"A picture paints a thousand words", we've all heard the saying but did you know website images can also be used to improve your SEO efforts? But, for this to happen, they must be optimised correctly.
Many people neglect image optimisation, which is a mistake as it is a key factor in website SEO and can make a big difference to your organic traffic.
Here we look at why images are so important and how to get the best from them.
Choosing an image
First things first, your content needs an image related to the same subject as your text. The reason for this is: a picture surrounded by relevant text, ranks far better for the keyword that it is optimized for, so while a photo of puppies might look cute if it doesn't relate to your business, don't use it!
Another thing to consider is quality, users don't want to see poor images on your website it screams unprofessional and reflects badly on your business always make sure the image you choose can be viewed on multiple devices, has good resolution and is the right size, and has the correct aspect ratio.
Try to add your own images, if possible. Your "About Us" page should have pictures of you and your team, not cheesy stock photos which make your site look characterless and have probably been used thousands of times all over the web. Remember Google likes original!
If you can't use your own images there are still ways to find unique and relevant images without using stock photos. Flickr, for example, is a great place to find images that can be used under a Creative Commons Licence These images can be integrated into your website as long as you give credit to the original owner, make sure you also check the conditions of use as there are various types of CC Licences
If you do need to use stock photos there are a number of free resources here.
Be careful when using images from Google search, even though they might appear to be copyright free and you credit the source, they may originate from Getty or Shutterstock and you could incur a fee further down the line. It is best to filter your results simply click on Search Tools, then click on Usage Rights and select Labeled for Reuse.
Of course, all images need not be photos info-graphs, illustrations and animated GIFs, which are becoming increasingly popular can also improve your content. If you have a Mac Gif Grabber is an excellent tool to make great Gifs for free and you can find a number of free info-graph tools here.
So, you have your chosen image and you're ready to upload it onto your site, but why does it need to be optimised?
Let’s explore why you need to optimise every image on your website from header images to the ones in your blog posts.
- Image searches - Did you know a third of all internet searches are image based? If your visual content is correctly formatted and given a title and tags relevant to your content it will have a much greater chance of showing up in Google image searches. Why is this important? Hopefully, it will hopefully drive more traffic to your website especially true if your product or service is visual ie; florist, holiday cottage rental, decorator or catering company, but just about any business can make it work if they know what they are doing. If you produce info-graphs, pie charts or data based images you will also get the added benefit of others using the data and linking to your site another boost to your SEO efforts
- Loading speed - This is a really important reason you need to optimise images which you include on your website, images are much larger files than basic design elements or text and as such can slow down the loading speed of your site, a big no no, if you want to be ranked on the SERPs. Many users will abandon a site that takes more than a few seconds to load which will have a negative impact on your ranking.
- Loading problems - Lastly, imagine there is a temporary problem with your server or a user is having problems loading your site, if you include alt text on your images, they will be able to see what the image should be rather than just a blank space.
How to Optimize Your Site's Images
- Condense Size - Loading speed is important when it comes to SEO, you want your website to load as quickly as possible and high-resolution images can slow this down significantly, plus, many of your visitors will be searching on mobile devices so a high resolution isn’t really necessary. Condensing your images while maintaining quality will reduce the megabytes of the file and make your site load faster.
This picture is 158kb
While this one is a mere 78kb with almost no deterioration in quality
- Title - If you’re using free or stock images you will find most of them have a title already attached to them, usually a long string of letters or numbers. This gives Google absolutely no information whatsoever about what the image is and therefore the search engine crawlers cannot index it. The best titles you can give them are describing exactly what is going on in the picture such as “girl on a red bicycle" or “locksmith shop on Bridge St, Manchester". You can include keywords that are relevant to your business, but only if it relates to what’s going on in the picture.
- Tag - You will also want to include alt tags that describe the image, for example, you might include words like “girl,” “red,” and “bicycle” for the picture of the girl on the red bicycle. If you are using a complicated image like a chart, diagram or info-graph you can include a link to a detailed text description to get your message across.
Here is an example of alt text:
Not bad: <img src="cat.png" alt="cat in basket">
Better: <img src="cat.png" alt="cat sleeping in basket">
Best: <img src="cat.png" alt="tabby and white cat sleeping in wicker basket">
You can find some useful tips on how to nail your alt tags here
- Caption - The caption, or as it is sometimes known the "alt description", is what shows up if the image doesn't load for a particular reason and is also used to describe the photo for search index purposes. The key here is to include as much description as possible within a single sentence.
- Alignment and Relevance - Often ignored but an important aspect is the alignment and relevance of your images, dumping a picture of kittens in the middle of your content about finances will not see any SEO benefits at all, whereas an image surrounded by relevant content ticks all the boxes. You also need to consider alignment don't just sandwich an image between two paragraphs for the sake of it, your site still has to flow naturally and look good to provide the best possible user experience.
Of course, not all the visual content you will use on your website will be static images, videos are shown to be a popular way of engaging users and are becoming extremely popular. Once again Google, while it may seem to be the fountain of all knowledge, can't get to grips with audio or video so needs help with understanding what it is, you are offering the user. Videos require transcripts and closed captions for the search engines to index them accordingly but that's a whole other article.
The Bottom Line
Image optimization is an essential part of your website's SEO but the good news is, it's not difficult and takes just a few minutes, each time you upload a picture. However, if you have a large website with a lot of images that have not been correctly optimised it is going to take a while.
Want more business?
Search Rise are experts in all aspects of SEO including image optimisation so if you'd like to know more, get in touch today.