How do GIFs Affect SEO?

by Federica Rustico

12 min read
Last Updated: May 26, 2023

Ask any Millennial out there if they prefer a stuffy corporate style communication or a more friendly, conversational tone when it comes to their favorite brands. Trust me, they’re all going to tell you they prefer the second one. Why? Because the days in which businesses thought of their customers as aliens are long gone. We are all humans, so start communicating like one. If you don’t know how to start changing your communication style, GIFs are a great way to gradually do it. If used correctly, GIFs will offer value to your clients and boost the visibility of your business. But if used incorrectly, they will not accomplish either of these goals.

How GIFs affect SEO

In fact, we encourage businesses to make extensive use of them, not just on social media, but on their websites, landing pages, email newsletters and blog posts too. That’s because they’re known to increase engagement, open rates, time spent on a page and even conversion rates. But before you start creating your customized GIFs or start sharing the most popular ones from GIPHY and Tenor all over your WordPress websites, we need to go over how you can do that without affecting your SEO ranking. Because believe it or not, your GIFs will affect your SEO, let’s see how. 

GIF history

Before getting to all the SEO, let’s have a brief overview of one of pop culture’s favorite image formats. The GIF was created in 1987 by Steve Wilhite at CompuServe in order to reduce the amount of memory used for showing images. The team led by Wilhite devised a method to provide these images by employing a compression algorithm and restricting the number of colors available to use. The algorithm was able to function by recognizing recurring patterns, and as a result, GIFs became excellent tools for producing high-performance photorealistic graphics. Due to the fact that the file contains a number of different iterations of the image, you would be able to connect those iterations together to make an image that loops.

Afterwards, the GIF went on to have a long and illustrious existence; in 1995, Unisys Corporation, the business that held the algorithm for creating GIFs, began charging royalties for the use of GIFs, and the patent didn't expire until 2003. Google Images was first introduced in 2001, but the capability to search specifically for animated GIFs wasn't added until 2013. In fact, Google began including GIFs that users could share in search results in 2019, which makes it quite clear why GIF marketing has started becoming popular in the past few years. And the rest is history!

Can GIFs negatively impact my SEO?

GIFs, or Graphics Interchange Format, are an image file, or more simply put, a piece of content. Just like any type of content out there, depending on what you do with it and how you use it, it could have a negative or positive impact on your SEO.

The first thing that springs to mind when thinking about search engine optimization is whether GIFs will make your website slower. Just like you wouldn’t upload a jpeg that’s 10MB to your blog post (if you’re still doing that, stop it right now), you shouldn’t upload a GIF that exceeds 800KB either. It’s not because we don’t love high-quality images, it’s because it will make your website slower, which means that depending on the user’s internet connection, the images could get uploaded or not. And you know what Google does to websites that are slow? It penalizes them. 

But Google isn’t the only one, search engines in general have, over the course of the last several years, placed a greater emphasis on the speed of websites and have begun to reward websites with improved ranks if consumers can read material in a shorter amount of time. So if you start uploading GIFs that are considered "heavy," you run the danger of your page loading slowly, which may have a negative impact on your SEO. Lucky for you there are a wide variety of programs available that can assist with GIF compression and other related tasks.

Another word of advice — when you upload your GIFs to your website, make sure you give them the correct title, aka the keywords you’d like to rank for, and double check that the alt-text associated with each GIF is accurate. When doing this, some industry professionals even add a term or two, and as long as it isn't spammy, you might be able to convince the masters of the search engine results page (SERP) to allow it.

What are the benefits of using GIFs?

Whether in blog posts, chats, websites or social media, the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is used in a lot of the content that is found online. Apart from the fact that GIFs are animated images that catch our attention, they’re also great because they start looping automatically, without the reader having to click on any buttons first. Sounds pretty basic but trust me, that’s part of what makes them so effective.

Like any other type of valuable image, GIFs can be beneficial to SEO since they encourage clicks and keep visitors interested in a page. In fact, a memorable GIF with strong branding can last for years in the meme economy. Which is exactly why your number one priority is to make your GIFs as easy as possible to locate. To make your GIFs available on search results, you need to tag them properly when you set them up. Which means you need to start conducting keyword research from the beginning. 

Obviously, don’t just randomly place your GIFs everywhere, you need a content strategy and you always need to make sure that when you’re including GIFs in your content, you’re actually providing value to your readers. There are a variety of ways in which you can add value to your content by including GIFs, whether it’s in a blog post, an email or a website. For example, people appreciate it when bloggers use GIFs to change up their writing or bring a personal touch to an otherwise dry subject matter. And let’s not forget about what we said earlier: consumers want to interact with your brand in a more authentic way. So much so that throwing in a joke every so often is rapidly becoming the industry standard, making branded content much more enjoyable and entertaining to consume. GIFs serve this purpose egregiously. 

How GIFs affect SEO

Did we mention that GIFs are mobile friendly? In the age of smartphones, an image format that easily adapts to all screen sizes is not only important, it’s essential. When using a mobile device, GIFs are really practical. GIFs were created from the ground up to provide animated graphics on the web and mobile devices while keeping file sizes to a minimum. Using a GIF is a win-win because more than 80% of social media users access their accounts from mobile devices. Instead of using a video that takes too long to load, why not use a GIF to quickly grab your audience's attention? Your mobile device will either begin playing the GIF immediately or loop it automatically when you load it. Video content, on the other hand, will launch in a new program or tab. A GIF typically lasts only a few seconds, and the file size is usually rather small, so they can be uploaded quickly and with little effort. By incorporating them, you may increase video engagement without requiring a massive increase in bandwidth.

