Why and How to Optimize Images for SEO [A Short Guide]
Is Imagery Really Important?
- Articles with images are 94% more likely to be clicked and viewed
- In e-commerce, product pictures are 13% more important than product descriptions
- On Facebook, posts with images get better engagement rates than those with text only
So obviously, the answer is “Yes, image optimization is important.” Imagery is a visual magnet that helps grab and keep user attention more effectively, something which gets harder each day. The human attention span is gradually shortening, requiring marketers to respond to these changes accordingly.
Including photos, pictures, infographics, animated GIFs and other types of images is not optional. Imagery is an important tool we use to make the information we provide to our users – news, articles, how-tos, product and service descriptions, and others – more attractive, eye-catching, and generally easier to digest.
But this is not the only reason why we should care about images and their usage. Images are valuable for SEO, but only if they are properly optimized. When optimized, images can become powerful traffic generators. If you are looking to boost your traffic, image optimization is where you should start.
Step #1: Selecting the Right Images
First things first, develop a habit of choosing the “right” images. Of course, the best option is to use your own images – pictures that you took yourself or you hired a photographer to take for you, or maybe other images (even screenshots) you created by using web tools. Fortunately, we have countless images at our disposal today.
If you are unable to obtain a unique image (we are not talking about product pictures here), you can always refer to image resources. You can choose among paid and free images, but remember that there is always a possibility that the picture was previously used more than once on another site.
However, there is a rule of thumb – do not overdo it with stock pictures. Try to select those that at least look creative and original. They stand a better chance of keeping users on the page, which is not the case for cheesy, hacky and overused stock pictures.
Step #2: Resize Your Images
Once you have found the images you were looking for, it is time to make sure all the images you are planning to use are the proper size. This step is very easy to overlook, but resizing can eventually have a significant impact on your rankings. “Heavy” images of high quality slow down the load time of your pages, resulting in lower rankings.
Keep in mind, you should reduce the size of a picture without compromising on its quality. That may sound complicated, but it actually is not, as long as you know how to use Photoshop, MS Paint or any other tool from this list. For Mac users, resizing has never been easier. Just open an image, go to Tools and press Adjust Size.
Step #3: Choose an Accurate File Name/Alt Tag
Do not let your file name look something like IMG_1208, otherwise you are missing a great optimization opportunity. Nothing can serve the purpose of SEO better than a keyword-rich file name. Search engines are “blind,”so they judge the relevance of a picture by its name.
Use your website analytics to better understand what search queries your visitors are typing in while conducting a search. This way you are more likely to come up with a better-performing version of a file name than the one suggested by your camera.
Alt tags also help search engines better understand what the image is about. However, Alt texts also have a higher purpose than just giving search engines instructions about how to recognize an image. They help people who cannot see the image, for whatever reason.
While writing Alt tags it is important to not overdo your keywords (including them is preferred, but only if appropriate). Use plain language that is readable and understandable for humans.
Step #4: Use Image Sitemaps
Google is pretty clear about the importance of image sitemaps for SEO. And when Google directly states that it is better to provide information about the images you add to your website, make sure you do exactly as they say. For this, you can choose one of the following methods:
- Create a separate sitemap for your images
- Add image information to your current sitemaps
This step guarantees that all your images will be properly indexed by Google, which in turn results in better ranking positions.
Images have a direct impact on your SEO performance. Your SEO performance will depend on how well you optimize them. Accept the fact that you cannot simply stop using images on your website. They drive engagement, decrease bounce rates and help with incorporating your keywords. Image optimization is a must, so you should learn a thing or two about it if you want to see your rankings go up.