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How to do Image Optimization for SEO (and Why)

It is a well-known fact that search engine optimized content is key to the success of SEO. When we talk of on-page SEO today, an essential component that you cannot afford to miss out is Image Optimization. Image SEO has remarkable payoffs and holds great prospects for your blog’s ranking in SERPs. Some people might make the mistake of ignoring images as nothing more than eye candy, but don’t be one of them.

Image optimization gives you two-pronged advantage. First, your users get better value and benefits. Second, search engines love it! On-page SEO is primarily centred on the users’ experience and happiness. Pictures help you to do that exactly. They create a great experience for users by

  • Adding visual appeal
  • Triggering readers’ response
  • Conveying the subject more vividly & easily. 
  • Providing additional useful information. 
  • Increasing user engagement. 
  • Making lengthy text palatable. 
  • Improving social sharing. 

Now, if you are able to woo your audience with so many added benefits, you have already boosted your on-page SEO in a major way. Moreover, when you give users better value, Google elevates your ranks naturally. I hope you remember that Google rewards you for user happiness.

Image Optimization for SEO

Optimized images allow search engines to ‘understand’ the information contained in the images. Such images help to boost rankings for the keywords they are optimized for. They are also useful for attracting traffic from image search engines, thereby boosting further your serach rankings. Moreover, pictures surrounded with related or relevant content aid further in ranking better.

Alright, time to learn how to get it going!

Image Optimization Techniques for Better SEO

Similar to other aspects of on-page optimization, image SEO has to follow certain good practices while staying away from negative ones. It is easy to go wrong with over optimization.

Read more: Unique Sites for Free High Resolution Images

1. Relevance

Use the right image that is relevant to the post topic. While the right image will add meaning to your content, using an out-of-context image will spell disaster. It’s simple logic but still it’s easy to make a mistake.

For example, if your are writing an article on ‘How to setup a wireless network at home’, for heaven’s sake, don’t insert a lovely image of a flower! If you do, you are sure to drive your readers nuts. Not at all healthy for your SEO efforts. Take the time and care to pick out the right image(s) that add value to your content. Also ensure, that you use only as many as you need. Adding too many images will increase page loading times and affect SEO adversely.

Don’t add images without a purpose. Use them meaningfully with your topic.

2. File naming

Your images will not be optimized for SEO if they are not named properly. The default file name of an image which looks something like ‘DSC10060.JPG’ has no value in terms of search optimization. Instead, rename your images which short descriptions that contain the target keywords of the post where you want to use the images. For example, ‘silver-porsche-sports-car’ is a meaningful filename that is optimized for the keywords ‘sports car’.

Remember to separate the words in your filenames with dashes, not spaces or any other symbols. It’s a good SEO practice. Adding keywords in filenames help search engines to relate the images to the content, and thereby, improve rankings.

Read more: Top 10 Search Engine Optimization Tips

3. File size & format

The downside about images is that they increase page size and loading time. If the download speed of your posts are poor, you’ll lose a major portion of your site traffic even if you have awesome content. People don’t have a lot of patience online. Even just a couple of seconds delay in download time can mean huge losses in traffic.

As a good image optimzation practice, you must take every care to optimize both the display and file sizes of the images you use. For example, if the display resolution of an image is 500×250 px, don’t insert the full-size image of 2500×1250 px and let the HTML resize the image on the browser. Your page performance is sure to go for a toss if you use such ‘crude’ methods. Resize the image to its actual display resolution before inserting into your content.

After setting the right display size, you should also reduce the overall file size. A lot of extra, unnecessay information (such as watermarks or EXIF data) can be stripped off from an image to make it light in size without reducing visual quality. Try different file formats (JPEG, PNG, GIF) to see which works best in a given situation. JPEGs are generally the best choice for complex images as they offer the best compression with the least loss in visible quality. PNGs are great if you have uniform color blocks in the image.

I personally use Photoshop’s ‘Save for Web & Devices’ option to optimize my images for size. It gives me precise and finer control over the output results. Use it if possible. In addition, I use the WP Smush plugin on my WordPress blog to auto-reduce image file size.

If you don’t have a tool like Photoshop, or prefer on-the-fly approach, there are a few good websites and online tools for the job. ImageOptim and JPEGmini are two good options to go for. ImageOptim is a free desktop tool while JPEGmini is a paid web-based service (with free trial). Use any of these along with the WP Smush plugin and you are good to go!

4. Alt tags

These are perhaps the most vital elements for image optimization. Search engine bots cannot ‘see’ your images and are unable to understand their content or purpose. This is where the alt tags come into play. They provide search engines important information about the content of an image along with keywords it is optimized for. This leads to better rankings in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

Make you alt text descriptive and use focus keywords. The length shouldn’t be too long, however. While you must aim at using keywords in alt tags, never overdo it. It counts as negative SEO and can hurt your rankings rather than helping it. Also, try to maintain some variation with keywords instead of repeating them blindly (hint: LSI keywords).

Alt tags also play a vital role for the blind or visually-impaired users by providing them image descriptions (for screen readers). Moreover, on slow connections or browsers set to not display images, the alt tag fills up the missing information.

See what Matt Cutts has to say about alt tags –

5. Title tags

Title tags are short descriptions of images that visitors see when they hover the mouse over an image. I prefer using the alt text for my titles in all my images. Titles are helpful pieces of information but they are NOT essential elements for SEO. But it is still a good practice to add them to your images anyway.

6. Social Media Sharing

Just as images are valuable for your post for visual appeal, so are they essential for social sharing for their eye-catching factor. The Open Graph Protocol has made it possible for any webpage to be a ‘rich object’ on social shares. It simply means that when a page from any site is shared on social media, the ‘shared object’ (or ‘graph’, as they call it) can display media such as images or videos from that web page.

Social media is the biggest platform for any blogger or content marketer to reach a huge audience and drive traffic to their website. Being a key element of open graphs, images play a crucial role in optimizing the potential of social sharing. They influence traffic generated from social media and CTR (Click Through Rate) in major way.

You can take advantage of social media tags by inserting simple meta tags in the header of your web page. Image optimization for social media has far-reaching results for SEO.

Few Last Notes

For image optimization, Google cautions you against embedding any important information (such as post titles or page headings) into images. Not all users can access it and neither can search engines. When images add value to a context that is useful your audience, their SEO purpose is served well.

If you are not leveraging images for SEO advantage, you are missing out a lot. Should you need copyright-free images for your work, read this post – Amazing sites for hi-quality free images.

What are the image optimization methods that you follow? What tools do you use? Share your feedback or queries in your comments below.


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