Search engine optimisation is a fundamental step in a digital marketing initiative. There are many techniques to optimise your page, both on-page and off-page. But performing SEO on images is often forgotten or considered trivial. With Google changing its (search engine results page) SERPs ranking algorithm almost everyday, image optimisation has become a key area of interest. Today, we explore the importance and the tricks to optimise your images for efficiency in SERP rankings.
What is image optimization (SEO Images)?
Image optimization (on-page SEO images) refers to the steps taken to make the images on your web page more readable and user-friendly both for users and search engines. Image optimization literally translates your images into the text to help search engines read and index them faster.
We often think that if we insert a pretty image into our website, it will go nicely with the text. But what we don’t understand is, from a search engine perspective, it can’t even understand what the image is about. It is here that image optimisation helps translate your image to be found by search engines and therefore display in results. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and that is literally true with SEO too.
Image optimisation also has several other advantages like it creates a better user experience, cuts down page loading time, and increases ranking opportunities. How come? Let’s find out.
How to make images SEO friendly?
Images can be optimised just like the content on your page. Optimised images can boost your Google search ranking. This is especially true today with the advent of voice search when media and image results are gaining more popularity. There are three main pillars to look out for when optimising your image. You need to ensure:
Ingenuity: How to ensure Genuine-ness?
As Google starts focusing more on user experience and quality content on webpages, it applies to images on your page as well. Well executed image optimization SEO is appealing to users and search engines too, which is what we should aim for.
Best SEO Images are Content Relevant
Always use relevant images. Your Images and content should help you connect and/or communicate with your reader. If your Images are not relevant to the user, it will not feature in Image Search.
Based on your On-page SEO, Google may index your images on its Image search page. If the image is not relevant for the keyword or the search query, Google will soon realise that you are not genuine and using black hat SEO tactics by putting images for the hack of it. This will lead to your images getting deindexed.
SEO stock images
As with SEO content, originality is essential for images too. From a user perspective, you would prefer an original image over an obviously photoshopped one, won’t you?
Cluttering your blog post with generic stock photos is a turn off for users and may even make you look like a sham. Even if you only have stock photos to use, pick ones that are more natural-looking. Go for those on the 5th page of the search result than on the 1st. These are less likely to have been used by other websites.
Original and unique images give the users a better experience and even boost your chance of ranking high on relevant searches.
Ensure that there is no copyright violation for the pictures you use. When using Getty or Shutterstock images, get the license for the image use or you are risking yourself an expensive lawsuit. To make sure if it’s a copyrighted image or not, use the Google Images filter to sieve images based on those available for reuse. You can also use free images, a lot of which are available if you prefer not to pay for them.
Quality: Image quality for good SEO
High-quality images boost the appearance of your webpage. Striking the balance between file size and quality will make your page a winner both in appeal and page loading speed. Below is what Google recommends for Images.
- Images should be at least 1200 pixels wide.
- Every page must contain at least one image (whether or not you include markup). Google will pick the best image to display in Search results based on the aspect ratio and resolution.
- Image URLs must be crawlable and indexable.
- Images must represent the marked-up content.
- Images must be in .jpg, .png, or. gif format.
- For best results, provide multiple high-resolution images (minimum of 800,000 pixels when multiplying width and height) with the following aspect ratios: 16×9, 4×3, and 1×1.
Always specify the width and height of your image. It gives a better user experience as browsers get to know the size of the image before it loads. This prevents the page from jumping as the images load. I always recommend keeping the image width at least 1200 pixels as this is being recommended by Google.
We said this for on-page SEO content and we are saying it again for images, mobile-friendliness is the name of the game. If not, prepare for a high bounce rate and lower conversions. If done right, optimising for mobile-friendliness can raise your ranking power and make for better user engagement.
To optimise your images for mobile, you can prefer to use responsive images. Thereby, the image will scale according to the size of the site or platform. So it’s no issue if users are using it on desktop or mobile, it self adjusts.
