You want your site to be as appealing and reachable as possible for your audience. And optimizing your images plays a huge part in this.
First off, it improves the user experience. Proper image use gives your website an air of professionalism and authority. It makes you seem trustworthy. And makes your content memorable.
On top of this, images can (and should!) be optimized to boost SEO. Many of these tips won’t be things your visitors will ever notice. But search engine crawlers will and they’ll help drive traffic to your site.
So what can you do?
- Use relevant, high-quality images.
Make sure the images you use are high quality and relevant to your content. You want your user experience to be seamless and professional, and images that are blurry or badly cropped detract from this. We’re visual thinkers, and images play a huge role in shaping user perception of your brand, on both a conscious and unconscious level.
Sites like Pexels offer a huge library of free-to-use images, and a service like Canva makes basic graphic simple, user friendly, and it’s free!
2. Name your files properly!
Speaking of relevance, make sure the file names for your images are relevant to the image. And, if possible, that they include one of your page keywords. Visitors will probably never see the file name, but this gives search engines a better idea of what’s on your page and what keywords to associate with it.
3. Don’t forget alt text
Alt text is what appears on the page if your image fails to load, or if the visitor is using a screen reader. Not only does alt text give search engines more information on what your page about, and improves SEO, it also ensures your content is more accessible and able to reach a wider audience.
3. Use image captions.
Adding image captions is a way to not only provide more information to your user; it’s also a chance to include your target keywords in another location. Captions are also great for injecting a bit of personality into your page, or adding a joke, but don’t force it. You want the caption to seem natural and beneficial to the user, and not just slotted in for the sake of it.
4. Keep load times short
If your site takes a long time to load, users might go elsewhere. Site speed also affects SEO ranking, so be aware of that. Keeping your image file size small is a great way to shorten load times. You can easily shrink images using standard programs like Mac’s Preview or Microsoft Paint. Just make sure to test out how your images display. You want to find the right balance between small file size and high image quality.
Another way to increase the load speed of your site is to use “lazy loading”. What this does is load the images at the top of the page first, and load the rest later, assuming the visitor is going to spend time at the top of the site before scrolling. They’ll never notice the slower loading of the images below and can enjoy a seamless experience of your content.
5. Choose the right file type.
The right file type can make all the difference . Generally, you’re going to want to use JPG or PNG, depending on your needs. JPGs are a small file size and compatible across pretty much all platforms. But they also compress images a lot and can end up looking low quality. PNGs, on the other hand, keep image quality high – and can support transparent backgrounds – but the file size tends to be larger. What file type is right for you depends on your needs. Again, always test, test, test, to make sure it’s right for you.
6. Add images to your sitemap.
When you give Google clear information on your site’s content, you increase your chances of ranking high. And by including images on your sitemap, you increase the likelihood of them showing up on Google Image Search. This, coupled with some of the above tips, will increase your site’s overall searchability.
7. Use responsive images.
Using responsive images ensures your website loads properly on all devices, no matter the screen, and means all users have the same experience when visiting your site. You can use HTML to make your images responsive, but if that seems to tech-y for you, the good news is if you’re using WordPress 4.4 or higher, your images are automatically made responsive.
8. Host images on your own site.
While there are benefits to hosting your images on third-party sites like Imgur, if those sites ever get overloaded or crash, your images could fail to load. You don’t want to disrupt the user experience. So host images on your own site, whenever possible. It’s tempting to want to save space, but if you follow the tips above and keep your images small, it’s a small trade-off for ensuring your website is in your control and loads properly every single time.
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