Did you know that optimizing your website’s images is a simple way to boost your SEO? Images are a vital component of a webpage, and it’s important to optimize them for SEO purposes.
All you have to do is thoughtfully name your image files and provide relevant information when uploading them to your site.
In Google’s own words, “By adding more context around images, results can become much more useful, which can lead to higher quality traffic to your site. You can aid in the discovery process by making sure that your images and your site are optimized for Google Images…” Here are 5 tips to boost your SEO with image optimization.
1. Give Your Image a Descriptive Name
How many times have you uploaded an image with a name like img_4675.jpg? That is a missed opportunity, my friends! By naming the image with descriptive words related to the keyword you are trying to rank for, you have one more opportunity to tell Google that your page is about that topic.
That said, make sure to keep the name short and do not keyword stuff. Keyword stuffing is the practice of overusing or repeating keywords in a webpage in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings. This is considered a Black Hat SEO technique, and Google may penalize you if it appears you are keyword stuffing.
One last tip related to the file name: use hyphens to separate the words instead of underscores. Google says this structure helps users and search engines identify concepts in the URL more easily. Since the file name will be incorporated in the URL path, it’s a good practice to follow Google’s recommended structure in the image name.
2. Use Alt Text
When it comes time to upload the image to your site, most website builders will ask you to supply additional information about the image. It’s important to fill these boxes in as they are another opportunity to enhance your SEO.
One of the key aspects of image optimization is the use of alternative text or alt text. Alt text helps Google understand what the image is, and it is also important for visually impaired users who rely on screenreaders to navigate a website. It’s crucial to fill out alt text for every image on your website, despite the note you will see in WordPress saying you can leave it empty.
Google uses alt text along with computer vision algorithms and the contents of the page to understand the subject matter of the image. Also, alt text in images is useful as anchor text if you decide to use an image as a link.
When writing alt text, focus on creating useful, information-rich wording that uses keywords appropriately. The wording also needs to be in context with the content on the page.
Finally, avoid keyword stuffing as it results in a negative user experience and may cause your site to be seen as spam.
3. Captivating Photo Captions
Photo captions have the potential to be visible to all your website visitors, depending on the design of your site. While alt text is only accessed by screenreaders, captions are visible below your images. Captions can be useful for providing additional context about photos to people visiting your website. In addition, Google extracts information about the subject matter of the image from the content of the page, including captions. Wherever possible, make sure images are placed near relevant text and on pages that are relevant to the image subject matter.
4. Use Descriptions for Image Management
The description field has the potential to be an exceptionally valuable tool for images. For WordPress websites, the text becomes stored as post content for the attachment post. This ensures that if a visitor lands on the attachment post page, they will see the lengthy and informative description (provided the theme in use supports it).
Descriptions can also prove useful for identifying images in your website builder, particularly when a large team is involved or time has lapsed between creation and use.
5. Good File URL Structure
Although I’m placing file URL at the bottom to coincide with its location within the WordPress image attachment details box, it is related to the first point in this post about how to properly name your image. WordPress and other web builder tools will automatically create a file URL for you, and it will use the image file name in that URL. Google uses the URL path as well as the filename to understand your images.
Bonus Tip: Sizing and Saving Images
While the focus of this article is on optimizing keyword-related aspects of image files, I would be remiss not to mention the importance of the image file size on SEO. Images can bloat websites and cause pages to load more slowly. Google penalizes you for slow page load times.
Google now recommends WebP format as the preferred file type for images. WebP is a modern image format that is intended to make images on the web load faster. WebP lossless images are smaller than PNGs and lossy images are smaller than JPEGs while maintaining the same quality. WebP also supports transparency in both lossless and lossy compression, providing even smaller file sizes compared to PNG. Animated WebP images also offer reduced sizes compared to GIF and APNG.
That said, I have found in my own experimentation that saving image files as jpgs using Photoshop’s legacy “save for web” option has given me smaller file sizes than saving the image as lossless WebP in Photoshop. When I have experimented with the lossy version of WebP, the file size is only slightly smaller (1 or 2 kb), but the image quality is visibly worse. You may need to experiment to find the right mix of image quality and file size for your site too.
A tool like PageSpeed Insights can help you understand your site’s load time and what might be causing performance issues.
Summary and a Word of Caution
By following these best practices for using image fields and image file naming, you can help ensure that your website is easily discoverable by search engines and users alike. However, please bear in mind that search engine rankings are determined by a multitude of factors. While the techniques included here are certainly important, they are not exhaustive. Implementing these best practices will serve to bolster your site’s SEO, but they may not result in an immediate leap to the top of Google’s search results.