GIFs can be used to boost engagement

Did we mention that GIFs can boost your engagement? Your articles' animated GIFs are shareable across a wide variety of media. Imagine uploading an image that illustrates your brand’s values and publishing it on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn. GIFs are another tool that can be used to facilitate this connection. Imagine being able to include customized GIFs in emails that you send to the people on your subscription list. What a great way to get the day started by receiving an email with an amusing GIF or a statement to get you motivated.

Stop trying to sound like everyone else and instead find ways to express your unique personality through the use of GIFs. Your own personal plan doesn't need to be very complicated to be successful. If your company is looking to boost its engagement, one option is to make use of the GIFs already available in the GIF library on Facebook and Twitter. Make a post with a humorous GIF that your target audience will find interesting and relevant to your brand, or have some fun in the comments section by responding to users' feedback with a humorous "Thank you" GIF. A humorous GIF, appropriate for your target market and offering insight into your industry, could also be included in a post.

Plus, when used properly and with minimal consideration, animated GIFs may clarify complex ideas and facilitate comprehension. They simplify difficult concepts while adding an enjoyable element to learning. Data-heavy content, such as statistics, timelines and numbers, can be broken down into more digestible chunks using tools like GIFs. Animated GIFs allow you to swiftly make images, or show your subscribers that things are easier than they thought they would be.

Use GIFs to break down your content

Everyone uses photographs to break up text, but using GIFs is one technique to break up the content in a way that is interesting to the reader. GIFs have a part to play in the process of creating, building, and maintaining momentum, particularly in content. They provide an interesting change of pace when compared to the usual photographs or media.

You can draw attention to your message, your cause, or your solution by using a GIF. Without using a lot of words, a picture can convey a very clear message. In fact, according to the CEO and Co-founder of GIPHY, a well placed GIF is worth 60,000 words.

GIFs provide a welcome reprieve for readers who have been slogging through lengthy paragraphs or content. Raise your hand if you’ve scanned through an article from top to bottom in order to choose whether or not you actually want to read through a large number of words. I think we can pretty much agree that everyone’s hands are raised at this point. 

How GIFs affect SEO

Before committing to reading such a long post, there are some of us who prefer to just scan through it. Images have the power to captivate our attention or assist us in gaining vital insights, which may be used to judge whether or not an article has the information that we are seeking. If there were no GIFs to aid urge viewers to read, they might experience feelings of intimidation when attempting to do so.

It is possible that at times it will be difficult to convey feelings. Readers are able to visualize themselves within the image and contemplate how they might respond when viewing a GIF. A brief glance at the GIF reveals a wide range of feelings, including surprise, annoyance, and happiness. This is wonderful because it creates a style that makes it simple to communicate an emotion in a way that viewers can readily comprehend and comprehend quickly. You may choose to include memes, jokes, or even just a loop of your product in the video.

Walkthroughs in the form of GIFs

If you want to show off your goods, directions, or anything else without being too aggressive, GIFs could be a nice touch to add. There are times when a GIF will come with a title that will assist the viewer in better comprehending what is being displayed. Instead of needing to embed numerous videos or have multiple screencaps to choose from. You could use a GIF! 

Everyone, but especially those that learn better visually, could benefit from viewing this process broken down into steps using a GIF. When compared to a lengthy text with lengthy sentences or an excessive amount of facts, a GIF of this type is much simpler to read and comprehend.

It's possible that you won't get a response every time you try, but there could be a good reason for it. But how can you maintain engagement with prospects without annoying them with an excessive number of reminders? The use of a GIF that loops continuously on your page is a simple yet effective strategy for attracting visitors' attention without bothering them.

How to Make Use of Animated GIFs in SEO

Think about how long it takes the website to load. The amount of time it takes for a page to load is affected by the presence of images like charts, tables, movies, or GIFs. If your images or GIFs are too huge, it may take them a long time to load. As a result, you will not be able to accomplish your objective of becoming visible to potential customers. Google will demote your website to the very bottom of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Yikes.

Take a look at how large your image is. Examine the dimensions of your photographs to see how you may reduce the loading time of your website, which may be caused by the presence of images that are too heavy. You need to get it to the appropriate size so that it does not detract from the overall quality of the image or cause it to appear cloudy. Before you upload the photographs to the site, you should make an effort to compress them.

The positioning of the GIF is also really important. You will want to be sure that the GIF is placed in a section that is relevant to the content of the page. Nobody wants to be reading an article about how important it is to maintain communication in marriage and all of a sudden there’s a call to action graphic that tells them to book an appointment with a marriage counselor. 

What kind of message does that send to you as a consumer? It is a distinct possibility that the company is more concerned with making a sale than establishing a relationship with the reader or providing more value to them. Pick a GIF that complements the content of your article. The message of the article will be delivered more effectively with the help of a customized GIF that has been carefully selected and will be successful.

Wrapping up

It’s pretty straightforward to say that GIFs are a useful tool in your content strategy and SEO strategy tool. You will be able to rank better in terms of visibility thanks to the use of GIFs and skilled SEO, and more clients will be able to see the efforts you are making to serve them. Nevertheless, improper use of this image format will have a negative effect on the reaction or engagement with readers. Increase your company's visibility, broaden your reach to potential customers, and generate new leads by effectively utilizing GIFs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does Google crawl GIFs?

At this point, it appears like Google reads GIFs the same way it reads any other image, with a focus on making them discoverable and shareable in Google Images searches. Make sure your GIFs get crawled, processed, and indexed by using Google Image optimization techniques.

Are GIFs good for your engagement rate?

GIFs do more than just jazz up your content; they increase audience engagement (views, shares, and clicks) across several channels.

Can Google Search understand GIFs?

In terms of organic search rankings, an animated GIF is treated similarly to an image. Google is able to decipher the context of a wide variety of photographs. To communicate the right signals, however, it is still useful to include words.