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Giovanni Gallucci on Images as Content and Understanding Usage Rights
24th June 2015 • Technology Translated • Rainmaker.FM
00:00:00 00:44:36

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Giovanni is one of the most generous people I know when it comes to sharing his knowledge, and he’s been teaching about image usage and optimization since 2008.

Giovanni is a successful social media consultant and practitioner, videographer, and photographer. He also has a knack for pushing the boundaries of SEO. He stays on the “light side” of SEO, but by pushing the edges is able to find opportunities and gain an advantages that most people don’t know about.

Let’s dig in…

In this 45 minute episode Scott & Gio discuss:

  • 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 ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

Giovanni Gallucci on Images as Content and Understanding Usage Rights

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at

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.

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

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 hotlinks 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,...