When talking about image SEO, most website owners are suggested to focus on sourcing attractive and relevant content only. But let me tell you something: There's more to image SEO than pretty pictures - a lot more!
The problem is that image optimization is one of the most overlooked areas of website SEO. In fact, if you dig a little deeper, you will come across many web pages with irrelevant file names, heavy file size, delayed loading speed, and even elements that don't display properly on the user's selected device.
With proper optimization, you can avoid the problems mentioned above and even attract substantial traffic to your website. How? Let's find out in the guide below!
1. Choose Fitting Photographs
We all know that pictures are an integral part of digital marketing. They give context to your content and allow the audience to better understand your write-ups. People retain visuals better than text and remember 65% of the information conveyed through images, even after three days.
It's always better to use original pictures or those that have been specially shot for your marketing protocol. However, if time and budget constraints are an issue, you can always go for photos from reputable free stock photo sites. Within these sites, you will find millions of high-quality pictures in almost every category.
When choosing pictures for your website and social media posts, make 'relevancy' the key selecting factor. Don't add random pictures for the sake of it. Instead, pick out the ones that either reflect the topic or serve an illustrative purpose.
They should also be placed near relevant text and keywords. If you have a picture, you are trying to rank, try to place it near the top of the page - that is, if you can manage without making it forced.
2. Write Specific File Names
According to Google, 'the filename can give Google clues about the image's subject matter.'
Since Google puts it so clearly, it would be safe to assume web developers follow the rule religiously. Right?
For the most part, many website designers ignore the file name and upload pictures with the default name (e.g., DSC10746.jpg) they are saved in.
However, the file name is your number one chance of letting Google know what the image is about. So rather than leaving the file name as it is, take out some time to change the name with a descriptive title.
For example, if you are uploading a picture of hot air balloons flying over Cappadocia, the file name shouldn't be 'DSC49045.jpg.' A proper file name should be something like 'hot-air-balloon-cappadocia' with the main subject photo at the beginning of the title.
3. Pick the Right Image Format
Most images on the web belong to one of the three file categories: JPEG, PNG, and GIF. The biggest difference between the three image file formats is the size. Since each one uses a different compression method, the weight of the files can vary dramatically.
Just look at the image below for a better understanding of the weight difference between these file formats:
Of course, this does not mean JPEGs are the clear winner. Truthfully, there is no right or wrong format for the pictures you upload. This is why I recommend you to:
- Choose JPEG for larger photos and illustrations.
- Go with PNG if you want to preserve transparency in the image's background.
- Use GIF for animated images.
Professional image editing applications like Paint and Photoshop will give you the option to save pictures in the desired file format. Several online tools such as PNG to JPG are also available to help you convert pictures from one file format to another.
4. Don't Forget Alt Text
The alt text or alt tags is a text description of the image that appears in place of the image if it fails to load for any reason. They are also helpful in describing the image to a visually impaired audience using screen readers.
When crafting alt text for the pictures, make sure to be descriptive and specific. Describe alt text so that it is understandable by both - search engine crawlers and the audience.
For example, let's take a look at this picture of a dog and a ball.
An alt text for this could be: Alt = 'adorable puppy playing with ball'
If you are adding alt tags to product images, you can deviate the formula and integrate the product or serial number.
For example: Alt = 'brown winter jacket (40932 - DL)'
5. Lighten the Weight
The next step in image optimization would be to serve your visitors with the smallest size possible without impacting the quality. You see, a heavy file would slow down the loading of your webpage. Ultimately, this can affect your conversion rates and increase bounce rates.
In fact, statistics show that a one-second delay in page loading can cause a 7% decrease in conversion rates. Pages that take more than 3 seconds to load are often abandoned by visitors as well.
To avoid the same fate for your website, make sure to use the lightest file weight possible. You can find several online tools to help you decrease the file size.
Another way to fasten load time of images is to integrate lazy loading. With this protocol in place, the images are deferred until they need to be shown. This simply means that images (and other media files) are only displayed when the audience scrolls to their specific area.
Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can also speed up the loading of your pages. Suppose your network's servers are located in the UK. In that case, your images will not have to travel far when someone visits your website from the UK and loads quickly. However, the same story will not apply to the audience from the USA.
A CDN solves this problem by caching your image files to a global network of servers. So, when a reader visits your webpage, they will simply load the media files from the nearest geographical server.
6. Create a Sitemap
If you want Google to discover all the images on your webpage and rank them in their Image Search, make sure you have a dedicated sitemap ready for the media files.
A sitemap is basically created for the pages you have on your website. However, creating one exclusively for the images will give additional details about the content on your site.
Here is an example that Google gives regarding the format to use for sitemaps.
Image SEO is a complex topic and includes a number of elements. As Google gets more thoughtful about images, you must leverage the understanding and make the most out of the pictures you use in your web design.
Keep in mind the above tips and contribute to a greater experience for your visitors and search engine crawlers. Good luck!