What is geotagging?
Geo-tagging basically refers to adding geographical information to media in general and images on the web in particular. This usually happens by assigning geo-coordinates (latitude and longitude) and geo-related keywords to images’ metadata.
The goal of geo-tagging is to make a photo more relevant for a geographical-related search. This can be either a specific location-dependent search query or refers to the location of a searcher.
Sometimes people refer to geo-tagging as the whole optimization process of image data even when it doesn’t have anything to do with a particular geographic area. The geographic data helps with optimization, so that certain keywords in images can also be helpful and increase relevance.
How does geotagging work?
Geotagging images and manipulating Exif data are proven tactics to increase website visibility.
However, the effect is very small and you wouldn’t even notice a difference between normal and competitive markets. Only areas with very little or no competition offer good opportunities to rank using only geotagged images.
If you look at it from a search algorithm perspective, you will realize that it indeed makes sense to use this information in the ranking evaluation process.
Image metadata gives Google a better understanding of where and when the picture/image was taken/created. The problem is that it is relatively easy to manipulate, which in turn is the reason for its limited influence.
To manipulate metadata, you can either edit an image in Photoshop Lightroom, use a geotagging tool, or open the image settings on your computer and change the data manually.
How does geotagging affect local rankings?
One of the biggest local ranking factors is relevance. The more relevant your business listing is to a specific search query the better your rankings. In order to increase relevance we need to feed Google with relevant information.
To find an answer to that question, I ran a more aggressive GMB posting strategy, which included uploading and posting images via GMB blog post feature.
When I tested this for the first time, I was told that the effect would only be visible if you upload the Google post images through an interface (API) and not directly in Google My Business. That’s why I signed up with a third-party GMB posting app that connects Google My Business via API.
The idea is that Google uses the information inside images (through API) and doesn’t strip it off as it normally does with uploaded images. There is no evidence that that would actually work but due to the fact that so many people are convinced of this tactic I thought I give it a try and test it.
Geotagging on Google My Business
I’ve published 18 posts with one image each over the course of one month. I used Brightlocal’s rank tracking app* and created a new campaign based on the location I want to check the rankings for.
The place I chose is not very close to the company’s actual location and is hardly influenced by external factors. However, it´s still close enough to influence this area’s rankings. I can’t say where it is because I don’t want to influence anything by driving irrelevant traffic to the listing.
I wanted to make sure that I affected the rankings in that area only by adding geo-data inside the uploaded images and isolate other factors. Distance, relevance, and prominence should have had little to no influence on the area’s rankings before I start testing.
Since testing only one keyword wouldn’t be very reliable, I’ve tried 16 different keywords, including five that contain the town’s name.
The Geo-Tagging EXperiment
The first five keywords face very high competition and couldn’t make it to the top 50 during the time of the test. I waived to add screenshots for the other four.
From #51+ to #51+
The following five keywords define the primary category of the business, which is a truck repair shop. During the time of the test, local rankings increased in all surrounding ranking areas for those keywords, not only in the area that I used for this test.
From #10 to #7
From #7 to #6
From #38 to #37
From #6 to #4
From #3 to #3
The following three graphs show low competition keywords. The city keyword dropped off the top 50 rankings after a couple of days.
From #9 to #17
From #11 to #51+
From #8 to #8
Another 3 low competition keywords. The city keyword dropped as well. Not much fluctuation on the other two.
From #4 to #4
From #21 to #51+
From #2 to #2
If we look at this test, there is a high chance that geo-tagging images is just a myth and that this tactic currently has no effect on the local rankings.
The fluctuations are very random and it is impossible to discern a pattern. The only noticeable thing is the drop off of the two city-related keywords. Though I don’t think this had anything to do with the image uploads. Google updates its algorithm every day and competitors don’t sleep either, which is why there will always be fluctuations that you cannot control yourself.
The results of this test are not really surprising when you consider that even keywords in file names have no influence on the local Google rankings.
If you liked the test please leave me a comment below and share the post with your friends. Thank you!