Unless you are brand new to content marketing, you probably already understand the power of images. Not only do they make your website content and blog posts more beautiful, but posts and links featuring pictures are more frequently read, shared, and commented on. Here’s how you can leverage the rankings boost image SEO can provide.
It should go without saying that the images you choose should be legally yours to share. This means creating your own pictures, getting permission, or finding images in the public domain, or through Creative Commons. If you’re confused on that, here is a good resource.
So, how do you make images work for you?
In addition to making your content more appealing to web searchers, images can also make your content more attractive to search engines if properly optimized. It’s likely your competitors won’t be bothered to take the time to properly optimize images, so this is totally worth it. Here are our must-do’s for image SEO. We hesitated to share this content, well, because it’s powerful. It can be the difference between a #3 page ranking and a #6 page ranking.
Choose appropriate images
Images should either illustrate, or complement your content. An illustration gives further insight into the written content, while a decorative image complements some part of the meaning, or emotional element of your content.
- Images should be appealing and eye catching.
- Select images that are unusual to make them stand out
- The image promises something about your content, make sure the content pays off, or readers may be disillusioned by your image choices.
Select high resolution pictures, with low file size
This may seem like an oxymoron, but just as important as how good the picture looks, is how fast it loads. Images that take too long to load will send a large percentage of potential readers back to the search results for another option. It could be costing you money!
- Start with a larger image and shrink it, if possible, instead of enlarging small pictures, which quickly become grainy.
- Image resolution can be adjusted using Photoshop, or other image editing software. Experiment to get the smallest file size, while still maintaining a clear picture.
- Use the “save for web” option, or similar setting when saving your images for best results.
- Remove unnecessary file data, like EXIF metadata, and compress your images without reducing its quality. If you’re using a Mac, this app will help you to do just that!
Titles are important for image SEO
Rename your image files to suit your document. If the image is an illustration, describe the image in the title, using appropriate keywords. If the image is more decorative, use keywords appropriate to your content.
- Search engines scan your image titles and include them in ranking your site for topic and relevance.
- Choose titles that contain search terms your ideal audience might search for – that also accurately describe your image.
- Don’t stuff your titles with keywords – make them make sense. Search engines will penalize your content if keywords are used too frequently.
Optimizing your Alternate Text
When titling your images, your content management system should offer you the ability to add “alternate text”. This text is added to the “alt” attribute which shows up in search results if your images are not rendering properly, or if the user has a text-only browser. An accurate image description can help searchers determine if you have what they are looking for.
- Write alternate text for every image, every time
- Use keywords sparingly for additional SEO
- Write your alternate text in plain English and keep it short for mobile and text browsers
*Here’s a bonus link on the difference between Title text and Alt Text.
Anchor link text optimization
Any time you link to images with text, the hyperlink appears on the page as either a raw URL, or as plain English text, linked to the image’s location. Keywords used in Anchor text provide an extra layer of SEO.
- Describe your image, or content accurately.
- Keep the linked text short for better appearance.
- Select the portion that contains keywords to add to the hyperlink.
Testing your images
Image SEO is only effective if your images appear and function as they should. Each piece of content containing images should at least get a visual inspection to ensure that placement, size and appearance is what you expected.
- Use the “preview” feature on your CMS to inspect the post, or page before making it public.
- If there are links in your images, or if they are linked to anchor text, test your links for proper function.
- From time to time, you should examine your own content in another browser than the one you usually use. This is especially true for mobile browsers. Correct any issues you discover for best performance.
By taking the time to choose appropriate images and optimize each image every time, you can multiply the on-page SEO benefits of your content several times over. It’s likely your competitors can’t be bothered to take the time to do this – and online, you only need to “win by a nose” to win the rankings race. Most importantly, it will make your content easier to find and increase the effectiveness of the work you are already putting in.