Scott Ellis was kind enough to ask me to chat with him about image optimization on a recent episode of Raimaker.fm's Technology Translated podcast.
I try to be generous when it comes to sharing my knowledge, and I’ve been teaching about image usage and optimization since 2008.
I’m a social media consultant and practitioner, videographer, and photographer who has a knack for pushing the boundaries of SEO. I stay on the “light side” of SEO, but by pushing the edges am able to find opportunities and gain an advantages that most people don’t know about.
Let’s dig in…
In this 45 minute episode of Technology Translated Scott Ellis interviews me about:
- The importance of images in your content
- The image as content
- Image SEO and EXIF Data
- Where you can find images you can use on your site
- Image usage rights
- Audience Q&A
- Above all else… what’s most important
- What constitutes Fair Use?
- DPI Standards
Listen to Technology Translated below …
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Giovanni Gallucci on Images as Content and Understanding Usage Rights
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Scott Ellis: Welcome to the first full episode of Technology Translated. I’m your host Scott Ellis. My guest today is Giovanni Gallucci. Many of you may already know Gio if you’ve ever run into him online. He is frequently out speaking on topics around social media. He has taken a little hiatus and then recently come back.
We all know the importance of images, embedding them on our blog post, using them in social media posts, and the things that we share because they draw more attention. Gio’s going to help us get into some really good, nitty-gritty details on better image optimization, on better image SEO, on the usage rights of images.
This is something that I want you guys to pay very close attention to because I know some of you out there will still go out to Google, grab an image that you want to use, and stick it on your site. Got to stop doing that, guys, and we’re going to tell you why. Not just because it’s bad or it’s wrong, but what are the other implications behind that?
Without further ado, let’s get into it with Giovanni Gallucci.
Scott Ellis: This is the first episode of Technology Translated. Our whole goal here, Gio, is to make this as easy as possible for non-techies.
Giovanni Gallucci: That’s what I’m here for, sir.
Scott Ellis: We are going, today, to talk about images on your website.
Giovanni Gallucci: Can we first spend about 30 minutes talking about me?
Scott Ellis: Sure. Why don’t we talk about you? I was actually going to cue that up first.
Giovanni Gallucci: Jump cut in the audio world — I don’t know what that would be called. Okay, now to the interview.
Scott Ellis: Okay, so now I’m really going to start talking about you. Images on the web is a topic that I am very passionate about because it’s something I see a lot of people do very badly. I think it’s just because they don’t understand. Back in, I want to say 2008, 2009, when I first really started paying attention to how I was using images in my web content, I heard a great talk from a guy named Giovanni at a WordCamp.
Giovanni Gallucci: He sounds incredibly handsome.
Scott Ellis: He is, and he’s so smart. He kind of opened my eyes to a lot of things around image SEO, how images are used on your website, and all that good stuff. Do you remember that talk?
Giovanni Gallucci: I do remember that talk. I gave it about 64 times.
Scott Ellis: Well, it was a good one. I think a lot of people learned a lot from it, so today, we’re going to relive some of that and share our knowledge with the audience out there. The first thing I want to talk about is just the use of images. I think by now most people understand that images are important. They draw attention. But how important is it really to include images with your content?
The Importance of Images in Your Content
Giovanni Gallucci: I would even take it a step further and consider, not just using images with your content, but whether or not images should be the primary source of your content as opposed to creating lots of text-based content that happens to be accentuated with imagery or videos.
I’ve got one client that I’ve been working with for about three years now. Actually, I’ll back up. I’ll say about two years. They had no footprint in the United States when they started here. We’ve launched social media for them for a brand that didn’t exist, and it has been probably 80 percent nothing but pure imagery — 70 percent original content, 30 percent content curated from our fan base. The brand is as strong as I could ever of dreamed it being.
Now, the brand has got a really high-quality product. We were able to communicate the kind of a brand that we want to communicate to the audience through imagery so much more effectively than we could by trying to write blog posts and trying to interest people that way.
The short answer is extremely important, and the extended answer is could you possibly consider building a brand primarily with all images as opposed to the old days where it was you’re writing blog posts, and then somebody woke up and said, “Hey, if you throw an image on top of that, more people will look at it.”
Scott Ellis: That’s interesting, and that dovetails nicely with a lot of what we’re seeing right now with the rise of popularity of things like Pinterest and Instagram. The visual marketing of image heavy marketing is really taken off big time all of a sudden.
The Image as Content
Giovanni Gallucci: That’s where we’re strongest with this brand. It’s Pinterest and Instagram. We essentially pay attention to Facebook just because you can’t afford not to be there, but we really don’t put any energy into that audience. A lot of that’s because of what they do to the algorithm there. I’m just not going to put energy into any platform where, organically, all I can do is reach six percent of the audience that has opted into my communications. That’s a personal decision of mine, and probably a terrible one from a business standpoint, but so be it.
