By Lindsay Keller
Nov 29, 2011
More Articles by Lindsay
Search engine optimization for images is commonly overlooked by many businesses and organizations
trying to optimize their websites. For SEO in general, it is always important to keep in mind that you should not only be optimizing for the search engines, but you should also be optimizing for the user’s experience. Read more to discover 10 ways that you can optimize images for users and search engines.
First of all, it is important to have quality images on your website that contribute to the content and help engage users. A searcher is more likely to stay on your website if they are not bombarded with only text, but instead brought to a page with engaging images that help draw the attention of the searcher and help portray the context of the page. Search engines can see when a user quickly bails from a website and returns to the search results page, which is a factor known as the “bounce rate” of a website. The bounce rate influences a site’s natural search quality that search engines take into consideration when serving results. Images are just one way that you can draw the attention of a searcher and keep them on your page longer. Now let’s take it one step further and not only include them on your site, but use them to contribute to your search engine optimization efforts.
Here are a few best practices that are important to keep in mind when optimizing the images on your site.
1) Always add ALT text to your image tags using keyword rich text that describes what the image is about. Search engines cannot see images, so ALT text helps search engines understand what the image is of and whether or not it is relevant to the search query. ALT text is not only important to the search engines, but also to the users. For example, for those users who have low-bandwidth connections or are using a screen reader and are not able to see images on your site, the ALT text is what will appear in place of the image. Lastly, if you are using an image as a link, the ALT text acts as the anchor text for that link.
2) Search engines also use surrounding text to determine the content of the image, so it is good practice to provide captions for images on your site. Include relevant keywords in the caption, but make sure it reads naturally and is written for the consumer. Whenever possible, insert the caption within the same table cell as the image so that search engines closely associate the text with the image.
3) Include a title tag for all images. The title tag does not have as much of an influence on search engines as ALT text, but it plays a big role on improving the user experience. The title tag is what will appear when a user hovers their mouse over the image. In this tag, provide a brief description of the image that will help users understand the context of the image.
4) Use keyword rich text in the filename of your images to help the search engines determine relevancy. Along with that Google suggests that you use filetypes that are commonly supported by most browsers such as JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP.
5) Google also suggests placing all of your images in a single directory on your website instead of scattering them in different folders throughout your site. This will make it easier for the Googlebot to follow the path to where your images are located.
6) Specify a width and height for all images on your site using appropriate tags in order to speed up the loading process and improve the user experience. If a web browser is aware of the image’s dimensions, the browser can begin preparing the page, even before images have been downloaded, simply by knowing the area where text on the page needs to be placed around for the image.
7) A great way to help Google discover and give more information about the images on your site is to use Google’s image extensions for XML Sitemaps. While Google does not guarantee that your images will be indexed and the information in the Sitemap will be used, it does give you a better chance at having your images discovered by Google and also allows you to assign importance to images that are relevant on your site. By not including certain images in the Sitemap, you are telling Google that those images are less important than the ones you have submitted. You may use a separate Sitemap for your images or you can add image information to an existing Sitemap.
8) Upload all images on your website to photo-sharing sites, such as flickr. Make sure to include a link with keyword rich anchor text pointing back to your site within the caption of the image. Also, be sure to link back to the most relevant page on your site. For example, if you have a picture of a product you offer uploaded on Flickr, you should provide a link that directs users to that specific product page on your site.
9) Allow online users to use your images, but you can also take measure of precaution to protect them. A lot of site owners are concerned about the unauthorized use of their images by other online users, but if you prevent people from using your images you are cutting down on the potential audience you could be reaching. One way to solve this problem is to acquire a Creative Commons license allowing people to use your images, but requiring attribution with a link pointing back to your site.
10) Avoid embedding important text in images on your site, such as headlines. If text is included on your site as an image, search engines will not be able to read it. While, you can provide ALT text and a title tag for the image, it is best to put important content in HTML to ensure maximum accessibility for the search engines.
A great tool that you can use to determine if your site’s images meet some of these SEO guidelines is the Image SEO Tool. Type in a URL and it will retrieve all of the images on that page and tell you whether or not each image has an assigned title, ALT text, and defined height/width dimensions. Check out your site now!
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