We all know that our writing is a lot more interesting if it’s illustrated by images. In addition, an image provides an instant “table of contents” to a blog post. So there are lots of reasons for including images with your site.
However, just including images isn’t all that you can do! You can optimize your images for SEO, so that the image itself will help your search engine positions. No, Google still doesn’t understand images, so it can’t extract the meaning from the image and use it to index your site; but because Google doesn’t understand the image itself, the steps you can take to tell Google about the image are especially important. This post is about some steps you can take so that your images can help your site’s position in search results.
Both human and search engine spider visitors care about performance. No one likes waiting for Web pages to load! A delay of just a second in image loading can cause some visitors to leave your site, and longer delays have worse effects. Akamai published a study on this effect, and although it’s dated (2009), one would expect that the abandonment rates today would be even greater because of the overall expectation of good performance. Here are some of their findings:
- 47% of visitors expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less
- 40% of visitors will leave a page if it takes 3 seconds to load
On WordPress, there’s a way to compress your images so that they take up less storage space, and consequently there’s less information to download to display an image. You don’t have to do a huge study of the technology; just choose an image compression plugin such as EWW and it’ll store compressed versions of your images and automatically use the compressed versions for downloads, that will improve load time for the pages of your site.
It’s a good idea to test your site for performance, before and after image compression. Pingdom has one of the best free performance test facilities.
Image File Names
File names are used by search engines as a clue to content, so name your image files with meaningful and descriptive words. When you use multiple words, separate them with hyphens so that search engines can easily find the individual words. Don’t use underscores, because search engines don’t treat underscores as word separators.
Use The Alt Tag
The alt tag was originally intended to help sightless visitors, giving them a way to access a summary of the image. Search engines themselves can’t look at and understand an image, so they use the alt tag the same way. Provide a short description of the image, again with descriptive terms. Five to ten words is a good length.
Include An Image Title
The image title is also used by search engines, although it’s less important than the alt tag. So choose descriptive terms for the title that are relevant for search.
Align Your Text with Images
Your text that’s close to an image on the page should use the same terms that you’ve used in the image name and the alt tag, so that the image and text appear to be related.
Add Image Structured Data
Google Images presently supports structured data for product images, videos and recipes. So today you’ll benefit from using structured data to call out such images. Use of structured data will help your site get displayed as rich results by Google.
Use A Site Map
A site map is an XML file that tells the search engine where all the pages and images of a site are located. A search engine can crawl your site much faster using a site map than they can by following every link on the site–and if they use your site map, they’ll be sure to visit all of the pages and images. They repay the favor you do of providing the site map by indexing your site, and changes you make, more quickly.
There’s quite a bit of information to provide about an image in the site map, including the title, caption, URL and more. If you’re using WordPress, you can save yourself the work of building the site map manually by using an SEO plugin. Yoast SEO is a plugin that will automatically put all your image information into the site map that it maintains automatically.
The Bottom Line
Pay attention to your images! They can help you succeed with search engines. Alternatively, you can use my service and all this work will be done for you.