Then Twitter, Twitter is great for imagery as well, but Instagram and Pinterest is where we’re just completely on fire. Like I said, it’s so much easier, at least for me as a creative, to communicate a lifestyle and communicate a theme and a storyline through imagery. I hate writing, and I don’t like my writings. These are not business decisions. These are I’m just lazy and don’t like to write.
Scott Ellis: I think a lot of people are like that though, right? They don’t really want to take the time. It’s worth it to me to take the time to do a lot of writing, but a lot of people don’t want to, and they need other options to explore.
Giovanni Gallucci: Absolutely. If you’ve got the skills yourself or available on your team, then you should absolutely take advantage of them. It’s funny because doing things through imagery, it’s not that it takes less time.
For me, it takes less effort because it’s more natural for me to go and do photography and video. It’s more of a chore, if I want to use that kind of word, for me to sit down and write something that I think is as effective as taking a shot from say a stage, and you’ve got 30,000 people in an audience that are cheering on a band. That, to me, speaks to a lifestyle in a way that I never could write and communicate for a brand.
Scott Ellis: For everybody that doesn’t already know, Gio does a tremendous amount of photography and videography, and you can find a lot of that at LiveLoudTexas.
Giovanni Gallucci: Yes. I’ve tricked companies into paying me.
Scott Ellis: Imagine that. It’s because you’re a smart, handsome guy.
Giovanni Gallucci: I’ll take that.
Scott Ellis: What is the proper domain name? I want to make sure I get this right.
Giovanni Gallucci: It’s LiveLoudTexas.com.
Scott Ellis: Okay. That brings us into the conversation about image SEO, which was something that was really what I was learning when you were first giving the first of your 64 talks on that. Well, first of all, let’s talk a little but just about the important things to do from an image SEO standpoint. How different is it now than it was seven years ago?
Image SEO and EXIF Data
Giovanni Gallucci: The nice thing is that the image SEO on the files is the exact same as it’s always been. I will pull back the kimono here and be completely honest. Whenever I was a lot heavier into the technical side of SEO – today, I do more communications and creative stuff — but back in the day when I did more programming and technical SEO, I discovered the things that I taught at that talk because I tended to play on the fringes of gray and black hat SEO. I was very aggressive about looking for ways to be one step ahead of the general SEO expert so that I could get my clients above them in the search rankings.
Even back then, SEO was so well-known and so many people were doing it that you could do all the best practices in the world and still make no headway. You had to find ways to step outside the normal frame of thinking and figure out ways that you could … I’ll be honest. I bumped right up against black hat SEO, but I would always make sure that the stuff that I did, did not infringe upon the terms of service for the services that were worked on. I tell you what, I definitely broke the spirit of a lot of the rules, if not the rules themselves. That’s where image SEO comes in, too.
When I started moving away from the technical aspect of SEO and started doing more creative stuff, I was looking at when I was editing images in Lightroom and Apple Aperture and Photoshop. I noticed that all the EXIF, or the metadata was associated with these files. At that time, I didn’t know what the search engines read and what they didn’t read, so I started doing tests.
I would go in, and the basic way I do a test is this. I will go to Google, and I’ll put in a nine- or 10-character string of random characters that returns back no search results in Google. I will then take that character set, and I will put it inside of whatever I’m testing and then wait for a few days and see if that shows up in Google.
Scott Ellis: Okay, question. You’re putting that into one of the metadata fields?
Giovanni Gallucci: Yeah. You can put it in the title. You can put it in the description. You can put anywhere inside that file. This isn’t limited to imagery. This is limited to if it’s a PDF file, if it’s a video file. Any kind of file you put on the Internet, if you want to identify what parts of the file that Google will search and actually catalog and use as an element to return back in search results. You find something that you can search in on Google that returns zero search results. Then you add that to your content. Then you wait a few days.
Back in the day, you used to have to wait two or three weeks. Today, sometimes, especially if you take an image and post it to Google+, it will show up within an hour inside the Google database. It’s a lot easier to test now.
Back then with the images, sense I started posting more images on behalf of clients, I would start doing those tests, and I found out that every single thing inside that EXIF data, which is essentially metadata inside those images, every single one of those, somewhere Google was picking it up. It was registering as an element inside the search results and the algorithm to show up. It wasn’t the case that I was thinking.
I felt like I was onto something new, but I didn’t think that it would give me that big of an advantage because, from the standpoint of having someone go from a search result and finding a picture to going to a call to action page or something like that, they still had to click into somewhere to get to that spot. But what it allowed me to do — and this was the biggest part of that — it allowed me to push other people outside the search results.
