Did you know that one-quarter of all Google searches are image searches? Image searches have a huge share of search traffic. In fact, it’s five times more traffic than Bing and Yahoo searches combined. If you don’t optimize your images for search, you’re missing out on potential business.
Images show up in web results if you search for a person, place or thing. If you search your own name, chances are your images appear in the top results in Google’s featured image block.
There’s another reason why images are more important now. Google removed the view image button from search results in February 2018. There no longer is an option to expand a thumbnail image to full size. Visitors who want to see the image are more likely to click through to the website to view it.
The increase in click-through means more traffic to your website or social post. The increase in traffic gives you more chances to tell your brand story to customers.
Keep reading if you want to rank well in Google results. Use the optimization techniques outlined here so your images show up when customers search.
Use Original Images
Stock photography doesn’t help search engine optimization. If you only use stock photography your website will look unoriginal. Look at ten dental sites and you’ll find the same or very similar photos on each one.
The best thing you can do for image optimization is to use original photos. It gives your website visitors a better experience. It also helps you rank better on relevant searches.
Give your potential customers an inside look at your company and staff. Create product images that appeal to your target audience. Many people ignore stock photos. If you use quality original images you’ll stand out from the competition. It’s a great way to convey your brand’s personality. Consumers respond to authentic, real photographs.
Avoid Stock Photography
Sometimes time and budget constraints make a stock photo necessary. If you download images from a stock image provider customize them. Update the photo with touches like a headline, logo or another design element.
Try to create a custom image from the stock photo. Make the stock photo match the personality of your company. The last thing you want to show customers is a generic image they’ve already seen.
Even an optimized stock photo won’t benefit your site the way a high-quality original photo can. Google doesn’t want to rank the same image on multiple websites. If you use the same image as other sites, it’s not going to rank.
Photos Should Tell Your Story
No one wants to read a solid block of text on a website. They also don’t want to look at a lot of unrelated images. Place each image on your site with a purpose.
Use images to illustrate a product, explain a concept, and introduce your staff. Every photo on your website should make sense to viewers. Images aren’t limited to photography. They include charts, screenshots, and infographics that add value to your website.
Images make your website appealing to visitors. They complement the text and help your audience understand your product or service.
Pay Attention to Copyright
Whatever photo files you use, make sure you own the image or have permission to use it. You don’t want a copyright problem. Stock photography providers require a license to use their images. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act lets owners who see images used without permission issue a DMCA Takedown. You must comply and remove the image.
Name Your Images
Search engines don’t understand the contents of an image, so you have to tell them. The default name your phone or camera gives to an image like DSC 01251 means nothing to a search engine. No one is searching the web for DSC 01251. Your image won’t ever appear in search results.
Instead, provide a filename with extra information about the image. Make it short, yet descriptive. Don’t use any special characters. Only use words and hyphens. Never use a filename for keyword stuffing.
For example, “girl-running-on-trail” is a good description for an image. If your photos show up in search results, Google may use the description as a snippet. That makes your description helpful to users.
Here are some best practices for naming your images:
- Don’t use the camera-assigned default name
- Keep the name to 3-4 words
- Separate words with hyphens or spaces, no other characters
- Place images near relevant text to help Google understand the topic
Read the Google Image Publishing Guidelines for details on boosting visibility for images.
Write Alternate Text (Alt Text)
Alternate text for images was originally for visually impaired users. Now, Google uses it to determine the content of the image. Alt Text explains the image in more detail than the file name.
Alt Text should be less than 100 words. Use natural language, not a list of keywords. Describe the image the same way you would explain it to a visually impaired person.
Most of the time, the alt text appears to the search engines and users with screen readers. But, if a browser can’t render the image it displays the text alternative. Make sure it’s on point.
Alt text helps on-page SEO. The right alt text on images helps your website rank better in search engines. It associates keywords with the image. Alt text is another way to tell search engines how your site is relevant to a query. Take SEO a step further by using the alt text as the anchor text for an internal link to another page on the site.
Alt text serves people who can’t view images. Make your tags useful and descriptive. Instead of saying a book, use the name of the book.
Add Image Captions
One of the best optimization techniques is to add photo captions right below your image. Sometimes, Google gives these captions more weight than the alt text. The caption should explain what is in the image. When viewers don’t read the entire article, they often read the captions.
Captions add meaning and context to the photo. They help search engines and readers understand what your page is about. Of course, some images stand on their own and are easy to understand. They won’t require captions.
Google explains the benefit of captions in its publishing guidelines. The page where the image appears and the content around it supply info on the topic to search engines. If the image isn’t unrelated to the text on the page it’s confusing. Search engines won’t offer your page in the results if they don’t make sense.
Submit an Image Sitemap
You can send a special XML sitemap to Google that has the location of all your site images. An image sitemap can speed up the indexing process. It gives you a chance to rank higher because it helps Google identify your images.
These are images the web crawlers might not find. the image sitemap is a way to tell Google which images you want crawled.
You can create a sitemap only for images, or add your image information to an existing XML sitemap. The process depends on your platform. For example, WordPress sites can use a plugin that creates the sitemap.
If you want to Google to find and index your images, speed up the process with an XML sitemap.
Watch Image File Size
Another tip is to make all your images the right size. The time it takes to load images on your website impacts your business. If your site takes too long to load, customers leave. This is especially true with mobile sites.
The cause of slow loading time is often image size. Ease the problem by reducing the size of your photos. You can do this by resizing or compressing them.
Huge image files ruin the user experience and reduce your rank in search engine results. Pay attention to quality as you reduce your image sizes. You want to improve load speed without reducing the resolution. Photoshop and other image editing tools have functions for saving images for the web.
Improve Ranking with These Optimization Techniques
Yes, image optimization techniques take time and effort. The payoff is higher ranking in search engine results. That helps your target audience find you. They’ll see relevant images that lead them to your company.
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