How to Use Images to Improve Your SEO Performance

Friday, March 25, 2016

So much of search engine optimization is focused on content that it can be easy to ignore the other elements that contribute to your website’s SEO performance. However, while content is indisputably critical to SEO, other elements (such as web design) also affect your search result rankings. In particular, the images you place on your site can impact how search engine crawlers perceive your web pages. Here are five ways in which you can use your images to improve your SEO performance.

Use keywords in your file names

The first step in optimizing your images for SEO is to create keyword-rich file names when saving your images. When you take a picture, your camera will typically save the image under a name consisting of letters and numbers. Even downloaded images may possess these kinds of opaque file names. If you keep these names, search engine crawlers (which cannot see your image) may have trouble understanding what the image is about. This is why it is important to rename your files with text that describes the content of your images.

The best method to use when renaming your images is to use keywords. Select a phrase or word that your website visitors are likely to use when searching for the products and services you offer. For instance, use the product name when saving an image of a product. Specific, keyword-rich file names will allow search engine crawlers to more accurately understand (and index) your page.

Create descriptive alt text

The second step in optimizing your images for SEO is to create descriptive “alt text.” Alt text (or alternative text) is the text that appears when a web browser has trouble displaying the image, or the image not load correctly. While it is useful for telling visitors what the image should have been, it is even more valuable for telling search engine crawlers about the image’s value to your web page.

If search engine crawlers are going to fully understand your images (and the web pages on which they reside), they need as much information about your images as you can provide. As a result, always fill out the alt text box descriptively and accurately when uploading your image. While you should not necessarily use keywords in the description (to avoid the appearance of keyword stuffing), you should use natural, easy to understand language that accurately describes the image. In addition, include any serial or product numbers if you are uploading pictures of your products to an e-commerce website.

Fill out title tags

Title tags are similar to alt text in that they provide a brief description of your image. They typically appear when you hover your mouse over the image, whether the image also appears on the web page or not. As with file names and alt tags, title tags provide information that search engine crawlers use to determine the content and search engine optimization value of your images.

Because title tags are important for SEO and for your customers, you should always make sure to include title tag information when uploading your images to your website. These descriptions also provide an ideal place for your keywords, as long as you use them in moderation and make sure that they contribute to the overall usefulness of the text. Rich and descriptive title tags will help to ensure that both visitors and search engine crawlers understand your web page’s relevance to the topic at hand.

Always include a caption

The last bit of information that can help to SEO optimize your images is the caption. This description of your image will appear underneath the image, and usually consists of a few sentences describing the picture. It is also material that search engine crawlers scan when trying to understand the relevance of your image to your web page (and to certain keywords).

Not all pictures require captions (and, in fact, some pictures may benefit from not having captions). However, when captions are appropriate, make sure to create keyword-rich, relevant information for them. In addition, strive to create captions that will engage your visitors. When your visitors are interested in your site, and take more time on your web page, your bounce rates go down. And, when your bounce rates go down, your web page appears more valuable to search engine crawlers.

Reduce the size of your images

While file size may not seem important to search engine optimization, the truth is that it can impact your SEO performance by impacting your load times. If your page takes longer than 3 seconds to load, visitors are more likely to abandon your page for others. The result is a higher bounce rate that makes it look as if your web pages are not valuable to visitors. In addition, load times can keep search engine crawlers from having the time to fully crawl and index your site. To avoid these problems, reduce your file size before uploading it to your site.

When minimizing your file size, the best method is to do so before you upload the file to your site. Otherwise, the browser may load the larger image, and then shrink it, a process that will still result in longer load times. In addition, never compromise the quality of the image in order to get a slightly smaller file size. When you maintain image quality while reducing the size as much as possible, you enjoy images that engage visitors and reduce load times.

Search engine optimization does not entirely rely on how you describe and size your images. However, by creating images with the greatest possible SEO impact, you maximize your website’s SEO potential. This is why it is best to use keywords in your file names, optimize your alt text, write valuable title tags and captions, and keep your file sizes to a minimum. The result will be shorter load times, clearer communication with search engine crawlers, and better SEO performance.

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Posted in: How To, Internet Marketing, Marketing, Quick Tips, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, Web Development

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