There’s many different ways to play the search game, and one is offensively. You’re going out there and trying to rank the best you can. Number two is defensively, making sure you don’t make mistakes, so you don’t get kicked out of the search engines. Number three where you can play dirty. It is a tough world out there. No one’s going to give you the search results for free. We’re not talking about whether or not we’re going to heaven or hell. We’re not breaking any laws.
We’re talking about you look at those rules, the rules are in place, and if you follow the ‘rule of law’ for the terms of services for one of these sites, you look for every opportunity you can to break the algorithm and break the spirit of the rule. I have never, ever had a situation where I’ve had a client or myself banned from a site because I broke the spirit. I’ve been banned from a site for breaking the rules, several times on tests that I was pulling to see how far I could go. Never, ever had a client put in jeopardy because I found a loophole in the system. In this day and age, you’ve got to find a loophole.
To bring us back to EXIF data, what that allows you to do, it allows you to get more brand impressions inside of Google. Especially today, when Google is looking at social status and engagement as a way to integrate into their search algorithm, the more images I can have show up in social media that have my brand name and hyperlinks in them, the better off I am in the algorithm. Make no mistake, those hyperlinks inside the EXIF data are hotlines as far as Google is concerned.
Scott Ellis: This podcast is called Technology Translated, and we’ve gotten reasonably technical with respect to editing EXIF data.
Giovanni Gallucci: I’ve got to go, I’m done. I think I’m in the wrong room.
Scott Ellis: Do you? No, you’re in the right place. You’re not going anywhere. What do you recommend as an application for people who are actually wanting to go in and edit that EXIF data? Before you go into that, let’s reiterate exactly what the EXIF data is.
Giovanni Gallucci: EXIF is a fancy word for, or acronym, I don’t even know what it means. It’s the title. It’s the description. It’s the location. It’s keywords. I look through Aperture, before Apple demoted Aperture, there were over 10 different complete info screens full of a couple of dozen different elements that you can fill in that are text-based elements. The reason why there’s so many is that there’s so many standards for you to cover them all. There’s a lot of repeating of information.
They’ll have one thing you can fill in called a ‘description,’ and another thing called a ‘caption.’ You have to fill both of them in because Flickr will pick one up. Facebook will pick up a different one. Google+ will pick up a different one. You’ve got to go and do your tests and figure out what’s required and what’s not required.
There’s categories, tags, and keywords. Why there’s three different ones I don’t know, but you put the same stuff in all three of them. Because, depending on what’s reading it, they have a different element or name for each of those one of those types of things. My brother used to think he was so smart because he would say, “Metadata is data about data,” and he would laugh like a nerd. That’s what EXIF is. EXIF is information about the information around the image.
Scott Ellis: Right. For anybody that’s head is still spinning a bit, this is basically information that is literally embedded in the image. You would look at 100 images and never know it’s there. It’s not something that shows up. You have to have a special application of some kind to open the image in, and then it will show you what that embedded information is. That’s typically a part of every image that’s out there. What application do you use to edit the EXIF data?
Giovanni Gallucci: Today, I use Lightroom, primarily. Apple, again, we’re talking in a time when Apple has depreciated Aperture, which was what I’ve used for years ever since they launched it. I moved over to Lightroom. They’ve just now come out with Photos. They used to have an app called iPhoto that came with the operating system. It still works if you have it.
When you click on an image on any image editing application you have, there’s always a place where you can get access to what they call ‘info.’ When you click on the info menu anywhere and you look at the preferences, those preferences that pop down are all editable, and they’re available for you to either add to them, change them, edit them, delete them — whatever you want to do.
Whether you’re in Photoshop, and I’m making a huge leap, but I cannot imagine they wouldn’t have it in Photos in the new Apple application. Any respectable and even amateur pro editing application is going to have some access to that stuff. Especially at the level of folks that are listening to this, my assumption would be that if you’re using a basic windows editing application, Photoshop Lite. What are they calling the lite version of Photoshop now?
Scott Ellis: I don’t remember.
Giovanni Gallucci: Any of those you’re using, whenever you click on info and it asks you to give it a title, a description, a caption, that kind of stuff, you’re editing EXIF data now. Depending upon what application you’re using, you will have more or less access to that.
Scott Ellis: My next question is on the image information that people can already see. The obvious things, the file name, for example, what recommendations do you have there? One of the things that really drives me insane is when I go to work on a client’s website and all their images are called IMG_007.jpg. We know that, that is not really a good practice. What do you recommend?
Naming Image Files
Giovanni Gallucci: What I do, and it’s weird whenever you have these conversations, cause a lot of the stuff, I’m sure when you’re programming, there’s a lot of things that you do that have become second nature and are part of your DNA now. You don’t even think about being good practices and being something that you have to step outside of yourself and think about doing it. When you say that, the first thing I think is, “What do you mean what do I do?” — and now I realize what it is.
