Saturday, October 21, 2017

SEO 101: How to Optimize Images

Search engines love words. Expressed clearly and concisely, the written word is the best path to online success. Of all forms of content--including images, videos, music, and even emojis--words are the easiest for web crawlers to identify and parse for relevancy. Also, a text-based site is easiest to optimize.

Other content forms may create complications. Flash, for example, is notoriously bad for SEO--despite Google's efforts to index it. As we wrote last July, when we celebrated the demise of Flash:

"The reason Flash is so bad for SEO is partly about usability. Flash makes websites run slower; it also makes sites harder to navigate. Slow, hard to navigate sites do not impress the search engines..."

This is only the beginning of the problems: Flash does not have URLs, cannot be searched or indexed, and uses content that those web crawlers cannot identify or parse.

Read: Good SEO News: Flash is Dead

Unfortunately, the problems with Flash may also apply to other forms of content, which have not been optimized for search engines. Without proper optimization, for example, your websites images may be as worthless as Flash.

Image content should add visual appeal to a website without harming SEO efforts. In fact, if optimized correctly, the right image will boost performance. The key, of course, is the proper optimization of each and every image. Below we discuss five rules for optimizing your images.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Just ask Klaus Pichler, who photographed people in cosplay for
his series of images, "Just the Two of Us." Of course, online a picture is only worth a thousand words when it's optimized for search engines.
SEO 101: Five Rules for Optimizing Images for Search Engines

1. Your Image Must be Relevant

We used the image from Klaus Pichler above to illustrate a point: Your image should be relevant to your topic; if not, the image must provide some illustrative purpose.

This image of a robot warrior in his living room is not necessarily  relevant to SEO. However, 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 robot warrior picture.

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

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

Before you optimize an image, then, you must make sure the image is relevant to your topic.

2. Your Image Must Be Unique

A relevant image is a good start; a unique image is even better.

The best websites include images created explicitly for the website. If you spend time creating text for your site; why not create images, too? An image created for a specific page can be optimized for an additional attraction--beyond the text itself.

Most people 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.

3. You Must Choose a Descriptive Title for Your Image

If you take your own pictures, your camera assigns each image a name: IMAGE1.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 warrior image above, for example, could be named Cosplay-Warrior-Klaus-Pichler.jpg.

Note the dashes between each word.  A search engine will not easily recognize CosplayWarriorKlausPichler.jpg. This is a common, yet easily avoided, mistake.

The dashes separate the words for the crawlers, who can then properly index the image.

4. You Must 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, if you have an "alt" tag for your image, 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 text with your images. Here is an example of an alt tag for the picture above:

"src="Cosplay-Warrior-Klaus-Pichler.jpg." "alt="Cosplay Warrior by Klaus Pichler"

5. You Must Scale Images Appropriately 

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

Another image from Klaus Pichler's image project, "Just the Two of Us."

SEO Image Optimization with Stepman's SEO

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

Stepman's SEO effectively promotes websites with text and images. To learn more about Stepman's SEO unique approach to website optimization, call today: 215-900-9398.