Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How to Optimize Images for Search Engines

Search engines love text. The written word, expressed clearly and concisely, is the most straightforward path to ranking success. Of all forms of content--including images, videos, and music--text is the easiest for web crawlers to identify and parse for meaning.

This is an essential SEO adage--so essential, in fact, that other forms of content are often neglected in the SEO world. A text-based site, after all, is easiest to optimize. Other forms of content can create SEO complications. Flash, for example, is notoriously bad for SEO--despite Google's efforts to index it. As Rand Fishkin writes over at the Moz blog:

"Google's indexing Flash and Flash developers can rejoice now that their content is SEO-friendly. Sorry - I don't buy it for a second. Flash content is fundamentally different from HTML on webpage URLs, and being able to parse links in the Flash code and text snippets does not make Flash search-engine friendly."

Read: Flash and SEO - Compelling Reasons Why Search Engines & Flash Still Don't Mix

That said, we all understand that a website can not succeed without a variety of content. Image content, especially, can dramatically add to the appeal of a website without harming SEO efforts. In fact, if used correctly, the right image can boost performance. The key, of course, is the proper optimization of each and every image.

A picture is worth a thousand words--just ask Cookie Monster. In the SEO world, however, the picture needs to be appropriately optimized for search engines

Just Like Text, Your Image Should be Relevant

We used the image of cookie monster above to illustrate a simple point: your image should be relevant to your topic; if not, the image must provide some illustrative purpose.

This image of cookie monster is not relevant to SEO. It is relevant to a blog post about images. If properly optimized, this image might help attract an audience--just not the right audience. After all, the audience of an SEO blog is not the same as the audience for a cookie monster picture.

This picture's value, then, is visual intrigue. This is great, of course, for readers of this blog. Yet the image itself, even if optimized, does little to attract new readers via search.

Sadly, this is the case with many online images today: they are not relevant to the topic; they only function as visual intrigue; and they add little to nothing to the SEO value of the text.

Before you  begin to optimize an image, then, make sure the image is relevant to the topic at hand.

Just Like Text, Your Image Should be Unique

A relevant image is great; a unique image is better. The best pages include images created explicitly for the page. You spend time creating text for your site; why not create images, too? An image created explicitly for a specific page can be optimized to create an additional attraction--beyond the text itself.

Most browsers can spot a stock image from a mile away. Stock photos smack of generic content. Avoid stock photos, whenever possible. If you do not have the time or resources to create your own images, consider a site that offers "creative commons" images, like Flickr.

Now we turn to the actual optimization of your relevant and unique image. 

Choose a Descriptive Title for Your Image

If you take your own pictures, you'll note that your camera assigns each image a name: IMAGE10.jpg, for example. Many images downloaded from the web share a similarly arbitrary name. To optimize your images, make sure you name each with a keyword-rich description.

The cookie monster image above, for example, could be named Sad-Cookie-Monster.jpg.

Note the dashes between each word. A search engine will not easily recognize SadCookieMonster.jpg. The dashes separate the words for the crawlers, who can then properly index the image.

Create Alt Tags for Each Image

An alt tag is a text-alternative for an image. Sometimes, your image will not be properly loaded by a browser. When this happens, your visitor can hover over the image to see the text. This is valuable for this unique situation, yet it is also another way to associate specific text with your images. Here is an example of an alt tag for the Cookie Monster picture:

"src="Sad-Cookie-Monster.gif" "alt="Sad Cookie Monster"

Scale Images Appropriately 

As a rule, you should scale images to the smallest size possible--without compromising image quality. The smaller the image, the faster the loading time. The free tool, image optimizer, can perform this function for you.

Image Optimization with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with text and images, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398.

Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

No comments:

Post a Comment