Currently, SEO for photographers (and everyone else) is a mixture of technical, on-page, and off-page factors including links, content quality, site authority, and more (need a refresher on the basics? I have a free course for that).
One thing that doesn’t directly affect SEO? Image quality. One could be a really crappy photographer but end up performing well in searches. And conversely, you could have world-class photos that are rarely seen because your site isn’t optimized well using today’s ranking signals.
Shouldn’t photography matter, especially for a website about photography?
Google Has Technology to Change This
While Google is most known as a search engine, they also perform any number of computational research experiments. One of the things they recently released was a technical paper on Neural Image Assessment. What does that mean? The idea is that a computer is able to look at an image and grade it based on whether humans are likely to find it aesthetically pleasing.
In short: Google can tell a good photo from a bad one.
How might they use this technology? I can think of a couple ways. One is that within the Google Photos software, it can help surface the best of your images. The second way involves how Google might use that technology for search.
Prediction: Google will use Neural Image Assessment for SEO
I would expect that at some point, perhaps a couple years in the future, I expect we’ll see image quality used as a search ranking signal. It won’t be the only signal of course… but rather it’ll get worked into the mix along with the other search signals used by Google (currently there are about 200 of them).
Much like Google currently considers things such as incoming links, bounce rate, site speed, and other factors when choosing how high (or low) a given site will rank in search engine results, I would expect that in the future, all other things being equal, a website with better photography will rank higher than a website with images deemed to be less visually appealing to most humans.
It couldn’t hurt to step up your image game. It might be time to enter formal competitions, portfolio reviews, or certification programs as a way to find out how your work compares to your peers. After all, if you create images that are more interesting to humans, that’s what we all want anyway, right? Neural image assessment for SEO will simply mean better photographers will have a SEO advantage. As they should.