and why image optimization is important for SEO
While photos and graphics help make your website content more attractive and engaging to users, images can also provide search engines with contextual information. And when images are optimized it helps pages load faster, which in turn increases user engagement and therefore search engine rankings.
So, what is image optimization anyway?
Image optimization the process of creating and delivering images in a format, size, and resolution that results in a high-quality image for the humans visiting the page while also increasing engagement and interaction. Providing information about the images via the name and alt text is also necessary so that search engines can index them and understand the page context.
When the size of images is reduced without compromising quality, page load times improve and, subsequently, website visitor experience improves too. Improved user experience and interactions with your site have a positive impact on search engine rankings, which further improves customer engagement, conversions, and customer retention.
Now that you see how your website visitor experience and search engine rankings go hand in hand, here are some quick tips for optimizing images for your website:
Resize images first
Image size refers to the dimensions of an image (i.e., 2576 pixels x 1932 pixels). File size is the amount of space needed to store it on the server (i.e., 1,050 kilobytes).
Images with higher resolution and larger dimensions (often created with a professional camera or newer smartphones) slow your page load times considerably. While they work well for print reproduction, you need to reduce the file size for them to work well on the web.
When resizing the image you also want to compress the image without losing image quality. Many image-editing tools have a “save for the web” option, which automatically minimizes the file size while optimizing image quality. PicMonkey is an online photo editor that makes it easy to resize a photo.
Pick the right file format for your image. In general, GIF is best for graphics (such as illustrations that aren’t photos), JPG is best for photographs or images with lots of color, and PNG is best for simple images. When saving the image, check what it looks like in each file format. You want to find the happy place of good quality and small file size.
Optimize image file names
Choosing the right file name is important for your on page SEO and for ranking in image search results. Before uploading any image, name the file with relevant, descriptive keywords. Include target keywords at the beginning and separate them with hyphens. (Note: don’t use underscores because search engines don’t recognize them and won’t be able to “see” the words individually.)
You want the file names to make sense to both the humans visiting your website and to search engines. For example, if the original name for an image of a dog hiding from bath time is “dog123.jpg.” Rename it with a clear and more descriptive title such as “dog-hiding-in-bushes-at-bath-time.jpg.”
Image captions – text directly beneath images – may not have a direct impact on SEO, but, unlike file names and alt text, captions are visible on the website page or blog post and can add to the user experience.
Use alt tags
Search engine spiders need text to understand what a picture is about and to accurately index your image content. A good alt tag provides context and also helps visually impaired users. Even when images aren’t loading because of a glitch, search engines can still read the alternative text to help rank a page. Brand-relevant words can be included, although avoid the urge to include a bunch of keywords you want your website to be found for (aka “keyword stuffing”).
There is no minimum or maximum number of words for alt tags so be sure to provide more detail than you included in the file name; generally 10 to 15 will convey a good amount of information about the image.
Optimize the image title
When you add an image to site built with WordPress, the image title is usually taken from the name of the file so it could work well to leave it as it is. If your site isn’t build with WordPress or the title doesn’t explain the image, change the image title to include appropriate keywords in the same way as you did with the file name.
Use unique images when possible
Using stock photos can work well, although since other websites may be using the same images they may not help your search rankings. Photos unique to your business will better help your website visitors relate to your business and offerings. And since they are images unique to your website, they will also be more helpful for SEO.
Remember that while search engine optimization is about your website ranking highly in search results when people search for what your business offers, the primary goal is to help your website visitors. By making sure the images used are optimized to load quickly and include descriptive text, you will be helping the humans that visit your website to have an good experience, which in turn will help your SEO.