SEO and its importance to modern business need no introduction. The span of SEO is so widespread that sometimes even the most experienced marketer tends to overlook certain aspects of it.
Image SEO is one such area! It’s highly important for online businesses, especially if you’re an e-commerce website. Do you ever wonder why your images never show up in Google’s image search? It is primarily because they are not properly optimized for search engines.
In this write-up, we will take a look at what image SEO is, how important it is to the overall SEO mechanism and discuss some of the modern ways to do it right.
Here we go…
The Importance of Visuals
Visual content has always been important for humans. Here is an extract from Dr. Brad Bushman’s article published in 2012 on how well the human brain can retain visuals.
“Words are abstract and rather difficult for the brain to retain, whereas visuals are concrete and, as such, more easily remembered. To illustrate, think about your past school days of having to learn a set of new vocabulary words each week. Now, think back to the first kiss you had or your high school prom date. Most probably, you had to put forth great effort to remember the vocabulary words. In contrast, when you were actually having your first kiss or your prom date, I bet you weren’t trying to commit them to memory. Yet, you can quickly and effortlessly visualize these experiences.”
Visuals make the audience more involved in the text and they tend to remember information for a longer period of time.
Using high-quality images in your content was, in the past, not that easy but things have changed.
With advances in technology, especially the Internet, the evolution of media has been unstoppable. Do you remember those early Internet days when slow dial-up connections and simple HTML sites were the norms? Remember how simple pictures could take up to minutes to load and sometimes just get stuck in the middle? With the average Internet speed in Mbps now, the inclusion of media including high-quality photos, videos, GIFs, etc in our content is the new norm. Today, it takes much more than words to garb the online reader’s attention and keep them engaged. And while written content allows you to naturally include keywords to help your site rank well, visual content can give your SEO strategy a further boost.
Furthermore, social media has helped the media evolution as well. The majority of websites use different social media platforms to divert traffic to their pages. The right kind of images (and other visuals) can really be a game-changer here. Marketers today, who rely more on visuals, have more followers, a bigger audience, more sales, and better ROI.
Using the right kind of visual strategy is not only limited to your web pages. In fact, it is equally important to know which images and fonts should be used in email marketing, social media, and whatnot.
What Is Image SEO & Why Is It Important?
Image SEO can be defined as the techniques used to reduce the image size, using the right image attributes, filenames, dimensions, captions, alignment, etc to make a picture ready for the Internet.
When used correctly on your blog, visuals can have a great positive benefit for your rankings. In particular, proper image SEO tags can help with the following:
- Site Load Time. Reducing the size of pictures is an important part of image SEO. How fast a web page will load is directly dependent upon the size of the images it has.
- Higher Rank in Image Search. Google photo search has already gained more popularity than ever before. Did you know more than 60% of people browsing through pictures on Google are likely to check and visit the source? Image SEO tags can really boost your ranking in Google’s image search. This, in turn, will bring in more traffic, especially if you are selling products online.
- Positive User Experience. SEO-friendly images are known to positively impact the overall user experience. They engage the audience and improve your site’s bounce rate.
- Make Content Viral. Pictures that are relevant and tell a story are more likely to go viral. The image below was posted on Huffington Post, telling the story of Syrian refugee holding on to his kids while trying to cross a border. It got more than 90,000 impressions on social media.
Doing Image SEO Like Pros
1. Pictures That Add Value
Firstly, photos can only add more value to your content if they are relevant to the topic being discussed. Stock images or images found on sites dedicated to photo usage, have two major problems if you want to use them: 1) the images have probably been used a lot and quite often; and 2) it’s hard to find a relevant image for your situation.
While stock photos may look amazing, they can also hurt the originality of your site. So, you would be better off avoiding them as much as you can.
The bottom line here is to avoid using stock photos as much as you can.
There are amazing tools available online that can help you create unique, stunning visuals for your site. We have combined a few of them in this post, so take a look at it and discover some great ways to create pictures that add value to your content.
2. File Name
Google is smart, but it doesn’t actually see your images to decide if they are relevant. It can only read the information you shared about the visual, so the filename and any other text surrounding the photo become important.
