How to optimize your images for the web?
Photo by Nikolay Tarashchenko, Unsplash
In order to be an effective digital marketer in 2019, you need an entire arsenal of tools and skills. From SEO optimization to email campaigns, to Social Media management, to managing your brand image, there are always things you can improve and build on.
Gone are the days of super loading keywords to your website. Today, keyword stuffing is not only ineffective, it’s actually a negative factor for Google’s algorithms. As Google so succinctly puts it: “Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site's ranking.”
So how can you improve your search ranking while maintaining a positive user experience? By optimizing images and photos for the web, you can leverage this often overlooked aspect of your website.
Today we are going to be taking a closer look at how you can optimize your photos for the web, maximizing your visibility and improving your ranking on Google.
Improve your metadata
What do we mean by metadata in this context (Literally, data about other data)? When we talk about image metadata, we mean all of the data attached to an image. This includes information like the author, when it was taken, what type of camera was used, copyright information, file name, description, and alternative text. To get an idea of what we mean, take a look at this screenshot of the content management system, Wordpress.
You can see right off the bat that there are a few empty windows here. Does this look familiar? Let’s break down all the ways that search engines will analyze your photos and determine your ranking.
The Title is what you designate as the photo title after uploading. Depending on the website design, sometimes you can see the title when you hover over the image. You’ll notice above that Wordpress will pull the image file name and use it as a title if you don’t change anything. At the bottom of the image, you’ll notice the File Name as ‘sanfrancisco-67.jpg.’ By changing this to one of your keywords, you can help search engines to better classify your image.
Captions are also often overlooked but are actually very important for your readers. Shown underneath your photo, (sometimes called the legend depending on the medium) the captions are an essential line of text that lets you accredit the copyright of the photo, add additional information like the photographer, and even explain what’s in the photo. Not only will the caption help search engines, studies have actually shown that captions are read four times more than regular body copy!
Continuing down our check-list...
Have you seen the box on your CMS that says ‘alt text’ and have you been leaving it blank? You may have been missing out on some easy SEO points.
So, just what is ‘alt text?’ To put it simply, alternative text (not alt-tags) is used to describe images to those who can not see them. So whenever a photo won’t load on a page, the alternative text is what is shown. This is essential because it is about the accessibility of your site for vision-impaired or text-only visitors.
Best practices say that you want to accurately describe what is in your image without keyword stuffing. Here is Google’s actual example:
“Bad (missing alt text): <img src="puppy.jpg"/>
Bad (keyword stuffing): <img src="puppy.jpg" alt="puppy dog baby dog pup pups puppies doggies pups litter puppies dog retriever labrador wolfhound setter pointer puppy jack russell terrier puppies dog food cheap dogfood puppy food"/>
Better: <img src="puppy.jpg" alt="puppy"/>
Best: <img src="puppy.jpg" alt="Dalmatian puppy playing fetch"/> “
If you want to make sure your website is accessible, Google recommends doing an accessibility audit with this plugin.
For even more in-depth advice about the Alt-text, check out this Moz article.
The file name is literally what the Jpeg image or Png image was named before you uploaded it to your website. This is another important category that your visuals are analyzed by search engines. So rather than uploading your company photo as sanfrancisco-67.jpeg, consider taking a second and renaming it something specific and searchable. In this case, we’ll call it Cannoli-SanFrancisco-Bakery-Recipes.jpeg and then re-upload it.
Take a look at that same photo now.
We’ve changed the title, the caption, the alt text, the description, and the file name. Which photo do you think is going to rank better? All of this relevant info is going to help search engines analyze the photos and therefore will be able to give better quality results for image searches.
Good user experience
When optimizing photos for Google, it’s really best to go to the experts. Namely… Google.
Google’s number one suggestion for improving image visibility on Google Image Search is actually not about SEO. Their number one suggestion is improving the user experience of your photos. But just how do you do that?
Part of improving User Experience is choosing the right image. Integrating photos at random into your article without considering the image quality or the relevance will not add anything of value to your article. Whenever possible, make sure your images are original, interesting, and relevant. Stock photos will work in a pinch, but the best way to improve your user experience is by using original photos taken by a professional.
Regardless of your industry, (eCommerce, corporate, restaurants) having original and high-quality content is going to make a difference for your end-users. An easy way to tackle this is to hire a professional photographer to take photos of your services, locations, employees, etc. in order to create an image library that you can pull from at a moment’s notice.
With photographers all around the world, Meero is able to provide you with high-quality professional images in 24 hours. By next week you could have an entire library of customized and original photos to improve your search rankings.
Learn more about Meero’s photography services here.
Pages need to load quickly
Another way to improve your user experience, and therefore your conversion rate, is to make sure your website doesn’t take too long to load.
People will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth of a second).
-Steve Lohr, The New York Times
One way to improve load time is to reduce the file size of your images. By using a small file size, your web page will load quicker and you can be sure not to lose visitors needlessly.
It is a good idea to keep an eye on the image file size. An image that is 4MB is going to take much longer to load than a 200KB file. The type of file will make a difference as well. There are plenty of guides out there, but to summarize it briefly:
- Jpeg files are the lightest, they do not allow opacity
- PNG files are heavier but can be opaque
- Gif files are animated files that are limited to 256 colors
You can reduce file size with Adobe Photoshop or these other free alternatives. Additionally, if you don’t want to learn any type of software to optimize your photos, you can try Kraken.io or TinyPic, two online services that compress images online.
By going through your web site and making sure you’ve checked all of these boxes, you’re sure to see your rankings improve. Were these tips helpful, or did you know them all already? Message us on Facebook and let us know!