On the Mac, and I’ll give you links to these applications if I’m butchering the names, there’s an application, I think it’s called Photo Rename or File Rename. It’s basically a script or a snippet of code. I do music photography. I do live events, experiential stuff, so everything I’m doing is associated with an event or a brand. What I’ll do is whenever I go and shoot a three-day festival or something like that, when I come back, I may have anywhere from 500 to a couple of thousand images. I take all those pictures and put them inside of a folder on my computer. I name that folder the name of the event.
Let’s say it’s Lalapalooza. I’ll name it Lalapalooza. Then I click on that folder, I drag it to an icon on my desktop, and I let go of it. That application goes inside that folder, renames every single file with the name of the folder and then a date time stamp. It’s all unique names.
Scott Ellis: You just made my day. I need that application.
Giovanni Gallucci: I used to go back and do my editing, and then go back from an SEO perspective and hand rename all this stuff. It’s funny when you ask that, I’m like, “The very first thing I do before I touch anything is the file renaming.” I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s just part of my workflow. I come in, I put my card in the computer, I go to my external drive that has all of my photos on it, I name the event, drop the photos in there, drag the folder onto there — boom, and I walk away.
If you’ve got 2,000 images, it will take a minute and a half to rename them all, but you come back and you don’t even have to worry about saying, “Lollapalooza 2013, Lollapalooza 2014.” It’s got a time date stamp, so organizationally, I can have 10,000 images from one event, and they’re all time stamped. I don’t have to have multiple folders for the same event over different times. That’s a nice time saver. That’s the first thing you do.
You’ve also got an application, made by the same company, that will batch copy a set of EXIF data for you, so for that type of event, you can go in and specify “Austin, Texas. These are the sponsors. These are the artists inside this batch.” Again, whenever I’m shooting at events like this, if I’m shooting a particular artist around a certain event, all those pictures are together. It may be 300 pictures in a block, so I select them all and drag them over to this application. It inserts the proper EXIF data with artist information, relevant hash tags around the events, and relevant brands.
Scott Ellis: Are you adding the artist’s name as well to the file?
Giovanni Gallucci: If the artist allows, absolutely. For South by Southwest this year down in Austin, there was an event with Iggy Azalea sponsored by Samsung. I hope I’m right. I was free to use her name through all our stuff. Samsung encouraged that we use the name Samsung. In my situation, typically what I’m doing is I’m shooting and posting live while the event is happening. They’re handing us hash tags they want us to use to promote what they’re doing.
Iggy certainly wants to be associated with South by Southwest and with Samsung, so that stuff works really well. Whether it’s hash tags, rights, naming rights, any of that kind of stuff — anything that you get approval for that is going to lift your brand up, you always attach those complimentary brands to the images that you’re posting.
Scott Ellis: To circle back on the image-naming piece and kind of round that out, the real question, ultimately, is how far do I go with naming the files themselves? I could end up with file names that are more like a sentence than a file name.
Giovanni Gallucci: I limit them to pick the primary element I’m promoting, and that’s it. I have a general rule that nothing that I put on the web anywhere is causing itself to compete with other things to the extent that you basically cannibalize your own efforts. Maximum I will ever promote, whether it be a keyword, a hashtag, some kind of event, is three items period. Those three items have to be completely different. I was trying to think of a super smart word.
Scott Ellis: We don’t like big words around here.
Giovanni Gallucci: Disparate. They have to be different from each other. I wouldn’t go out and promote a vodka and a tequila in the same post even though they were completely different companies. I would promote a vodka, an artist, and the name of a venue. That’s what I would do. You’ve got to really think about the fact that you don’t want to be hitting your head up against the wall by sending a mixed message to the search engines and, in turn, to users.
Scott Ellis: You might rename a file ‘Iggy Azalea South by Southwest,’ but you’d put both of those elements in there, the artist name and the event name.
Giovanni Gallucci: In the file name, yeah.
Scott Ellis: There you go. That’s some good advice.
Giovanni Gallucci: I could have answered that in four words, sorry.
Scott Ellis: The power of the editor.
Giovanni Gallucci: Six minutes later.
Scott Ellis: That’s okay. It’s a good conversation. Now I want to get into a really big topic around images, and that is usage and rights. I hear this question from clients all the time. The hardest thing for me to get from them typically is content and imagery. I would say 50 percent of the time they are going to ask me, “Can’t we just go grab some images off of Google?”
Now, you and I know what the problems here are, but this question still crops up all the time. I want to help everybody who’s listening to really understand why you just can’t go grab images off of Google.
Image Usage Rights
Giovanni Gallucci: Let’s start with the pain first. Here is the cold, hard fact. If you use an image and it doesn’t belong to you, I don’t care what the circumstance is, if you use an image and it does not belong to you, whether it’s on Twitter, on a T-shirt, or on your website, every single instance of that misuse carries a fine of $7,500 with it.
