If you're looking for ways to supplement your SEO strategy, it's time to consider image optimization! Images are a vital addition to any page, but not everyone is aware that they present often untapped opportunities for SEO. Taking advantage of the extensive possibilities that image optimization delivers can boost an already strong SEO strategy. Not sure where to start? We've consolidated some of the most important ways to make your images as search engine and user-friendly as possible!
To begin explaining why image optimization is important, it's necessary to look at your website from a search engine's point of view. You may have a visually rich design loaded with eye-catching photos, but search engines aren't able to process these well (yet). To enlighten the search engine to the presence of relevant images, we use the alt tag, which serves as a text-based alternative to an image.
This alternate text comes in handy in a couple situations:
It's shown when, for whatever reason, the image can't be displayed.
It can be read by screen-readers for users with impaired vision.
Plus, alt tags can aid a search engine in crawling the page and in creating associations between photos and keywords. This is where the SEO benefit really comes into play, allowing you to leverage your photos to reinforce target keywords.
Ensure your alt tags are less than 125 characters and that they contain pertinent, optimized sentences that include target keywords. But don't overuse alt text. Since alt text is a descriptor, it should only be used on images relevant to the page's content. If you start padding all your graphics with keywords, your site could be penalized. Instead, simply leave your alt tag blank (alt="") on decorative images. Decorative images include spacers, bullets, ornate lines, or any graphic that exists simply for design. As always with SEO, there is a happy medium.
Title tags are another way to enhance your image. While they don't have any direct SEO benefits, they can make a site look more technical and polished. Plus, since visitors often expect these, they ultimately contribute to overall user experience—the cornerstone of every SEO strategy. Title tags consist of the text you see when you hover your mouse over an image. They should also contain descriptive text to expand on the contents of the photo. Like alt tags, title tags should remain short and sweet. In fact, they're very similar to alt tags; the only difference is that alt-tags benefit crawlers, while title tags are simply a "plus" for users.
Naming your image file appropriately is another way to emphasize what the content on your page is about and show that the image is relevant. When you upload an image from your camera or from another source, there's a good chance that its current filename comprises a slew of muddled numbers and letters. Clean this up by renaming your file for relevancy. For example, if your photo is of your team, you might rename it to springfield-realty-team.jpg. Ensure that you forego spaces, underscores, and upper case letters when naming files. Instead, use lower case letters and connect words with hyphens.
Image size is a huge factor because image size correlates with page speed, and page speed can affect your rankings. Rankings aside, a page with slow-loading images can often be enough to cause fickle users to exit your page. In a notable experiment, Google discovered that they could lose up to 8 million searches per day by displaying their results four-tenths of a second more slowly than usual.
If you're using a Mac, you can easily resize images using Preview. In Windows, utilize Photo Gallery or Microsoft Paint. You can also browse online and take advantage of the many web-based editing tools at your disposal.
When considering size, it's important to not forget about shareability. For important images on blog posts or highly shared pages, ensure that your photo will look good across social platforms. While the different size recommendations for each outlet can be confusing, you can find a sweet spot that will render well across the board—simply test your image on each site while you work with it.
Image compression serves to retain the dimensions of your photo while minimizing the storage size. Compressing your images can save bytes of data and smoothen loading. There are plenty of (free) tools across the web which can resize and compress your photos without compromising their quality—try TinyPNG.org or compressor.io to start. You can also use Google PageSpeed Insights to identify problem images and uncover the items causing your page to load slowly.
As a general rule of thumb, stick to JPEG and PNG file types only. JPEGs are generally a superior file format due to their capability for substantial compression while retaining resolution. Typically, GIFs are meant for animated or moving images, while PNGs support transparency best. Each file format has its respective strengths and weaknesses. However, make sure to assess file formats on a case-by-case basis.
Image optimization is a great way to enhance your site's overall SEO and loading speed. But the best thing about image optimization is that it's fast and easy way to improve. Once you get the hang of it, all of the above steps should only take a few minutes to complete. Happy optimizing!