Choose the Right Format
You may have all kinds of images in your hard drive; one’s from the photographer, those edited from Shutterstock and those you captured on your camera. Knowing the major formats that work well on the internet is essential. The two main preferred formats on webpages are;
- JPEG: Smaller file size, which is good but the quality may be lesser. But you can tune it to your aesthetic sense. Ecommerce sites best use JPEG. It provides better quality and small file size. Don’t use GIFs for large product images.
- PNG: They are higher quality images, but the file size is usually larger.
- GIFs: They are great for small entities like thumbnails and aesthetic images. Avoid using GIFS for larger placements as the size is too big, and it affects page loading.
It is the best SEO images format is PNG for all web images, unless you have a professionally shot image where JPEG will fare well too. There are many image optimisation tools available like JPEG Optimizer, Compressnow, Trimage, ImageOptim and Kraken.io to ease your sizing issue.
Compress Your Images
Size is key. We all know how we exit even the most revered webpages if it takes more than 5 seconds to load. Large images weigh your website down. This drastically increases the page loading time. HTTP Archive says images make up to almost 21% of the webpage’s weight.
Compress your images when adding to your webpage. There are many tools that easily let you make your images smaller. Choose one that is easy and doesn’t sacrifice much on quality. You can use Photoshop, WordPress plugin for compression or tool like TinyPNG.
Image SEO for Search engine Readability
You can flaunt the best of images on your webpage, but if Google can’t read it, its values is next to none. That is why you need to accompany images with precise descriptions and keywords. By doing so, you have higher chances of climbing the search engine ranking chart.
Customise Image File Names
This is a crucial step for SEO. Make a note to use descriptive file names with keywords. Search engine crawlers latch on to file names. The descriptive name will tell them what the image is about.
Changing the generic file name to the explanation of the image help search engines understand your image and enhance your SEO value.
For example, if you are a car dealer (insert an image of Volkswagon Vento) and for the above image, if you simply name it as ‘vento-1’ it could be referring to any Vento model, colour or price. Be specific, and use a better name like “Volkswagon-vento-white-2020”. This tells the search engine of the specific model and elaborates the same to the user too.
Alternative text for image SEO
Alt tags are a translation of the image into words. They are typically displayed when the browser can’t render the image properly. Alt tags can be used to describe the image file. They are displayed at the top left corner when the image doesn’t load. Pick a title that is relevant and fits the image. Alt tags with associating keywords on the images on your page also help achieve better rankings in the search engine results.
Another advantage is that Alt text can be seen in the cached text version of the page. It can benefit users as well as search engines to know more about the image. If your image is linked to a different page on your site, alt text act as the anchor text of an internal link.
Image File Structure
File path and file name can affect the ranking factor. They can be optimised by structuring your subfolders to category related topics. Like if you are selling gadgets on your website, place an image in categories. Use the /smartphone/ or /smartwatches/ folder names rather than generic /image/ folders.
Page Title & Description
Google employs page title and description as part of its image search algorithm. It uses different sources, like descriptive information in the title, and meta tags to rank image search results.
On-page SEO factors like metadata, header tags, copy on the page, structured data, etc.that you apply to your content also applies to your image to achieve a good ranking.
Including your images in a sitemap increases your chances of search engines crawlers finding and indexing your pictures. This may generate more traffic to your site. You can add your images to your existing sitemap or create a new sitemap for images.
Captions too are crawled by search engines. Keywords in captions is a bonus. This can get your page listed in the search results. Good SEO depends on balancing page content and image relevance.
On the other hand, misleading captions for images will see a higher bounce rate, which will be caught by Google. This says your content is not a match to your image and therefore may result in a decline in ranking. Form the user perspective, captions on images make your content more engaging and is easier for readers to understand.
We know that image optimisation is an unavoidable part of on-page SEO. The key is to use relevant images and keyword-rich supporting texts like Alt text, metatags, and captions. Optimise your images for speed and don’t forget Google crawlers who use the sitemap to find your images. Have more questions on image optimisation? Get in touch with Brandloom for one-stop digital marketing solutions.