You do the math. The answer is super simple. Is that picture worth $7,500 to you, or not? Chances are, and I’ll tell you right now, chances are you won’t get caught. When you do, there is no defense for it. It is theft, period.
There are different types of usage out there. Everything I put up on the web is under a non-commercial creative commons license. Anybody in the world is free to go out — I have gone back and forth on this. I don’t think I will ever put a watermark on any of my images again. I think it mucks up the picture. The reason why you put watermarks on pictures is to “try to keep people from stealing it from you.” They’re going to take it. They’re going to crop it and take it. The nice thing about the watermark, though, is that adds $12,000 onto the penalty, onto the $7,500.
If you have an image that’s watermarked, if you take a watermark off, or if you take identifying information off of an image, that’s an additional $12,000 per instance.
Scott Ellis: That stock photo you find on Google that you really like and it’s got the watermark from the company that’s selling it.
Giovanni Gallucci: In the bottom right-hand corner that’s easy to take off.
Scott Ellis: Or it’s in the middle, but you’re like, “I can probably erase that in Photoshop pretty easily,” that’s a $12,000 fine?
Giovanni Gallucci: That’s a $12,000 edit.
Scott Ellis: Ouch.
Giovanni Gallucci: It’s tough when clients come to you and ask you about that kind of stuff because your role is to facilitate and to make things easy for them. Especially guys like you and me, I think that we get paid well for what we do, but we certainly don’t get paid agency prices where we’re paying for four people in the background that nobody sees, right? Our blended rates are much more reasonable, and people come to us because of that.
When they come to you and say, “Can’t you just take a picture?,” it’s usually because they have budgetary constraints. That’s their problem, not yours. The way that I — and it’s not even a push-back. It’s just here’s the situation. “It’s going to be on your website. I won’t go out and find them because I’m not going to be held liable for it because I don’t want to be a party to that, and I don’t want to put myself at that risk. If you present me with images to use, that’s your call because I’m a contractor, but here’s the ramifications.”
I go through monetarily what the ramifications are, and then I say, “But the bigger price is going to be reputation.” There’s one website called StopStealingPhotos.com. All this guy does, he has got a white hot passion for people who steal photos from photographers. He does nothing but spends all his time calling people out. It is brutal. He tears companies down. Ironically, wedding photographers are the absolute worst about it. They’ll go and take images from some other photographer and represent them as their own.
Scott Ellis: You’re kidding me.
Giovanni Gallucci: Oh my god. They do it all the time. Go look at StopStealingPhotos.com. You will waste six hours going through that site being aghast and laughing at the same time. When they come to you and ask, the easiest answer is straight up, “It’s theft. We can’t do that. Two, if you’re going to go ahead and do that, I’m not going to do it. If you present me with images to use, that’s your decision. This is what it’s going to cost you if you get caught.” And leave it at that.
Scott Ellis: Everybody out there that wants to take images off of Google or if your clients are asking you to do that, be aware. You are very liable for doing so. That said, not everybody’s going to go out and shoot their own pictures for every time they need an image. We want to queue up a couple of options for people.
Where You Can Find Images You Can Use on Your Site
Scott Ellis: Obviously, you can go out to any number of stock photography sites. Some of them are better than others. In general, to me, stock photography just looks all the same, and it’s incredibly boring. On the other hand, and this is something I learned about from you back in the day, was the creative commons license. Now, all of my images, everything I put out there I do the same thing. It is all free for anybody to use, all I want is credit back that I made the image and a link back to my site.
Giovanni Gallucci: Here’s the thing. There’s two things that are nice about that. Number one, 99.9 percent of the people out there aren’t smart enough to go in and look at your EXIF data to see what’s in there. Part of the benefit of utilizing that and putting your copyright information in there and stuff like that is that, if someone steals your stuff and uses it commercially, Google’s crawling that image and that data, and you’re still getting credit back for having an image on a separate website. That’s number one, and it’s going to be very rare that someone’s going to go in there and even notice that that data’s in there. That’s number one.
Number two, the nice thing about that is that, if someone goes in there and changes EXIF data, it’s the same penalty as if they took off a watermark. You cannot change ownership information on a file. On the creative commons side, you’d be really surprised at the kind of quality you can find these days. If you look at 500px.com, super high-quality stuff. There’s not as much creative commons on there. The photographers on there sell their stuff. If you’ve got something for web usage, you can get a nice hero shot for maybe $25, $50. Even to someone who’s got a company now, sometimes people will balk at $50 per picture. The perceived value of photography has gone through the basement these days.
Cameras are everywhere. I love the democratization of photography because there’s a lot of people that have bonafide skills that, in the past, couldn’t afford the equipment. Now, they can exercise that creativity. You can find plenty of creative commons stuff that can be used commercially on Flickr.
