Images are often overlooked even though they are an asset for search engine optimization and organic search results. Images have the potential to drive traffic through inclusion in the universal search results as well as through image search.
Image optimization has several dimensions that involves the optimization for easier sharing of images on social media in some instances, optimization for user experience, and better placement in the search results.
When it comes to image SEO, it is important to think about image optimization like the optimization of a mini webpage within the page. Things such as descriptive tagging, anchor text, and URL structure are image optimization factors for the search engine just like standard webpages.
Here are some image optimization tips to improve their performance both in search and on the page.
- Finding the Proper Images
It is very important to find the right image. Great images help add a new dimension to a page or article that can encourage people to share the page thus creating some great backlinks. Research reveals that while text might still be the first thing seen on a page, images are responsible for selling the page.
Here are some of the best places to look for images:
- iStockPhoto: Amazing collection of stock images you can buy.
- Stock.xchng: A ton of royalty-free stock images.
- Flickr: Probably the de facto service for helping people find free images. It even has very useful creative commons search too.
You can even use Google Images to find images for your website as long as you search with the right licensing (Google allows you to search public licenses including the Creative Commons). However, you need to be careful when using images since sites and companies can take legal action against you if you don’t have the permission to reuse them.
A general rule of thumb is that if an image is not Creative Common licensed or you didn’t create or buy it, then you should not post it.
- Include the Keyword in the File Name
Just as post URLs are important for images, the same applies to images. It is important to use keyword-rich words in the image filenames to help the search engines determine relevancy. For instance, an image titled “iStock_00000043224XLarge.jpg” does not offer any additional information about the webpage. However, when it is renamed to “image-optimization.jpg” it makes more sense and is more relevant. Obviously, most images are not just literal like the one in the example and connected to the content of a page such as a product’s photo. If the image in the example was to be used in an article about link building then its file name should reflect that.
Google recommend placing images in a folder on your website instead of putting them in random folders throughout the website. Another recommendation from Google that relates to image URLs and file names is to ensure that you use common image filetypes like PNG, JPG, BMP, and GIF.
- Creating a Descriptive Alt Text
Alt tags or text are another way to help search engines determine exactly what the image is about. Unlike other types of content, the search engines are unable to determine the text content of images. (Even though the search spiders are incredibly smart, they still have not developed eyes.) Search engines thus rely on alt text, image captions, and other surrounding text. Including descriptive text in the alt tag will help the search engines determine the content of the image.
If a particular image is used for navigation, i.e. linking to another page, ensure that you use alt text that is relevant to the content of the page it links to. Matthew Woodward’s blog has some good advice on on-page.
- The Right Anchor Text
Anchor text is a very important factor when it comes to image SEO. Once you have chosen to use text to link images, anchor text plays a role in how the image ranks for certain keywords. The anchor text used to describe the image should be descriptive. For instance, using a generic term such as “photo” or “image” or a filename that does not use keywords to link to an image does not provide much meaningful information to the search engine on what the image is about. Using keywords to link to an image is helpful to both the search engines and those visiting your website.
- Ensure that the Image Matches the Content
The content that surrounds your images should relate to all the things that you have optimized thus far including alt tags, image URL, and anchor text. Once these align, it will help the search engines confirm that you are not spamming and that the image is both relevant and of higher quality.
- Avoid Stuffing
It applies to all kinds of SEO, but you must never keyword stuff when filling out things such as image alt text. Your file names, captions, and alt text should be descriptive and short, but not a long list of keywords. Don’t forget to optimize images for website visitors. Image SEO is as much about user experience as it is about attaining better search engine rankings.