When it comes to SEO, words matter. But what’s often overlooked is just how much image SEO matters too.
Whether you’re creating a blog post or crafting website content, words AND images need to be considered for your SEO strategy.
First, let’s do a quick refresher on SEO.
What is SEO?
As we discuss On-Page SEO Factors, SEO is: “a practice meant to increase organic results for your website. Unlike paid advertising tools and campaigns, SEO focuses on “free” or “natural” ways to get results.”
In that same post, we cover important ranking factors that can’t be overlooked in your SEO strategy:
- Site speed: How quickly does the site load?
- Mobile friendliness: Is the website optimized for mobile use?
- User experience: Is the site easy to navigate? Accessible?
- Backlinks: Links from other sources leading back to your content
- Domain age and authority (typically, older domains rank higher and have more authority)
- Security: Was your website created with a well-coded website builder? Does your site have a robots.txt file that tells Google where to look for site information? Is your site SSL security enabled? Does it have a sitemap that lists all your pages?
- Optimized content and on-page factors
Now that last point – optimized content and on-page factors – includes the images you use on your website.
What is image SEO?
Rather than optimizing the words in blog posts or web copy, image SEO refers to optimizing your images for SEO. Interestingly, this still includes the use of keywords in many instances! But there’s a lot more that goes into image SEO and we’re going to explore all of those elements in this post.
(Speaking of keywords, here’s how to use the Google Keyword Planner)
So, let’s dive into how you can optimize those images for SEO purposes and get even more traffic to your site!
8 Actionable Image SEO Tips for Boosting Organic Traffic
Tip #1: Use Them!
Perhaps you aren’t including images at all in your blogs or on your website. If not, this is an obvious place to start.
In fact, one study from SkyWord found adding images to blog posts can boost their views by as much as 94% percent! If that isn’t a good enough reason to learn image SEO, what is?
Now that you know how important it is to use images on your website, let’s talk about maximizing their positive effect on SEO in the next seven tips.
Tip #2: Use authentic images whenever possible
Look, stock photos definitely serve a purpose in marketing material. They can be a great addition to brochures, e-Books, and other types of online content. But stock photos aren’t always the best idea for blog posts or web pages when it comes to SEO.
Stock photos are appealing for a number of reasons. First, it means we don’t need to spend time on our own photography. There are also plenty of free tools for downloading stock photos online.
But saving time and money on photos for your digital content can still come at a cost. Inauthentic stock images won’t help you rank higher in search engine results for images – an increasingly important element of SEO.
Stock photos are also notoriously bulky and can slow your website down big time. And site speed is yet another SEO ranking factor you have to consider.
So, if you’re convinced it’s time to get original content for your web pages and blog, here are a few places to start:
- Photograph corporate events
- Hire a photographer for team headshots
- Get pictures of your office space
Tip #3: Customize image file names
While it might be easy to stick with a standard image file name like IMG_1234, this isn’t ideal for image SEO.
This can be a big job if you have a large media file to work on, but your efforts can pay off when it comes to getting website traffic.
Spend some time changing the default names to authentic, descriptive file names. The more descriptive, the better. Search engines love getting as many details as possible. The more detail your content, including your images, the better for SEO.
Tip #4: Don’t forget alt text
Not only is image alt text (AKA alt tags or alt descriptions) important for ADA compliance, but it’s also important for SEO.
Alt text is descriptive text that tells users exactly what’s in an image. Ideally, alt text is descriptive enough that it serves the same purpose as the image itself.
As you can imagine, users with visual disabilities or who could not visually interpret an image, benefit significantly from alt text.
When it comes to image SEO, alt text provides you with another great opportunity to include keywords in a natural way.
Depending on the CMS you use (i.e., WordPress, WooCommerce, Drupal, etc.) there are different, although similarly straightforward ways to add alt text to your images.
Here’s how it looks in WordPress:
Focus on making the alt text as descriptive as possible while still keeping SEO in mind.
Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say you sell dog leashes. On your website, you have an image of a red leather dog leash on a golden retriever standing in a field of sunflowers.
Rather than simply using “red dog leash” as your alt tag, here’s an example that’s not only more user-friendly, but better for SEO too:
“A red leather dog leash on a golden retriever standing in a field of sunflowers.”
Tip #5: Optimize images for mobile use
No matter your business, there’s a good chance that a big chunk of your traffic comes from mobile users. The problem is, mobile SEO is a whole different ball game with a bunch of other ranking factors you need to keep in mind.
When it comes to mobile image SEO, a great place to start is simply making sure your images are responsive.
What are responsive images?
These are images that automatically adjust based on the screen they’re being viewed on.
As you can imagine, optimal image size on a smartphone vs. a desktop computer will be different, and responsive images take care of these differences for you.
Some CMS platforms let you download plugins to quickly create responsive images for your content. But to create responsive images for your site on your own, it will take a bit of coding knowledge. But it’s a very straightforward process for web developers. (This is just another reason outsourcing your web design is so useful!)
Tip #6: Reduce image size
As important as it is to have images on your site, if they slow your site down and don’t load properly, they aren’t doing you any favors.
Slow page loading is incredibly frustrating for users. Often, it results in them giving up and clicking out of your content altogether.
And Google knows how important usability is for readers too. When they crawl your site, page load time is taken into account. So, if images are slowing down your page load time, they’re slowing down your SEO success too!
There are free tools online that can compress your images, and it can also be done in Photoshop, or with different WordPress plugins.
Not sure if your images are slowing down your site? Check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
Tip #7: Pick the right file format
PNG, JPEG, GIF – what are they and how do you choose? Depending on the type of image you’re uploading, the right file format will be different. They all have different compression methods and can play a big role in how quickly (or not) your images load.
Ultimately, you want the most compressed image for SEO purposes without sacrificing image quality for users.
Here are some general guidelines for choosing the right file format for your images.
JPEG: Sharing a straightforward, clear image without text? JPEG is usually the way to go!
PNG: This format is generally best for images with text in them, often including screenshots, graphics, and logos.
GIF: This file format is ideal for moving images.
If you’re using a program like Photoshop to create or edit images, you can export your file to the format of your choosing based on the image type.
Tip #8: Make an image sitemap
Take it from Google themselves, image sitemaps are important! At the same time, an image sitemap is an incredibly useful way to help Google index your content and ultimately rank better on search engines.
Images are an important source of information about the content on your site. You can give Google additional details about your images, and provide the URL of images we might not have otherwise discovered by adding information to an image sitemap.
Image sitemaps can contain URLs from other domains, unlike regular sitemaps, which enforce cross-domain restrictions. This allows you to use CDNs (content delivery networks) to host images. We encourage you to verify the CDN’s domain name in Search Console so that we can inform you of any crawl errors that we may find.
On WordPress sites, images are automatically added to your sitemaps. But on other platforms, you might have to manually add the coding to create your sitemap.
Want more help with image SEO?
With these eight tips for image SEO best practices on your side, you’re off to a great start. But the world of SEO is vast, and it can be difficult to navigate on your own.
Let us help!
Blue Water Marketing in Stuart, Fl., is your go-to source for all of your digital marketing needs, from website design to SEO, Facebook advertising, and so much more! Contact us today to find out how we can help your unique business.