Raul Harman May 13th, 2020

Optimize your Images for Search Engines in these 8 Steps

Visual content, especially images, is an immensely important aspect of your website. They make your content easier to read and more engaging. Images also trigger emotions and entice your visitors to convert faster. 

However, just because you are uploading a photo you previously downloaded from a stock photography site and filling in your alt tag doesn’t mean you will accomplish any of the goals mentioned above.

To get the most out of your images, you need to optimize them for search engines.

Now, you are probably asking yourself: “Why should I invest in image SEO when Google’s machine learning algorithms can now recognize images themselves?”

In this guide, I will briefly explain the importance of image SEO and provide a few tips that may serve as your solid starting point.

Let’s dive in.

1. Choose the Right Name for your Images

The filename tells Google what your image is about. For example, white-leather-shoes.jpg provides more information about the image than IMG00154.jpg. No matter how smart Google is, you should help it understand your images faster and more efficiently. 

For starters, you should focus on your main keyword. If your image shows red apples, then your main keyword would be “red apples,” as they are the subject of the photo. Sure, this doesn’t mean you should stuff your filenames with a bunch of keywords. Instead, make sure your image names are clear, informative, and descriptive. 

2. Write Descriptive Alt Text

Alternative text, or alt text, has the same purpose as your filename – to describe an image both to search engines and users. Parallel with the page content, filenames, and computer vision algorithms, Google uses alt text to understand the subject matter of your visual content. These elements also appear when there is something wrong with the photo and a user cannot see it. This way, they will know what the image is about. 

Precisely because of that, your alt tags need to be helpful and straightforward. Avoid packing them with keywords, as this may trigger negative user experiences. Say you want to upload a photo of a white chihuahua playing fetch. Your alt text would be something like <img src="white-chihuahua.jpg" alt="White chihuahua playing fetch"/>.

3. Optimize your Captions

This is the text that accompanies your image on your website. It is usually placed below the photo. The reason why captions are important to your image SEO strategy lies in the fact that Google uses them to learn more about the subject matter of the image. They can also improve user experiences, given that many searchers use headings and captions when scanning online content. 

Similar to image names and alt tags, you need to avoid over-optimization. Instead, rely on white label SEO practices and use your keywords carefully to make your captions organic and useful. 

4. Pick the Right File Type

There is no perfect image file type. Its choice depends on the images you create and your needs. The most popular image file formats are JPEG, PNG, and GIF. 

Each of these file types has certain advantages and disadvantages. JPEG offers the smallest file size and yet, ensures a high image quality. It is the best format for large photos and illustrations. PNG is a logical choice for any fine drawings, logos, illustrations, and text, as it helps you maintain background transparency. GIF is used by marketers creating moving images and animations. 

5. Resize your Images

Choosing the right image file type may directly impact the performance of your visual content. Page load time is a significant ranking factor both on mobile and desktop devices. Therefore, you need to choose the right file type that will help you reduce the size of an image, without compromising its quality. 

There is a wide range of image compression tools you could use, such as ImageOptim, Kraken.io, TinyPNG, Imagify.io, Compressor.io, and so forth. For example, ShortPixel lets you compress your images by up to 80% without losing quality due to lossy, glossy, and lossless compression techniques. You can convert image files to modern formats like WebP and AVIF and if your site is WordPress-based, its comprehensive plugins compress your entire media library and utilize adaptive resizing and smart cropping so everything looks good across all devices.

Once you optimize your images, you can test your page speed using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest.org, Lighthouse, or Pingdom.

6. Use Schema Markup

Using structured data on your pages help Google display your image as rich results. While structured data is not a ranking factor, it can still boost your SEO efforts in multiple ways. 

For starters, it provides users with relevant information and encourages them to click on your link to find out more. It also increases your exposure in the SERPs. Above all, using structured data on your website gives relevant users to find your content faster and, in this way, sends more targeted traffic to your site. 

Google provides support for 4 types of structured data – products, recipes, videos, and GIFs. They say that using the right structured data on your pages helps users find relevant content faster

7. Make Sure your Images are Responsive

In the past, we talked about creating and optimizing content for desktop and mobile devices. Today, we talk about mobile responsiveness. Instead of creating separate visual content for desktop and mobile versions of your website, you should make sure your images adapt to different screen resolutions. And, this is where srcset shines. 

This is a piece of HTML code that tells the browser what version of your image to load, based on users’ screen resolution. Sure, this does not mean you should upload different sizes for each image. From its 4.4 version, WordPress will do that for you. For each image you post, it will automatically make a few versions – thumbnail (150x150), medium (up to 300 px wide or high), medium- large (768 px wide), large (1024 px wide or high), full (original image). Moreover, WP adds srcset automatically.

8. Build an Image Sitemap

Apart from adding alt text and captions to your images, you can also provide additional details about them, as well as image URLs. By creating an XML sitemap, you are helping search engines find your images more efficiently. Google explains that by emphasizing the following:

“Additionally, you can use Google image extensions for sitemaps to give Google more information about the images available on your pages. Image sitemap information helps Google discover images that we might not otherwise find (such as images your site reaches with JavaScript code), and allows you to indicate images on your site that you want Google to crawl and index.”

The good thing is that, if you are using WordPress or Yoast, images are added to your sitemap automatically. 

Over to You

Before you upload an image to your site, make sure it is optimized well for search engines. For starters, write an informative and spam-free image name, alt text, and caption. Then, choose the right image size and compress your images to boost your page load speed. Next, build an XML sitemap and invest in the structured data on your site to boost the exposure of your image and help it appear in Google’s rich results. Finally, make sure your images are responsive and user-friendly. 

By following the tips mentioned above, you will increase your performance in the SERPs. Above all, you will increase user satisfaction, engage them, and encourage them to convert faster.

Photo by NisonCo PR and SEO on Unsplash

Raul Harman

My name is Raul, editor in chief at Technivorz blog. I have a lot to say about innovations in all aspects of digital technology and online marketing.

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