Optimising Your Images for Search Engines

When people speak about quality content production, a lot of the limelight is put on writing and engaging users through text, but there’s a lot more to content than just the copy.

If you’ve been reading my posts over the last  few days you will have noticed that I’ve focussed a lot on creating more visual forms of content, from videos to infographics. Today I want to go back to basics and look at how images can help your site rank higher in search engines.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I know that by their own definition infographics are actually images, but here I’ll be talking about images that don’t have natural sharable qualities. Infographics are shared because they inform people of something new, but not every image can evoke this same feeling in people. Despite this, images are still a vital part of content creation, and a powerful tool in your SEO arsenal.

Fully optimised images can generate whole hosts of traffic from pictorial search engines, such as Flickr or Google Images. But what can you do to ensure that you’re getting the most from your images? Well, describing the image properly to begin with helps massively. I don’t just mean putting a caption under it either.

Looking Good

When a human looks at an image, our brain instantly analyses it against things we’ve already seen and learnt in order to tell us what it is; but the search engine spiders don’t quite work like that (at least not yet anyway). When a spider crawls your site and comes across an image, they need you to tell them exactly what it is, and this is achieved through the use of Alt Text. If you’ve ever uploaded a picture to site then you would have noticed the option to fill in an Alt Text category.

Alt Text can be basically described as the text that explains to a search engine exactly what the image contains. For example, if your picture is of an alligator, the alt text should be included in the html image tag as ‘alt=”alligator”’.

What’s in a name?

Using the right file name for your image is also key to your image ranking well. This text is what defines the image in search engines so it obviously helps if you get a little bit more descriptive with it. Adding an adjective to your description can help narrow down the search results. For example, if the alligator is submerged then you could use ‘submerged alligator’ as your title.

This is where you have to be careful though, as adding too much description to your text can put your image into too much of a niche, and make it incredibly hard to be found. Carry out some keyword research, and look at the search terms people are using relating to your images. Find the key terms that suitably describe your image and go from there, but try to stay away from using too many long form keywords.

Size Matters

How fast does your page load? No matter how people are browsing the web, whether it is through mobile, tablet or more traditional means, no one likes to wait for a website to load. If your image file size is too big then it’ll make your slight slow and sluggish and make browsing it an all-round off putting experience. This can obviously heavily affect your sites SEO.

Reducing the image file size can be done easily by using photo editing software to remove minor details and colours and resize it so that it’s a smaller, more manageable size. Don’t butcher your image till it’s barely recognisable, but take the time to ensure it’s not a huge file size before you upload it to your site. If you upload your larger images and let the site resize it, people will still have to wait for the image to load and the site to work its magic and resize it, so be sure to do all your image editing before you upload.

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