Good SEO needs to cover all bases, but many businesses have the tendency to take shortcuts for aspects they might see as minor. But every step you take to improve your SEO, no matter how small it may seem, plays a role in improving your site’s performance with search engines. One of the things that many businesses overlook is optimization for their images. But with the recent changes in how Google ranks websites, making sure that your images are optimized is now more important than ever. In this article, we’re going to give you a quick guide on how to optimize your images for search engines.
Why Image Optimization is so Essential for Good SEO
When talking about SEO, we too often think in terms of keywords and text, but images play an important role as well. For one, images have a direct impact on user experience. Think about it for a second: if you were to land on a website that looked like a plain word document on a blank white background, you probably wouldn’t think the site was memorable or trustworthy.
There’s also plenty of research that shows how important images are to users. In one study, it was shown that visitors had 80% more chances of staying on a page and reading the content if it was accompanied by images. They were also 64% more likely to actually remember it after.
That’s why image SEO is essential nowadays. Google pays increasingly more importance to user behavioral patterns that reflect good or bad experience, like how long users stay on a page, local SEO and bounce rates.
But you can also optimize your images to affect SEO in a more direct way. Visitors and web crawlers interpret images differently, and there are ways that you can optimize your images using text to make their job easier for search engine bots and improve your on-page SEO.
Now, let’s take a look at how you can start optimizing your images for maximum performance with search engines.
Customize File Names
Customizing your images’ file names is one of the simplest things you could do to improve your SEO, yet so many websites owners forget to do this. Before adding any image to a page, make sure that the file name is relevant to the image and page and try to include a keyword you’re targeting as well. If the page is about handbags you’re selling, then you could switch the file name to something like brand-name-handbag.jpg for instance.
While this will have a minor effect on your visitors, it will help search engine bots figure out what the site is about and what keywords should be associated with it.
Use Alt Tags
Alt tags are another factor that will have a minor influence on your readers but will make a difference with web crawlers. Alt tags are there to provide context for the image if the web browser cannot load it for some reason. Alt tags are another way that you can help signal to search engine bots what the webpage is about.
Updating your alt tags is easy and can be done even if you don’t have a lot of web design experience. WordPress has a function that allows you to do that in seconds. You can also use the alt=“alt text here” tag if you prefer to go down the HTML route.
Use Quality, Highly Relevant Images
This aspect is essential if you want to give your users the best experience possible. If the images you use are irrelevant to the content on the page, you will just end up confusing the reader. Images that are poorly edited or blurry will make your website look unprofessional and untrustworthy. This is why you have to make sure that images not only look good but have a clear relationship with the content on the page.
However, when searching for images, you have to make sure that you respect copyrights and only use images if you obtained the rights to them. There are also tons of resources out there if you want to find images you’ll be free to use on your website. So, take the time to find at least one or multiple good images per page for better results.
Be Careful with Image Sizes
While using quality images is essential, you have to be able to find a happy medium between quality and size in order to not affect performance. Google places a lot of importance on site speed these days, and a site that takes too much time to load will be penalized. Not only that, but users are more likely to bounce from a page that is underperforming, so that’s a double whammy.
Sometimes, the image’s file size is way too large for no reason. You could get pretty much the same result while reducing the file size. Resizing image files is a simple step, and most of the time, you’ll be able to resize images using stock programs like Microsoft Paint or Mac’s preview program. Adobe Photoshop has a “save for web” feature that will allow you to automatically find the optimal size for your website. Other programs like JPEGmini and TinyPNG will also allow you to further reduce the file size without affecting quality.
Pick the Proper File Type
People often don’t think twice about image types, but they’re all different and serve different purposes. For instance, JPEG works best with photos, while GIF and PNG are better with graphics. JPEG is widely used because of the smaller file sizes, but you can’t use transparent backgrounds and the quality isn’t always the best. PNG is great for graphics and images that combine photo and text. It also offers great quality. However, file sizes tend to be much larger. GIF supports transparent backgrounds and has small files, but the range of colors is limited, so it’s better for simple, small images, and menu elements.
Optimizing your site’s images is a simple step, but one that could pay lots of dividends in the long run. So, don’t neglect this crucial part of SEO, and don’t hesitate to talk to a professional to see what you could do to improve your site’s images for better performance.