GIF Engine Optimization 101


Chances are if you’re reading this, you know about SEO, or you want to learn more about how it can help your website get more traffic and help you make more money. Today, I’d like to talk to you about a different kind of search engine – the GIF search engine. If you’re familiar with sites like GIPHY and Tenor, then you know what I am talking about.

GIPHY is the biggest GIF search engine, and it’s actually the second largest search engine in the world in terms of total searches, only behind Google. GIPHY serves over 10 billion GIFs per day across messaging and social media apps.

Google bought Tenor, another popular search engine in March 2018, though the purchase price wasn’t disclosed. Like Google, major search engines have algorithms that decide which content (GIFs) will rank highest in the search results.

If you can create and optimize GIF content to rank for keywords that are meaningful for your brand, Then you increase the likelihood of your content being seen and shared across social media apps and messaging. With that would come hundreds of millions of meaningful brand impressions.

GIFs work as a marketing channel best for Consumer Brands as the main metric to prove return on investment is “views” and the success is measured in cost per thousand impressions (CPMs). But as GIFs continue to evolve, we can expect to see all brands wanting to leverage them as a marketing channel.

What are GIFs?

GIF stands for graphic interchange format. It is a type of animated image format. You can also use them to make still images but this format has a special feature not found in other image formats. You can use it to create animated images like the one shown below. (Yes, I searched GIPHY to find it. I used “marketing” to find it.)

We use the phrase “animated images” because GIF are not actually videos; they are more like flipbooks. They don’t have sound and the format wasn’t created for animations but that’s how things worked out. They work because they can hold multiple images at once and people realize they could load the images sequentially like a flipbook if they’re decoded a certain way. The format itself was published by CompuServe in 1987 and got its last update in 1989 making it older than about 35% of the US population. even though it predates the World Wide Web by 2 years, it played a major role in defining early Geocities websites, Myspace pages, and email chains and remains a major part of Internet culture.

GIFs are becoming popular because they are like means and are useful for communicating ideas, jokes, and emotions.  They are useful to express yourself in a way that cap locks, emojis, and punctuation just can’t. The most popular GIFs are reaction GIFs that convey emotions that are typically used in conversations.

Excitement, sadness, hunger, humor, and love can all be better expressed with a GIF compared to text alone.

How People Use GIFs

GIPHY and Tenor have their own websites and mobile apps. This allows users on the web and mobile to search for in share GIFs. Each platform also has its own application programming interface (API) and software development kit (SDK) that are integrated with nearly every social media platform and messaging app.

When you use the GIF search feature within your messaging or social app, it’s likely coming from either of those two services and sometimes both.

What is GIF Engine Optimization (GEO?)

GEO, like SEO, is the process of creating and optimizing content to rank highly in organic search results on a GIF search engine.

GIF search engines, like Google, want to provide their into users with the best possible experience by giving them the correct answer to their query as quickly as possible.

In the SEO world, Google shows users what it believes is the most appropriate web link to answer a search query. GIF search engines like Tenor and GIPHY works in much the same way.

When are user searches for a keyword, GIPHY serves the user a feed of GIFs to choose from based on what it deems the most relevant content.

GEO consists of:

  • Keyword Research: Researching keywords relevant to your brand that have high search volumes and low competition
  • Content planning and creation: At this phase, you plan and create your content to rank for specific long-term keywords that are meaningful to your brand. You can use GIPHY to create the GIFs, too.
  • Implementation: Here, you tag your GIF with relevant keywords when you upload them to your preferred search engine.

As with much of your SEO strategy, you start with keyword research. Branded keywords from your SEO strategy will most likely be the same in your GEO strategy. After you are branded keywords, consider potential keywords you want to ring for into categories –  words that are directly related to your product and the emotions that are associated with the effect that your product has on consumers.

For instance, if you are a fast-food restaurant you would consider using words like fries, lunch, dinner, and cheeseburgers. You can also use words like hungry, yummy, hungry, and delish, to handle the emotional aspect.

After you have a good list of keywords you want to target, you’ll do some research into how difficult it will be to rank. do this with a combination of tools from both GIF search engines. It doesn’t really matter which platform you’re trying to rank on because in most situations a keyword will be equally as competitive on both of them. use the Tenor insights tools to see a normalized search volume of keywords. The keywords with the highest search volumes are those that tend to be the most competitive so you want to look for keywords that relate to your brand that have medium-high search volumes in a low number of total GIFs.

When you find a keyword that has high competition, you can go long tail to make your target keywords more specific and find lower competition options they give you a better opportunity to rank.

With your list of keywords in hands, make some overly branded content to drive brand equity and ensure that your brand shows up when people are searching for your branded keywords. For any other keywords, make related GIFs.

After you’ve created your GIF, you will need to upload them to a GIF search engine. During the upload process, you’ll have an opportunity to add keywords to those files. That’s where you enter the keywords that are meaningful to your brand on each individual guess. You can add as many times as you’d like but the optimal number of tags for each algorithm is 10.

The best practice is to add your branded keywords to each GIF upload to ensure the people searching for your brain can easily find and share your content when they want to you can always go back and add more keywords after you upload but it’s best to tag them with all of your desired keywords on the first upload so that when the search engine crawls your content for the first time it can categorize your GIF to all relevant keywords.

At this point, the search engine will begin testing out each of your GIF in organic search results to see how they perform. It looks at how often people are viewing your gift and how often is being shared to determine if it is irrelevant result for each keyword you give it. Based on how often your GIF views, shares, and click-through rate, the search engine will either promote or demote your gift in search results for each keyword.


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