The other thing that I’ll tell you that I do with my clients — I have to be fair and honest about the fact that the clients I tend to work with, whether they’re beverage brands or whatever kind of brands they are, they’re always associated with music, TV, and entertainment, so it’s easy for me to get high-energy stuff from the community.
But one of the things that I do all the time is I’ll find an image on Instagram that I like, and I send a note to the person saying, “Hey, I work with this brand, and saw you got a picture of the brand, would you mind if we used it?”
I have never, ever been turned down. It’s just giving someone the courtesy of asking them before you use it. Number two, making sure that you do it in an email, so you’ve got a paper trail. Depending on the situation, I can’t imagine being declined. If someone declined and wants money, I’d say, “Sorry, I don’t have it. I’m just asking for permission.”
A lot of photographers get worked up and PO’d because, “How dare you ask for my photography and not want to pay me.” They can have that battle. I could care less. While I am a social media marketer, 60, 70 percent of my livelihood is based on creative elements. I could care less. I basically charge by the hour. It’s a different model than what most creatives do.
I used to be a programmer, and that’s how I think. If I’ve got 100,000 images that have been stolen, I’ve got 100,000 images with metadata that point back to my website on the Internet. I’m totally cool with that. I’ve got other things to worry about than to try to fight those battles about getting into contests about whether or not the usage is proper or not.
Scott Ellis: There are actually several sites out there. You mentioned Flickr and 500px. There’s a few others. We’ll put some links in the show notes to different sites that have images that are licensed under the creative commons. You have to be sure to do the creative commons search. Not just every image out there is necessarily a CC image.
Giovanni Gallucci: There are several different creative commons licenses.
Scott Ellis: And there are different licenses. We’ll add some show notes to that to help you guys out in finding images for your blog posts.
Giovanni Gallucci: I just want to be clear that my licenses don’t allow for commercial use in the license itself. What I’ll do is, periodically, I will go four times a year and look on Flickr and on Instagram and find my images that have the most likes on the most engagement. Then I’ll go do an image search on Google for those, and they’ll pop up on five or six different websites. If any of those sites are commercial-based or if they’re advertising driven, I’ll send them a note saying, “Hey, you’re not adhering to the license.”
If it’s blatantly commercial, I’ll send an invoice with it for $150, which is reasonable. It’s the going rate for stock photography. Half the times I just get a check in the mail. The other half the times they hem and haw, and I have them take the photo down. But it’s a little bit of mailbox money, and I can generate $2,000 to $3,000 four times a year by just doing some Google searches and sending out invoices unrequested.
Those people know that they’re wrong, and their two options are either to pay the fee … and I send very nice letters. It’s like, “Hey, you’re using this. It’s not licensed. My stock fee is $150. Here’s an invoice. If you don’t want to pay the invoice, I understand. Please remove the image from your site.” It’s totally cordial. I’ve never had anybody ignore the letters.
Scott Ellis: That’s a great little tip for somebody that has a lot of photography out there and wants to make some money off of it. It is surprisingly easy to find out if somebody else is using your image. If people don’t know, there’s Google image search. You can literally drag an image into the search bar. It will search for that image elsewhere on Google.
Giovanni Gallucci: It will flip it upside down, and backwards, and search for it black and white. It will find all kinds of permutations of your image.
Scott Ellis: You’ll just be able to click on them and see who’s using your stuff. I have caught several people using some of my Michigan dock photography that have just grabbed it and used it. I typically write to them and say, the same thing — I’ve never sent anybody an invoice — but I say, “Hey, this was licensed under the creative commons, at the very least, you need to link back or take it down.” They usually link back.
Giovanni Gallucci: I’m surprised how many people pay the invoice. To be honest, the reason why I started to send the invoice is that it was a negotiation tactic. What I really wanted was either the credit or the image taken down. You send something that’s a terrible solution so that they think you’re compromising with what you really want. What I found out is that, half the time, they just pay the invoice and leave the image up.
Scott Ellis: All the sudden there’s a couple grand in the mailbox. Daddy’s got a new computer.
Giovanni Gallucci: Funding the laptops.
Scott Ellis: All right. As a part of every show, we’re going to ask the audience for questions, and we’ve got a few that have come in for Gio about images. We’re going to just jump into this. Gio does not know what these questions are. We’re going to put you on the spot. Hope you’re okay with that.
Giovanni Gallucci: I’m super excited about this.
Scott Ellis: On Google+, Lisa Robertson asks about images. She says, “John says they each need four keyword centric things, a title tag, alt tag, file name, and something else. I always forget the fourth, so what is it?” Anything else from an image SEO standpoint, that really needs to be there?
