When we think about website optimization, we tend to focus on content, coding and web design. These are the foundations of a successful website, and it’s only natural that they receive the lion’s share of attention. However, the images placed on a blog or website can also be used to generate traffic. More and more people are using imaged based search engines, like Google Images, and to ignore this potential source of traffic can limit a website’s online visibility. Fortunately, optimizing your images for online searches is easy when you know how, and the results can provide an added boost in traffic for your blog or website. Let’s look at some simple tips for optimizing the images posted on your blog or website.
First Things First
A great image can add a lot to a web page or article, and while the accompanying text is still the engine that drives interest, an eye catching image often encourages people to share your page through their social media connections. But before you can add images to your articles, you need to find them. If you are not creating your own original images, you can turn to a number of sites that offer royalty free stock images. Some really great sources for usable images are Flickr, iStockPhoto, and stock.xchng, but a favorite hidden gem is Pexels for great free options. However, it is important to remember to select images that are licensed for Creative Common usage. If the images you select are not Creative Common licensed, the owner or creator of the image may take legal action against you. When searching for images for your site, always make sure the ones you select are licensed for editorial use.
Tip #1 – Image Alt Text
When people visit your site and see a picture of a vintage motorcycle, they immediately understand what they are looking at. Unfortunately, search engine spiders can not make the same distinction. As the spider crawls your website, it will recognize that there is an image imbedded, but it lacks the ability to understand what the image represents. That’s why it is vital to append an image “alt” text to your photo’s image tag. This will allow the search engine to understand the image. To include it, you simply need to add alt = “image text” to your image tag.
<img alt=”Vintage Motorcycle” src=”vintage-motorcycle.jpg” />
Also, an image can have a “title” tag associated with it. Most browsers will show this as a yellow tooltip. It’s just important to know that the “alt” tag is most important for SEO as it will be displayed if the image is not available. It should go without saying that you absolutely do not want to keyword stuff either of these image attributes, and the image should have width and height defined for W3C compliance.
Tip #2 – File Size
An important consideration when optimizing your images is file size. Large image files can seriously impact load times for web pages, and you want to be sure the images you post do not significantly slow down your site. Use a tool like Picnik or Image Optimizer to reduce the size of your image files so they do not adversely affect your site’s load time. Also, consider the file extension. A .png file offers greater resolution than a .jpg file, but can be larger and take longer to load. This article on page speed take a more in-depth look and offers some solutions.
Tip #3 – File Name
Choose a descriptive file name for your image, giving special attention to the keywords you want your image to rank for. You may want to perform a few sample searches before deciding on the keyword or phrase that offers the results you desire. Keep the file name short and descriptive, and avoid stuffing it with a long list of keywords. Also, you want to replace spaces in your image name with dashes and not underscores, as only dashes are treated as spaces by the search engines.
Tip #4 – Include a Caption
While image captions have no real impact on search engine rankings, they do have an effect on bounce rates. If someone searches for a term, goes to your page, and immediately bounces back to the search page, it will factor into your page’s ranking. Next to a headline, image captions are one of the most attention grabbing pieces of text on a web page, and if they do not clearly inform the viewer that this is the content they were searching for your visitor may instantly bounce back to the search results page.
Tip #5 – Share Buttons
Don’t forget to give your website’s visitors an opportunity to share your content! The growing popularity of image sharing sites like Pinterest proves that users enjoy sharing photos and graphics. Always include social share buttons so that your content will have a greater chance of reaching a wider audience.
The best online content uses images to grab the reader’s attention, and to make articles and web pages more visually attractive. Image optimization allows webmasters and SEOs to use photos and graphics to not only entertain their readers, but to gain ground in search engine results.