Default names like “001.JPG” won’t hurt your SEO per se, but it’s not going to do any good either. To improve your image SEO, we recommend including your primary keywords in the name of the picture. It could be something in this format: “main-keyword-for-image-seo.jpg” where “main keyword” is your primary keyword.
For instance, we have a picture of a group of people at a WordPress conference in Sofia. A good name for this picture might be: “WordPress-conference-2017-Sofia.jpg”
Image dimensions are important for two reasons. First, for user experience and second, for Google image search.
Have you ever noticed that most images in Google search results are more wide than tall? Google doesn’t lay out any clear guidelines in this regard, but we recommend using the photos that fit your page nicely without leaving any awkward white space around it.
According to experts, the recommended size for full-width high resolution images is 2400x1600px. Whereas for images inside the content, the max-width i s1500px for horizontal and 1000px for vertical visuals.The current theme and layout of the design will also help you in deciding the perfect dimensions of pictures.
Additionally, to give your images a web-friendly resolution, always use the “Save for web” option when possible. Photographs should be saved and uploaded as JPEGs, and graphics as PNGs.
Bonus Tip: Make sure the images you use are mobile-friendly. Testing it on different screens is the way to go. WordPress is able to optimize images for all screens by adding src.
4. The File Size
This is directly proportional to the site speed. The bigger the size, the more time it will require to load which will have a negative impact on your overall site and image SEO, as well as on your bounce and engagement rate. Hence, the smaller and lighter the image the better your site will perform.
However, keep in mind that when you bring down the image file size, the quality will also be affected. So, the bottom line is, reduce the file size as much as you can while keeping the quality intact.
According to Jimdo, the optimal file size for a full-screen background and large images is maximum 1 MB. Other small graphics and images should be 300 KB or less.
If you need help with resizing your images you can use an online tool. We recommend TinyPNG for reducing the file size.
A caption is a small text which is often placed separately at the bottom of the picture. They are important for image SEO tags because readers use them to scan a long-form copy. However, not every image needs a caption. Only the ones that would improve the user experience do.
While using captions for SEO purposes, be careful with over-optimization. Use captions wisely, and place them only where you think it would help your audience.
6. XML Sitemap
WPBeginner defines XML sitemap as:
“Sitemap is a list of pages on a website that is accessible to all users. An XML sitemap is a way for website owners to tell search engines about all the pages that exist on their website. WordPress XML sitemap also tells search engines which links on your website are more important than others and how frequently you update your website.”
By creating a new XML sitemap for any visual and sending it Google’s way can help make your content more crawlable. It doesn’t directly impact the search ranking, but if you believe you have a high-quality, relevant and original visuals, be sure to include this information in your image SEO tags.
One of the best practices related to XML is to exclude the “media” post type from your XML sitemaps settings. We also recommend Yoast SEO, which is a plugin that helps enrich XML with images.
7. Alt Text and Title Text
Alternative text, more commonly known as Alt Text, is a small text that appears in place of an image if it fails to load so that no information or functionality is lost. Some browsers even show this when you hover the mouse over it.
The main role of the alt text is to improve accessibility by allowing screen readers to read out what the image is about to visually impaired people. This is also very important for image SEO as it helps search engines understand the image’s context.
In WordPress, there is a separate box for adding alt text. Click on “Add Media” or “edit” an image to an image alt tag. See the screenshot below on how you can add alt text and how it will be displayed when the image fails to load.
Many people confuse alt text with title text and just copy-paste the content from alt to title text. This is fine unless you’re including the primary keywords there.
The main difference between the two is that the alt text is used for image SEO tags and accessibility, whereas the title text is used for media search. In WordPress the image alt tag is included in the actual code of the image, while the title text is stored in the database to help webmasters easily find and display images.
If your content is good, coupled with all the relevant, high-quality and original pictures and you’re following the basic guidelines (above), everything will begin to fall into place.
Image SEO is a vital part of your overall SEO efforts and if you want to stand out from the competition, you should not ignore it. Image SEO might sound easy, but to do it perfectly you need to consider the tiniest of details. This can be a time-consuming process and often requires professional services.
So, whether you put your in-house team to do it or hire a professional – image SEO must be done!