They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the right image has the potential to help you rank higher with Google and keep a visitor on your site longer. We all know that when customers spend more time on our sites, they are closer to taking action than those who don’t.
Here is what you need to know to optimize your images.
Using images will give your readers a better understanding of an article or blog post. The longer the article, the more critical images become to the appeal to the reader. Images help illustrate and convey your message. With visual search increasing in importance, images can also bring you a fair chunk of web traffic.
We recommend having an image on every article. Images provide you with more traffic options than merely having words. It is more than placing random images on your site though. For this to work, you need to put image SEO high on your checklist! Google Images released a new interface late-September 2018. The latest filters will assist Google’s increasing knowledge of what goes into an image. Image SEO will make it much easier to match content to search rankings when coordinated with new metadata and attribution.
Finding the Right Image
Remember that each image needs to have relevance to the subject it is attributed. Using original graphics, artwork or photos that you have taken yourself will always fare better than using stock photos. Merely choosing a random picture to fill a hole on the page is the wrong way to complete image SEO. Each photo should serve the sole purpose of illustrating your article within the text. If you’re trying to rank an image, keep it near the top of the page (if its placement makes sense). An image will rank better if accompanied by related text.
When you can’t use any images of your own, you can still avoid stock photos by finding uniques images through other sources. Flickr offers a Creative Commons section where you search through excellent, unique images. Always remember to give the original photographer attribution. On a side note, images with people in them often require a model release, not to mention that they typically look like stock photos. Alternatives for photos can be illustrations, graphs, or the increasingly popular animated GIFs. Be careful to monitor how many animated GIFs you use as they can slow down your page or distract the reader’s attention.
Optimizing Images for Articles
After you’ve selected the right image, you are ready to optimize it for your website! Here are some things to consider:
Choosing the file name: The first step of image SEO is to change the file name to something with your focus keyword. Doing this lets Google know what the image is about without a single glance. The file name should begin with the main subject of the photo.
Scale the image: Resize the image to how you want it displayed on your site. Uploading a large image that you want to be displayed smaller can have an impact on page load times. Slow page loads hurt both the user experience (UX) and your SEO.
Using images that are responsive: All images should have the srcset attribute, allowing a different image to appear for every screen width. This is very useful on mobile devices. If you use WordPress, this function is done for you behind the scenes.
Reduce file size: Be sure that your images are compressed to the smallest possible file size.
After your images are optimized, test your website by using tools such as Lighthouse, WebPageTest.org, Pingdom, or the most popular, Google PageSpeed Insights.
Adding the Image to your Article
As Google becomes better at interpreting what is inside an image, you can still assist the process by filling in as much context to the image as you can. Once you’re ready to place the image on the page, the location of the image is significant. Putting the image near text that is relevant is key.
A caption placed underneath an image is helpful. As web visitors read the captions, their eyes scan over an article. Captions are not needed for every photo. You don’t want to over-optimize your page. Keep your potential visitors in mind, above all else. If a caption wouldn’t make sense to the visitor, don’t add it.
Alt Text and Title Text
If an image isn’t visible to the visitor for any reason, make sure you add alt text in place for every photo. Alt text should include the focus keyword for the page that the image is placed. The more description you add in the alt text, the more sense it will make to both visitors and search engines.
Certain browsers display alt text as a “tooltip” when hovering over an image. In Google Chrome, for example, the title text is shown. An image’s title text is sometimes copied from the alt text; however, many people leave the title text out entirely.
Adding Structured Data to an Image
Adding structured data helps your image gain a listing that is more fleshed out in search engines. Depending on what is in the image, a badge may be added by Google. This lets the user know that the image belongs to a specific chunk of text. Google Images support structured data for the following types:
Remember all images must have attributes and be indexable and crawlable.
Aligning Your Photos
All images should never pass the reading line on the left. The visitors shouldn’t have to scroll their eyes away from their reading view to look at an entire photo placed on the web page. Maintain the left reading line. If the image and the text column have the same width, the image is emphasized even more.
XML Image Sitemaps
Sitemaps allow you to give information to Google. XML image sitemaps help Google discover images a little easier. The information in an image sitemap allows you to determine which images you would like Google to index and crawl. Sitemaps will help improve your image SEO and ultimately, give your website rich results.
Key points to keep in mind when you’re adding an image to your website:
- Use an image relevant to your text
- Choose the best file name for your image
- Ensure the dimensions of the image match the size as it would be displayed
- If possible, use srcset
- For fast loading times, reduce the file size
- Add a caption when it is appropriate
- Use alt text for all images
- Add structured data to every image
- Align images to the center or right, making sure you don’t break the reading line on the left
- Include your images when creating XML sitemaps
- Contribute every detail of context you can