GIPHY is by far the biggest GIF search engine, it is, in fact, the world’s second-largest search engine by total searches, just behind Google. GIPHY offers more than 10 billion GIFs a day through messaging and social media apps. Tenor, another popular search engine for the GIF, was purchased by Google in March 2018 for an undisclosed amount.

What Is a GIF?

A GIF is a type of animated image format; if you are unfamiliar with GIFs or want to understand why they are becoming so popular, this article explains everything you might want to know about GIFs.

Unlike Google, major search engines of the GIF have algorithms that decide which content (GIFs) will rank highest in search results.

If you are able to create and customize content to rate keywords important to your brand, you can increase the chance of seeing and sharing your content through messaging and social media platforms – and gain hundreds of millions of relevant brand impressions. GIFs as a marketing channel currently work best for consumer brands, as “views” are the key metric for proving ROI, and performance is calculated in CPMs.

But each brand will want to leverage GIFs as a marketing channel as GIFs continue to grow and evolve.

How Do People Use GIFs?

Each GIPHY and Tenor has its own websites and apps for smartphone keyboards. It allows users to search and post GIFs on the web and on smartphones.

GIPHY and Tenor also each have their own API (Application Programming Interface) and SDK (Software Development Kit) which are built into almost every social media platform and popular messaging app.

When using a GIF search feature in your favorite message or social app, it is most likely either from GIPHY or Tenor – sometimes both.

Why Do People Use GIFs?

In the digital world, people use GIFs to show themselves. People use GIFs to express themselves when having a conversation via a messaging app in a way that punctuation, caps lock, or an emoji just can not. GIFs are a way of telling what you feel with a short four-second video clip. Humor, hunger, anticipation, sorrow, and even love can all be conveyed better with a GIF rather than just a single text.

What Is GIF Engine Optimization (GEO)?

GEO is very akin to SEO. It is the process of creating and optimizing the content on a GIF search engine to rank highly in the organic search results. Like Google, the GIF search engines want to provide the best possible experience for end-users by providing them the “right” response to a question as quickly as possible.

In the SEO environment, Google shows the user what they think is the most suitable web connection for responding to a user question. Similarly, GIF search engines like GIPHY do work. When a user searches for a keyword, GIPHY provides a stream of GIFs for the user to pick based on what they find to be the most appropriate content.

The Optimization of GIF Engine consists of a number of important steps:
Keyword Research:

Keywords of your company research that have low competition and large search volumes.

Content Planning & Creation:

Plan and build your content to rank common, long-tail keywords important to your brand.


When uploading to your favorite GIF search engine, tag your GIFs with an appropriate keyword.

Keyword Research

Just like the beginning of your SEO strategy, you start with research on keywords. In your GEO strategy, the licensed keywords from your SEO approach will most likely be similar. You’ll want to think about new keywords you want to rate for in two categories after your advertised keywords. Words that are directly related to your company, and the emotions associated with the consumer impact of your product.

If you’re a fast-food restaurant some words could be “cheeseburger,” “fries,” “lunch,” etc. that are directly related to your product. The terms “hungry,” “tasty,” and “yum” could be emotionally linked. Once you’ve got a steady list of the keywords you want to target, you’re going to want to do some research on how hard to rank. There are a few ways to do that. It often includes using a combination of the GIPHY and Tenor devices.

Which platform you are trying to rank on doesn’t necessarily matter, because in most cases a keyword will be equally competitive on both GIF search engines. This is like how competitiveness is generally similar to keywords on Google vs. Bing. To see normalized search volumes of keywords you can use the Tenor Insights tool. This is like how competitiveness is generally similar to keywords on Google vs. Bing. To see normalized search volumes of keywords you can use the Tenor Insights tool.

Keywords with high search volumes tend to be the most competitive, so in GEO the goal is to discover keywords meaningful to your brand with medium-high search volumes and low total GIFs.

Content Planning & Creation

You can start planning your content once you have done your keyword research and got some keywords (hopefully a few long-tail). You’re going to want to start with your branded keywords and make some excessively branded content to boost brand equity and make sure your brand shows up when people look for it. The sweet spot for good GEO activities is to identify the long-tail keywords that make the brand relevant and make content explicitly appropriate for those long-tail keywords. If you’re a brand of beer and you’re trying to rank organically for the keyword “beer,” you’re probably not going to crack the top 10 search results.

GIF search engines frequently use image recognition to analyze GIF content to determine what the GIF is all about. That is why having the content of your GIF relevant to your target keywords is so critical. If a GIF has a text caption in its looping video clip, this detail will be picked up by the GIF search engine and determined that this GIF is connected to whatever words in the caption appear.

You will have better opportunities to rank for that particular keyword if you go for a less competitive keyword like “grill” and create a GIF showing someone grilling a burger.


Once you have created your GIFs, you will have to upload them to a search engine for the GIF. This is where you insert the keywords on every single GIF that is important to your company. You can add as many tags as you would like to your GIFs, but for the GIF search algorithm, the optimal number of tags is 10. This is where you insert the keywords which are important to your company on every single GIF. You can apply as many tags as you want to your GIFs but the optimum number of tags is 10 for the GIF search algorithm.

The GIF search engine will begin testing each of your GIFs to see how they do in organic search results. It will look at how often people view each GIF and how often it is shared, and determine whether it is a relevant outcome for each keyword you attribute to it.

The Value of GIF Engine Optimization

You may wonder if you should spend your precious time and effort creating and optimizing GIF content. GIFs are an extremely valuable channel for marketing. These are advertisements not looking like advertising. As with many other advertisements or marketing channels, they don’t disrupt interactions. They add value to the interactions with the customers. Don’t forget that they serve more than 10 billion GIFs every day.

If you are a brand that uses impressions as a measure and invests in promotions for brand awareness then you should start thinking about implementing a serious GIF marketing program.

Having your own branded GIFs can be a fun way to engage with colleagues, clients, and friends in emails.