30 thoughts on “What Makes for a Good Author Photo in the Local Results? (Part 2)”

  1. Very Interesting. Might I suggest that this be researched in a way that better controls for the variables inherent in using in vivo avatars? This would necessitate using the same person with a variety of photographic compositions (e.g., close up/less close up, looking left/looking right, formal/informal, light/dark, color/bw, framed/not, etc.). So, you would have say five photos of the same person composed in different ways, all possing as a particular professional (e.g., lawyer, psychologist, insurance respresentative, SEO Consultant). Then have another series of photos a woman possing in the same variety of posses as that same type of professional. And do this for several professions with the same design as described above. This would require multiple photos of several people representing both sexes and several professions. This would be a much bigger undertaking, but it would clarify some of the outstanding questions.

  2. @Gerry
    I think you are right in a broad sense. Unfortunately your test model would cost $900 (3 professions, 2 sexes @$150 per) and that was beyond my budget. If you or anyone you knows has a funding source…. lets talk :)

    Although would you not need a additional data sets that compare the male and female avatars? How would you account for attractiveness? That would have to be an additional study altogether?

  3. You mention the survey costs, but the costs of the photos too would be substantial (time, models, avatar production). You’re right, this would require some real funding. Sounds like a research via crowd sourcing project or a Master’s Thesis project to me! There obviously is value in better understanding this issue.

  4. @Gerry
    In my one market survey, I could by changing out one of the clients photos ascertain that THEY performed better. While, again, it would not give me overall attributes of the ideal avatar it would give me information pertinent to the client?

  5. Here’s the real question. What if you have a picture of someone that looks crazy no matter what you do with the avatar?

    Nice post Mike, I really agree with the continual testing notion. There’s so much variance between the way people look to begin with, you may get different results with different image settings based solely on the individual’s looks.

  6. Sure – that would help your client in that circumstance. Why not?

    I think however, that there is a broader question here that all your Local and SEO colleagues would benefit from having answered. Share your paypal info and watch the $ come pouring in ;)

  7. @ Ryan – Yes! attractiveness is another variable and age too. It’s complicated and likely intuitive. Regardless, I wonder what words people would assign to what they are looking for in respective professionals and how those “values” would be captured in an image (competence, confidence, professional, approachable/accessible/agreeable/respectful, helpful, respectable, etc.). It’s all so very interesting!

  8. Thank you so much for this survey. As a photographer who’s business is in part, to produce this kind of portrait I find it important to look at the lighting and background before I look at the faces. I wonder what the results would be like if you had the same model for each picture but different background, lighting and crop factor being the only variables?

  9. @Daniel
    As Gerry pointed out above, that would be a broader and perhaps more insightful test. But as he and I also pointed out much more expensive and complex that what I have done.

    I too would be interested but am currently budget constrained.

  10. A generic, academic test has limited value on this subject, even if it covers a really wide scope. There are so many businesses – and so many possible target demographics – that a single study couldn’t cover them all.

    I’d love to see a guide for effectively split-testing author photos and measuring CTR in the local search results. There must be some pitfalls or best practices that would be common for any local search marketer testing this for him/herself or a client.

  11. @Chad

    For my money doing what Cyrus did to narrow down your choice to one or two photos and then do what I did via Google Survey to compare it to your competitors….. or vice versa… do one photo, do a Google survey and then test variations ala Cyrus.

  12. Great survey yet again Mike! Thank you for the helpful legal marketing information. In line with Google’s love for fresh content, do you find that attorneys (or anyone) changing their avatars frequently helps they stay “loved” in search results. A colleague stated when he changes his author photo it appears in SERPs instantly….didn’t know if you had any insight or experience with that? Thanks!

  13. @Courtney
    Content from Google+ appears instantly across the board. Speed of appearance is not the same as feeding the beast. I would suggest that he focus on his clients desires/needs rather than Google’s. j

  14. For what it is worth, my wife strongly disagrees with your survey’s results. But with the SEO gods having spoken, I am booking a photo session for a new head shot for next week.

  15. I think the most surprising (and positive) aspect of the results, Mike, is that the public chose the older gentleman. Our ridiculous youth-oriented culture would lead us to believe there is no grander state than to be 20 years old. Older men get passed up for jobs so that young, whippersnappers can set the tone of business (and be paid less, of course). So, I say kudos to the public on this for choosing the promise of long experience held in this man’s face. When it comes to a subject like the law, your experiment proves that authority counts. Now, if these were 5 interior decorators, maybe not.

  16. @Miriam
    That may be but I wouldn’t want him as my DJ

    @Richard
    The “gods” have proven themselves mortal. Intuition is fine as long as you test. I tested. You lost. That said, you should test too.

  17. Mike:

    This was a fascinating survey. I was shocked at the results. I thought your guy would for sure be #1 or #2. The Dick Cheney looking guy just looks “old and mean.” I would never want him to respresent me.

    But here’s what’s interesting…your guy was my #1 pick because he seemed “more like me.” I’m 40 years old and tend to gravitate towards people that look friendly and approachable. The point is, I think people are drawn to people “like them” or that they are attracted to.

    Travis Van Slooten

  18. This is a great idea and the results certainly seem enlightening. I decided to copy you and just ordered the same survey except I changed “lawyer” to “attorney” and I used different photos. I’m eager to see if mine shows similar results to yours, though the difference in photos will likely change a lot of factors.

  19. Fascinating! I can understand why the first photo was chosen. People were asked to choose their preferred lawyer, instinctively people were likely searching for trustworthiness, authority and experience. I saw a study a while back noting that heavier set people are more like-able. No offense to our lucky #1, your a stud Joerg!!

    It would interesting to test this on different subjects. Have people pick out successful investors, comedians, the smartest businesswoman, most trustworthy car salesman, the best cook, etc.

    Thanks for Sharing Mike!! Great work!

  20. Thanks Mike for your always helpful material. I had one lawyer who claimed his smile was the reason folks chose him over others. This was based on asking those who called.

    My question would be this. Why do we think the square jawed young guy did so poorly. Bias against jocks? Doesn’t look smart?

  21. @Randy
    I did a few small focus groups so I don’t have much data as to why any given photo did not work. There were some comments that the image did not look trust worthy… I recognize that is very much in the eyes of the beholder and my sample size is small and anectdotal… bottom line is I don’t really know.

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