These days, to be visible and ‘present’ on Google, the biggest and most powerful search engine on the planet, you need a high-quality website. Websites come in many shapes and sizes, and there is constant debate about what makes a good site, but the lifeblood of sites that want to attract more traffic is SEO or search engine optimisation
Investing in SEO is where you can inject your site with a valuable dose of fuel to make it burn brighter in front of your target audience. Investing in professional SEO services will drastically improve your chances of ranking in the top positions on Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages), for relevant keywords and search terms that can, subsequently, drive more organic traffic to your website.
Recommended SEO strategies include:
- technically optimizing your site to load quickly
- having a responsive mobile-friendly design
- generating high-quality backlinks
- writing professional, authoritative and engaging content on your site’s pages and blogs.
However, high-quality SEO and content marketing best practices don’t stop there. Everything on your site can be optimized to improve your rankings and traffic, including your images, graphics and photos.
Why Optimize Your Images For SEO?
Google’s recent statistics show that 10.1% of Google’s traffic is for image searches. That equates to roughly 1 billion searches and clicks every single day for images alone. This, coupled with the fact that mobile searches for ‘image search’ have grown by over 60%, suggests that people worldwide increasingly rely on images to help them make important decisions.
By creating and choosing high-quality images in the right size, resolution and format on your website, you can make your content more accessible and engaging to your users. Simultaneously, you will also be adding SEO value to your site as a whole. Image optimization also involves adding accurate metadata to your imagery so that search engine crawlers can understand the context of your page and content more easily.
As we have seen in recent years, Google has focused heavily on user experience as part of its constantly changing ranking algorithm, not least with the introduction of Core Web Vitals in 2021. If your site is capable of delivering a positive, fast, and seamless experience, you can improve your chances of ranking higher in search results for relevant keywords in your industry.
Of course, it is technically challenging to balance image optimisation with reducing page load times and affecting the quality of your site, which is why many businesses turn to professional web developers.
If you take on board the following nine SEO tips for image optimisation, you will be well on your way to creating a positive user experience.
1. Use Descriptive And Accurate Alt Text
Alt text (short for alternative text) is a short description of an image.
For example, consider the image below.
A good example of accurate and descriptive ‘alt text’ would be something like: “Young teacher in a classroom accepting answers from a class of kids with their hands raised.”
These descriptions help search engine crawlers index your website more accurately, and thus, your images are more likely to appear in image searches. Google cannot understand the context of images but it can understand alt text.
Alt text also benefits users with visual impairments that need to use screen readers to see and understand what is on their screens. It’s also handy for users that use voice search, which, globally, is used by 27% of the online population on mobile devices (according to Think with Google).
2. Name Image Filenames And Titles Correctly
You should also name the image file itself strategically and with SEO in mind as well as the alt text. Including descriptive relevant keywords can also provide an SEO boost courtesy of your images.
Filenames that consist of a series of numbers and characters add no context, and as such, a search engine cannot make sense of them. Therefore, apply the same logic to the filename as you would if you wrote the image alt text.
Taking the same example above, instead of calling an image of a primary school teacher “IMG4502.jpg”, suggest renaming it to something clearer and more descriptive, such as “man-teaching-in-classroom.jpg”.
3. Use On-Page Image Captions
A third crucial text element to give your website images more context is to use captions. Unlike alt text and filenames, however, image captions are visible and usually sit directly beneath images.
While adding image captions may not have a direct impact on a site’s SEO performance, they can undoubtedly improve the user experience and engagement for searchers that come across your site.
4. Compress Images For Faster Load Times
Google recommends your page load speed be a matter of seconds, and research shows that chances of bounces increased by 32% when page load time went from one to three seconds, and 123% from one to 10 seconds.
The sizes of images can often have a detrimental impact on how fast a page loads.
You can compress your images which can help decrease page load times. By compressing an image, you’re minimizing the file size without drastically affecting the quality or resolution.
Images with high resolution and display dimensions can add unnecessary amounts of time to the average load speed. Resize and compress images to the recommended display dimensions, either manually or by using a site plugin.
5. Choose The Correct Image Formats
The most common image formats include JPG, PNG, SVG, and WebP files. While objectively speaking, there is no right or wrong image to use, the most suitable file type will depend on what you want the image to be used for.
For example, JPG files can be compressed to very small sizes and thus can be good for featured blog images, while SVGs are recommended for brand icons or logos.
6. Use Originals Over Stock Photos
Google – and by extension, its users – love original content. Thus, if you’re hoping your images rank high on image SERPs, you should prioritize using images that are unique and original. Stock photos can be a detriment to a website.
For example, if you are running an eCommerce website, and you post detailed images of your products, this is particularly important. Numerous online shoppers say that product images help them decide whether to commit to a purchase.
If you want your website images to stand out, consider investing in a professional commercial photographer. Alternatively, you can go the DIY route and buy a used, high-quality DSLR and take product images yourself. Either is more professional than using stock photography.
7. Add Images To A Sitemap
Your sitemap provides search engines with a map of everything on your site. Google recommends adding images to an existing sitemap.
By adding images to your sitemap, you’re signaling to Google that you have a diverse range of content on your pages. If you omit images when creating sitemaps, they may never be discovered in crawls.
You can even create an image sitemap which exclusively keeps your image URLs in one place, including ones that are from other domains.
8. Implement Lazy Loading
As well as image compression and file size reduction, lazy loading is also a good way to reduce page load time.
Google recommends that you do not implement lazy loading for ‘above-the-fold’ images, but if you implement it for images in the second half of the page, it can improve user experience. If a user doesn’t scroll down the page, the assets won’t be loaded, therefore creating a faster-loading page.
9. Make Images Responsive For Mobiles
As said above, most searches are conducted on mobile devices. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that your images must be responsive on mobile devices.
The most effective method of achieving this is to design and develop a mobile responsive website. However, you can also make your images responsive by adding HTML and CSS classes individually, but this is much more time-consuming. Luckily, many web hosting providers will automatically confirm whether your images are responsive.
Hopefully, this information has given you food for thought as far as improving your visibility on Google by optimizing the way you upload, categorize and store your images. If your images are of high quality, with professional content and backlinks to accompany them, in the long run, you can improve the amount of traffic, leads, and conversions you get for your company through your SEO efforts.