Giovanni Gallucci: Keywords inside the metadata certainly help. The keywords need to be focused on what that page is about. It’s really critical. Whenever I start showing people, opening up that metadata editor inside the image apps, people’s eyes get big and they think about the stuff.
The first thing you have to caution with is this stuff’s like heroin. You’ve got to be careful about not going and overdoing this stuff. You can literally add 1000 words to a description if you want to that will never be seen by the human eye. It’s only information that’s stored in the file that search engines and bots crawl and read.
It’s super critical that the description and keywords describe what’s in the picture accurately and that they describe the elements that are on the page accurately. For Lisa’s question, I could go through all kinds of things. For me, geography is super critical. All of the events I am doing are regional or local events, and that’s a huge element in the search.
Scott Ellis: Local search in general is a big deal.
Giovanni Gallucci: For me, the GPS data, the latitude and longitude is critical. I would just say that anything that you can add to that image — again, this is like any other SEO best practice. Do not spam. Do not go overboard. Be respectful of the craft, and put in a description that’s three or four sentences long. Put in a caption that is seven to 10 words long.
Scott Ellis: No keyword stuffing, please.
Giovanni Gallucci: No stuffing. It’ll end up biting you just like it bites you whenever you stuff it into a blog post.
Scott Ellis: There you go, Lisa. Your fourth answer was metadata. Start adding it in.
Giovanni Gallucci: Keywords.
Scott Ellis: How important are alt tags, really? From an SEO standpoint?
Giovanni Gallucci: From an SEO perspective, not at all. They have no impact. They may have 0.0001 percent. Alt tags are important for accessibility. I will say that accessibility is important for SEO. From a tertiary standpoint, Google is going to like you and the search engines are going to like you more by having alt tags that are descriptive. Stuffing keywords in them benefit you not at all.
Scott Ellis: Title tags same thing?
Giovanni Gallucci: Same thing. Title tag is something that may or may not display up in a search result. It’s not going to have a big enough impact. This is for images. Title tags on an individual page are still the most important element to have. On images themselves, this is one of those things that there’s not a single thing that if anybody says, “Is it better to do black and white, or color images?” That is in a bucket of stew that has 840 ingredients in it.
Above All Else … What’s Most Important
Giovanni Gallucci: You get these questions all the time where people say, “Is this one thing important?” That one thing itself, if I go in and cut my thumb is that important? No, I’m fine. If I get 1,200 cuts, I’m going to bleed to death. It’s the same thing with SEO. There’s not one thing that if you don’t do it you’re screwed. It is a general habit of having best practices, knowing what the rules are, and it’s super critical that you’re respectful of what Google expects from you.
This sounds counterintuitive, but at the same time, you’re looking for the edges to see what you can do that’s not going to tick someone off. Someone, I mean the Google engineers. You don’t want to tick them off, but you want to push hard enough that it does gain you an advantage. Things like the hashtag thing on Instagram. Just putting metadata inside the images gives you a leg up. Everything else you’ve got to do, the answer is, “Is it important?” It’s all important, and none of it is important.
Scott Ellis: There you go.
Giovanni Gallucci: Best practices are important. And this is so cliché, but it’s the content. It’s the content that matters. All the technical stuff is important. This is what I learned about when I started doing marketing through photography and through video. If you’re so heavily focused on the technical part and you’re not taking care of just creating good content, you’re completely missing the point of it.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, it’s self-defeating.
Giovanni Gallucci: Absolutely.
Scott Ellis: Yeah. All right. Let’s move on because we’ve got two more questions.
Giovanni Gallucci: God, this is taking forever.
Scott Ellis: I know. I talk too much. Lee Piney, also on Google+. He said, “I have often wondered how GBTV,” that’s GeekBeat.tv, not Glenn Beck TV, “uses Hollywood footage in their episodes. Is it a ‘use it ’til we get caught scenario’?” Just real quick, GeekBeat.tv is an online video podcast that Giovanni and I are both involved with as well.
What Constitutes Fair Use?
Giovanni Gallucci: This is touchy.
Scott Ellis: It’s a little bit sensitive, but historically, clips have sometimes been edited into some of the episodes. If you’ve seen an episode, you’ve probably seen little movie snippets in there. I don’t think we’ll be doing that moving forward. It’s not because we were doing anything that was necessarily illegal, but what are the guidelines around that?
Giovanni Gallucci: The guidelines is that you shouldn’t do that.
Scott Ellis: Well, there is that.
Giovanni Gallucci: For the sake of being a little bit transparent, that is something that some people on the team have very strong opinions about, and other people that have control over editing that used to be here were the ones that were just editing and putting the stuff out there. My personal opinion is that you’re just walking through a minefield with that.
I will say that, if at some point in time NBC Universal or Sony Pictures comes out and says, “Hey YouTube, take those 43 videos off the Geek Beat channel,” I wouldn’t be shocked or surprised about that at all. The position that we take is that we’re a news and information channel.
