how to optimize Google business photos header image

The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” has never held more significance when it comes to your Google Business Profile, or formerly known as Google My Business. When potential customers seek your business, most will be naturally drawn to visuals rather than text. A recent study found 59% of consumers think visual information is more important than textual information. More than 85% place more importance on visual information than text when shopping online for clothing or furniture, and about half preferred visuals over text in all categories except for electronics, household goods and wine and spirits.

Images have also proven to be a powerful tool for increasing conversions. According to Google, businesses that add photos to their Business Profiles receive 42% more direction requests on Google Maps, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t.

In this post, we will share expert tips from Joy Hawkins, Owner of Sterling Sky, Inc. and Mike Blumenthal​, Co-founder of Near Media on how to optimize Google business photos to increase conversions, improve your search rankings, and highlight your business location to the best of your ability.

Watch the webinar

See what photos are already appearing in Google Search and Maps

High quality photos are a must. But they don’t always help your business appear in Google Search or Maps. Sterling Sky recently sought to test if images impact ranking. A lawncare company wanted to improve its search position for the long-tail search query “how to stop animals from digging holes in lawn”.

Initially, the business had a small photo of a skunk on its landing page. It then tested a larger, higher quality image. Consequently, its search engine ranking went down. Moral of the story: despite the image quality being superior, Google did not think the photo represented the search intent.

Instead, a Google Search of “how to stop animals from digging holes in lawn” shows different types of photos, many of which were lawns or holes in a lawn. Once the lawncare company switched out the image of the skunk for a photo of holes in a lawn, their ranking improved and they even achieved a featured snippet, which pulled in the new image.

Image results for long-tail query example

Images matter more for some industries than others

It’s important to note that business type matters when it comes to images. For example, Sterling Sky performed the same test with a lawyer and did not see the same results. Industries with products or services that are heavily reliant on visuals will benefit more than others that don’t need photos to represent them, such as lawyers.

Forget stock photos

Professional photos help build authority and trust with your brand. They give customers a positive first impression and insight into what engaging with your brand may look like. It’s how customers begin to recognize your brand and what you offer, often achieved through color scheme, tone of voice in your content, and lighting. However, professional photos entail more than stock photos.

Stock photos can be bought, found, and used by anyone. Therefore, if you’re using stock photos, it’s likely another business is as well. This can make your business appear inauthentic and creates a poor user experience.

Stock images also decrease the likelihood of clicks in Google Posts. In another study conducted by Sterling Sky, businesses with professional photos that weren’t stock images had an average of 2.13 clicks on its business Posts compared to 0.38 clicks with stock photos.

Ask your customers to leave photos with their reviews

Customer photos benefit your business too. In a study conducted over the course of a year, Sterling Sky Inc. found reviews that contained photos stayed in the top 1-10 reviews much longer than customer reviews without images.

For a lawncare business, reviews with photos stayed in the top 10 reviews shown for an average of 249 days. For a jeweler, reviews with photos stayed in the top 10 reviews shown for an average of 158 days.

Ask your customers to leave business reviews with photos to better showcase individual products, services, and experiences. Nearly 80% of consumers say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions, making it 8.7x more impactful than influencer content, and 6.6x more influential than branded content according to a recent study​.

Obtaining high-quality, positive reviews, of course, takes precedent over negative or inappropriate customer reviews. When your business does receive a negative review, you should have a triage system in place to address customer concerns. Once the customer’s concern is fully addressed and remedied, ask these customers to update their review with a photo, if possible.

Photos in Google Reviews example

Top two reviews contain photos at this location.

Product photos are equally as important as your business photos

Business owners typically consider optimizing their location photos first, focusing on interior and exterior photos. But what can customers expect once they step inside your business? What do your products look like? How are your shelves arranged? Quality images of your products are also a must.

Any time potential customers come across your Google Business Profile, find your brand on your social media channels, or visit your website, they must be met with quality images. Google in particular is enhancing its image recognition, understanding entities and objects in photographs. In turn, Google Visual Search can now identify multiple objects in a photo and direct searchers to the associated product pages.

For example, with this technology, Google can identify and link to bookshelves by identifying a bookshelf in an image. This capability is a win for both customers and businesses. Customers benefit by having the ability to easily find product photos, information, prices, and a direct link, creating a frictionless path to purchase. Businesses benefit from more exposure and another way for customers to seamlessly purchase from you.

AI to translate images

Ensure every photo on your Google Business Profiles meets Google’s image standards

Google is always testing which images most closely match search intent and perform best, and continually reorder their images accordingly. Therefore, every image on your business listings needs to be a good one because you never know which photo Google will choose to show. Additionally, every image should show your business in a good light and appropriately reflect your business.

Yet, because Google uses AI to approve or reject photos, there can be errors and mishaps. To increase your chances for approval, we recommend the following:

  • Don’t reuse images. Each image you submit for your Google Business Profile should be unique and new.
  • Use very limited text overlays. Google doesn’t like images with a plethora of text obscuring the image.
  • Use proper exposure. Your photo shouldn’t be too dark or too light.
  • Don’t use creative filters. Your Google Business Profile’s photos shouldn’t alter the shades and colors of the pixels in creative manners.
  • Limit blurriness.
  • Check cloud vision “safe search”. Ensure your photo is appropriate, ex: doesn’t show too much skin or could be seen as unsafe for the general population to view.
  • Come back and try again. Google photos AI approval process isn’t foolproof. If your image passes the aforementioned tests, try submitting it again. Google often rejects images for unknown reasons, and unfortunately there isn’t a way to ask Google why they didn’t approve the image.

Search intent is being met with corresponding images.

We’ve discussed the importance of having a wide range of high-quality photos–from your cover photo to photos of your menu items and more. Business owners also need photos to match every potential product or service you provide.

For example, a jeweler would want to have multiple images for each product category. Consider a searcher is looking for pearl earrings. A jeweler would want to have images for pearl studs, drop, hoops, tassel, women’s, girls’, and all other applicable pearl earring types.

Pearl Earrings example

Google Search results example

Google will segment each of these pearl earring types in groupings, making it easier for searchers to find the exact style they’re seeking. When the searcher clicks a grouping, photos traditionally appear above text results. This further highlights the importance of having product images.

Pearl studs breakdown example

Google Search results example

How to optimize Google business photos

Search results will continue to become more visual over time. In 2016, Map Pack results were all text. In 2018 images began to find their way into search results. By 2021, 36% of mobile screens were occupied by images in Map Pack Google Search results according to a study conducted by Mike Blumenthal.

Google images in Map Pack over time

We know businesses with photos receive more conversions and higher search visibility for relevant search results. If photo optimization isn’t part of your overarching business strategy, you risk losing sales and happy customers to your competitors. You also risk poor-quality customer photos representing your brand on your Google Business Profile.

Rio SEO’s Local Photos puts your professional, photos front and center on your local business listings. Local Photos ensures each of your business listings are equipped with high-quality photos, a task that can be cumbersome for multi-location businesses managing photos at scale. Additionally, Local Photos connects your business with a professional photographer in your area who follows Google images best practices, optimizing photos for Google crawlers and ensuring each photo is shot to Google’s images standards.

To learn more or to see how to boost your business visibility in the Search Engine Results Pages through photo optimization, request a free, quick demo today.


See local photos in action