We’ll start by stating the obvious — if you run an online business, you should be using images to boost your SEO and improve your user experience. Adding visual content to your site is more important than ever and the research backs it up:
- One-third of all the searches performed on Google are for images.
- Using an image every 75-100 words can DOUBLE the number of social shares you get.
- Studies have shown that when people absorb information heard, they retain only about 10% of it three days later. If that same information is read and there’s an image paired with it, they are able to retain 65%.
- Researchers found that visuals with color increased people’s willingness to read content by 80%.
- When it comes to purchasing decisions, an incredible 93% of consumers see visuals as the key deciding factor.
Images also help build your brand’s identity, instill trust and tell shoppers it’s okay to take a closer look. Of course, you’re probably already using images on your site, so these stats just reinforce what you already know. But you may be wondering why your product photos or blog visuals never show up when you do a google image search. There could be a number of reasons why, and they all have to do with one thing: image optimization.
Images that aren’t optimized can drag your website down, making it load slowly and sending potential shoppers fleeing to competitors. And, the less time they spend on your site, the less Google will value it in search results. What’s more, un-optimized images won’t get discovered by Google’s web crawlers as much as ones that are.
So, how do you make sure your images are optimized? Here are seven tips that are guaranteed to drive traffic and supercharge your SEO.
Image Optimization Tip #1: Finding the Right Image
Your site’s images need to be relevant and compelling. Easier said than done, right? If you incorporate product photography on your eCommerce site, the images need to be:
- Clear. For obvious reasons, a blurry or pixelated shot is going to turn shoppers off to the product and your brand. Images should be crisp, clean and easy to distinguish. After all, they represent your content in a “snackable” form.
- . Consistent. Consistency goes hand-in-hand with great marketing and images are no different. If you shoot on a white background with a particular depth of field and a specific saturation, make sure every product image uses the same parameter.
- Varied. You’ll want clean-cut product-only images, like this one:
But you’ll also want contextual images that help your reader imagine themselves using your product:
For blog posts and other long-form content, utilize images that tell your reader they’re in the right place and make them want to stick around. That means images that are intimately related to the content, and not generic or overused. In other words, avoid stock photos that look like stock photos.
They also need to be legally sourced or you could find yourself in a heap of trouble. For example, don’t just grab an image you find on Google Image search without first vetting it.
Here are a few places to find great visual content:
- 123rf.com maintains an absolutely enormous archive of photos, vectors, infographics and footage at fairly reasonable prices.
- Pexels has a huge selection of Creative Commons Zero images, all of which are free for personal and even commercial use, and no attribution is required.
- Unsplash offers tons of images that are free to use both non-commercially and commercially, no permission or attribution needed.
Image Optimization Tip #2: Naming Your Image
It would be really easy to fly through your product images and just keep the default names for every pic. Unfortunately, you’d be missing a huge SEO opportunity by doing this. Take this picture as an example:
You could leave the generic title your camera gave it. Say, IMG_5867. It would serve you much better to rename it 2018-Toyota-Prius-Hybrid-Red.jpg.
That’s because when shoppers search for a car, they will use search terms like:
- Toyota Prius 2018
- 2018 Red Prius
- Red Toyota Prius Hybrid
In your website analytics, you should see patterns and keywords your customers use. Armed with that info, you can tailor your image names to match how your shoppers search.
Image Optimization Tip #3: Use Alt Tags Carefully
Of all the tips here, alt tags are arguably the most important thing you can do help Google find your images. Alt tags are alternative pieces of text you can attach to your images in the HTML code. You’ve seen them; they’re the bits of information that pop up when you hover your mouse over an image. They’re used for accessibility, but they’re also fantastic for adding SEO value. Since search engines can’t “read” images yet, alt attributes give them the information they need to understand where to rank your visuals.
Here are some best practices for choosing your alt tag text:
- Use plain language; the same way you did for naming your image file.
- Resist the urge to pack your alt tags with keywords. Instead of “alt=Toyota Prius Hybrid Save Gas 2018 Sale Best Price Red” simply describe the image. Only use your keywords if they fit naturally: “alt=2018 Red Toyota Prius”.
