Photo-sharing websites – an unlikely tool for small business marketing

The many marketing tools that small businesses have at their disposal are often designed with advertising techniques in mind. Facebook has integrated commercial pages with personal profiles, while Twitter has become integral to keeping small businesses in touch with their customers.

However, some other websites can have unforeseen but valuable effects on the online image that a company maintains on the internet. One of the most useful is Flickr, which may be the most popular image-sharing site on the entire web. Flickr was begun so users could simply and easily upload pictures to a database and share them with friends and family. There are many ways that organizations can take advantage of the various ways that Flickr interacts with Google and other important online entities.

Picture descriptions
One part of search engine optimization that often goes unremarked-upon is the existence of pictures on a web page. While not nearly as important as links or keywords, images can nonetheless help increase the complexity that Google looks for on websites. The best way to help this process along is by including links to photo albums on Flickr that have keyword-rich descriptions. The addition of highly sought-after phrases in the "meta-data," or text that is seen by computers more than people, will help put a web page over the top.

No stock photos
Many websites, when they create blogs or home pages for their online profiles, use stock photos or images that are free to use in the public domain. This is a cost-effective method but can also harm SEO techniques. The existence of unique pictures on a website (which can be hosted by Flickr or other image services) indicates to Google and other search engines that a company profile has had quite a bit of thought put into it.

User uploads
Online photo services don't have to simply be a place for companies to store images that they have taken. Small businesses should encourage customers, whether through signage in a store or via social media websites, to upload their own pictures that are related to a company, product or service. By letting more users in on the picture game, companies can accumulate photos of consumers at a store. This will look good to potential customers as well as increase the reach and breadth of an online web presence. 

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