if we want to get seen by new clients… it seems we will need to learn another, potentially trickier, potentially more costly set of rules again. Local SEO has a way of shifting its sands 😉