What role do images play in your SEO strategy? Beyond appearance and design, images can act as great indicators to search engines that your website is engaging and offers a great user experience, and there are several steps you can take to achieve SEO success.
Search engine optimization, known by its acronym SEO, includes several components that help increase your website’s visibility in search engines, thereby increasing your traffic and influence. One component that plays a significant role is the use of images on your website. Beyond appearance and design, images can act as great indicators to search engines that your website is engaging and offers a great user experience. However, simply uploading a picture to your website without some SEO tweaks will not garner the success you are looking for.
Below are four ways you can improve your image SEO, which can lead to greater results for your website.
1. Accurately Name Your Image File
If you have ever downloaded images off the internet before, you have likely seen some obscure file names associated with them. Although someone who visits your website won’t be able to see the file name, search engines will.
Search engines crawl the text on your website, as well as the file name of all your images, so if you’re not able to determine what the image is based on what’s written as the image’s file name, how will a search engine? Remember, it can’t crawl the image itself, so it is important the file name is descriptive of the image, within three to eight words total.
Tip: When selecting a file name, use lowercase letters and separate each word with a hyphen (just-like-this.jpg).
2. Use alt Text
Beyond SEO purposes, alt text provides an element of accessibility to your website that is extremely important, as many individuals with a disability require screen reader software to access all elements of your website, including images. Similar to the file name, alt text requires you to be descriptive, except you are now describing the image and the context of the image within the article or webpage the image lives (i.e. “A blonde woman in a blue dress applying our LongWear Lipstick in the shade Rosy Red”). This acts as a way for the screen reader to produce synthesized speech to the individual who is not able to see the image. When you upload an image to your website, there is often an optional field titled “alt text” where you can input this information.
When search engines crawl your website, it will look for alt text to give the image meaning. The more information the image has, the more search engines will consider it as an important component of your website.
Tip: Keep alt text to 125 characters or less, as many screen readers will stop reading beyond that.
3. Select the Right File Format
The three most popular file types are JPEG, PNG, and GIF. Selecting the “right” type of format is very dependent on the image(s) you upload to your website. Before saving your image in a particular format, it’s important to keep in mind page speed. Your SEO will take a hit the slower your page speed is, and one factor that can cause a slow page speed are large image file sizes.
If you have a larger image, saving it under a JPEG (or .jpeg) will still provide good image clarity, but in a small file size because JPEG images can be compressed. PNG (or .png) images often have larger file sizes, so to have a low file size similar to what a JPEG would offer, quality would have to be compromised. GIF (or .gif) images have a much lower quality than JPEG images, and besides animated images or plain images with few colours, GIFs are not always visually appealing.
Tip: To test page speed try Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool.
4. Size Your Images Beforehand
Uploading an image with the correct dimensions (which will differ depending on your CMS) will help save you time in the long run. For example, if you upload an image that is much larger than what your website is able to handle, not only will your image be cut off, but your file size will remain the same. This means that every time someone goes on your website, the large image will take extra time to load, but it will still only show what your website design can fit.
Generally, images with larger pixels have larger file sizes, so finding the exact dimensions can reduce any unfortunate image crops and will help ensure your page speed is as optimal as possible without images weighing it down. You can find more information about correct dimensions from Google.
Images can act as great added components to your website that can contribute to the overall look and experience. However, small steps you can take to improve your image SEO will assist in the success of your website long-term.