- If your products have serial numbers or model numbers, add them to your alt tags so shoppers will find them when they search for a specific model.
- Don’t use them for decorative images. Decorative images are ones that are there to make the site look engaging yet don’t add any relevant information to the page.
Image Optimization Tip #4: Add Captions Properly
Another image optimization best practice is to add captions. While your picture might seem self-explanatory, research into the ways people scan web pages shows that captions have a higher chance of being read than even the main body text or product description. In fact, they’re read up to four times more!
With that in mind, we suggest writing your captions with three goals:
- Explain what the picture means. If it’s a graph, offer a simple explanation. If it’s a picture, give readers a rundown of how the picture pertains to the content of your text.
- Help Google and other search engines find your image. In addition to the alt attributes and image title, captions can help Google web crawlers classify your image and understand where it belongs in image search results.
- Keep readers engaged. If your readers are engaged by your compelling captions, they’re more likely to read more of your content. The more they read your content, the longer they stay on your site, which will help your SEO — Google watches how much time visitors stay on your pages.
Image Optimization Tip #5: File Size and Quality
JPEGs; TIFFs; PNGs; GIFs; BMPs; SVGs; BATs — there are tons of image file formats out there, each one with different qualities and compressions. So how do you know what’s going to work best for your site? Let’s look at some of the most common:
JPEGs are the most popular format for web visuals because they offer relatively good quality and small file sizes. JPEGs do lose some quality when they are compressed, but that loss of quality is typically not noticeable to the human eye until you get extremely small.
The main drawback to JPEGs is that they don’t support transparent backgrounds.
For help with optimizing JPEGs, check out jpegtran.
PNGs offer some advantages over JPEGs. They support more colors for eye-popping graphics, they allow transparency and they never lose quality no matter how much they’re compressed.
However, PNGs are much larger than JPEGs, sometimes clocking in at double the size for the same quality. This can set back page load times, which will hurt your SEO — Google wants your pages to load in 2-3 seconds at most, images and all.
Take a look at these resources for optimizing PNGs:
GIFs support transparency and complete animation effects. However, they’re much lower quality than either PNGs or JPEGs, so you’d only want to use them for smaller applications.
To recap: use JPEGs for almost all of the elaborate visuals on your site. Use PNG if your graphics are color-intensive and your page doesn’t have a lot to load. Use GIFs in limited circumstances when you need animation.
Gifsicle is a great resource for optimizing GIFs.
Image Optimization Tip #6: Use an Image Site Map
Image site maps will help Google and other search engines find information that it might not typically discover through crawling. This bonus info will boost the likelihood of being found, giving you an advantage over competitors who aren’t using it.
You can either add this image info to your existing sitemap or create a completely separate sitemap. Here’s an example of what that would look like:
If all that coding seems daunting to you, there’s good news. There are many tools and code snippets that will generate a sitemap for you, including Site Map Pro, GWebCrawler & Google Sitemap Creator, Google Site Map Generator and phpSitemapNG.
Image Optimization Tip #7: Image Checkers and SEO Tools
All of our tips so far have talked about what to do when adding new images to your site, but what about the images that are up there now? Pouring through your code is a time-consuming process and who has time for that when you’re moving at the speed of enterprise?
Thankfully, there are a number of handy tools that will scour your site and find image SEO issues so you can fix them and get your site’s visuals back at the top of search results. All of these look at things like file name, file size and alt text:
- The Durham University Alt Text Checker will analyze the HTML on your site and highlight any issues it finds in your alt text. This gives you a nice visual way to go through and fix any problem discovered.
- SEO Chat Page Image and Link Analysis Tool looks at every aspect of the images on your site so you can quickly remedy the issues that are exposed.
- The Image Alt Test from SEO Site Checkup will scrutinize your site and compare it to a competitor’s. Just put your URL and the URLs of any competition and click “Checkup!”.
Let EnableVue Optimize Your Images
Staying on top of your image SEO is a full-time job and there are likely higher value tasks you should focus on to run your business. EnableVue’s team of SEO professionals can automate the process for you, optimizing your current site or adding new content that performs well.
We’ll make sure your imagery stays powerful, relevant and optimized for today’s ever-changing SEO world.