There’s something to be said about that. I think that, because it’s kind of undecided law at this point, I would be a little bit more hesitant than what some other folks in the past have been, putting that content up there. I think that’s easier for me to say because I produce video and photography. I can generate that stuff.
Sometimes, some of the stuff that we need, if we’re doing how to’s and reviews and tech news and stuff like that, PR companies will give us the footage we need for that. Even for movies, you can go to a PR company and say, “Hey, I need a series of clips from this movie,” that they’ve pre-approved that we can use for stuff.
I don’t know all the nitty gritty about how we sourced that information, but Lee’s got a very valid question. The thing that saves us today is that, in the past before we had DMCA, you would just get your face sued off the planet. Today, YouTube has an agreement with all those content holders that they’re the moderator in the middle here.
What they do is, they get a complaint, they just take the video offline. They send us a note saying, “This video is no longer available unless you can prove you have access.” We get those from time to time from stock music and stuff like that, and we have to respond in kind, or we have to pull the video down. The nice thing about it from our perspective is, if it is a do-it-until-we-get-caught scenario, getting caught is not painful like it used to be.
Getting caught is a request to take it down, and Google doesn’t give us the choice. They just take it offline. They’ve got an audio footprint of that episode now, and they won’t allow us to upload it again until we either justify the usage or re-edit it so the offending content is out.
Scott Ellis: Well, there you go, Lee. There’s your answer, and thanks for watching the show. Keep tuning in. There’s going to be more good stuff coming.
Giovanni Gallucci: God, it’s going to be so much better. Did I say that?
Scott Ellis: I’m not editing that out. All right, last question. From a good friend of mine, Stuart O. — we could really go off on this one for a long time, but we’re going to have to curtail this a little bit. He said, “Is 72 dpi still a relevant standard, or has that changed with broadband, higher resolution screens, and responsive designs?”
Giovanni Gallucci: My short answer would be that with ultra-high def these days, that’s changed. Anything that I would be doing, I always do in 300 dpi, even in the past. Then what ends up happening is that if you’re working in that — and I would assume he’s talking about a photograph — it’s easier for me just from a workflow standpoint to work at 300 dpi.
So we don’t get too much into the weeds for the listeners and the folks that understand that, 72 dpi is the size of image you need to have it show up in a good quality for the Internet for a digital screen. 300 dpi is what you need for your basic format for printing because it requires a lot more information in an image to print an image.
So he’s asking, “Can we still be using 72 dpi, or should we get higher?” Even when you’re looking at things like phones, when you’ve got retina displays on Apple devices, the quality of those things is insanely detailed to some extent. We have a 78″ Samsung in there, and we had people comment that, that TV, the image looked better than real life. It was so vibrant, and the lines were so crisp on that image.
I would suggest that if you have the space and have the processing power, I would do everything as 300 dpi. Save that way. When it gets rendered to the web, you upload that thing to a Squarespace or, if you’ve got the right plugins, a WordPress site or to Flickr or Facebook or anywhere, they’re rendering that down to the highest quality they need or the lowest quality that’s acceptable already for you.
You’re not going to be sending information, especially on the WordPress and Squarespace sites, you won’t be sending images that are too big if you’ve got it configured correctly. You’re always better off having the highest quality to start with and letting the web mush it up and do the damage that it’s going to do in the process. Short answer is I’d go with 300 dpi.
Scott Ellis: I’m not going to get into this. I’m going to link a blog post that I’ve already written on this topic. It can get really long and involved, but there’s a lot of confusion around — and we use it interchangeably because, typically, we’re talking about digital imagery — but there’s dpi versus poi, print standards versus web standards. There’s a whole bunch of different things that this gets really hairy, really fast. So I’m just going to refer people to a post that we’ve already got out there.
Giovanni Gallucci: My short answer is that I’m looking to generate sufficient quality and to minimize the workflow. I’m not going to go create 14 versions of an image for 14 different uses. I make one, and I send it out. It either gets used properly or not. I don’t have the time to mess around. I don’t have a staff that’s going to sit around and produce multiple versions of an image. That’s why I work just 300 dpi all the time.
Scott Ellis: All right, there you go. Guys, thanks for the questions. Gio, thanks for being on the show today.
Giovanni Gallucci: This has been more fun than I ever could have imagined.
Scott Ellis: Yeah. You’ve never had a better use of an hour of your time.
Giovanni Gallucci: And I’ve never felt closer to you.
Scott Ellis: With that, we’re going to end the show. Thank you, guys, very much. You can find Giovanni at LiveLoudTexas.com. You can also see some of his stuff on GeekBeat.tv. Search him out on the social medias. He’s all over the place, and he does some really good stuff.
Thanks, guys, and we’ll talk to you next week.
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