Images have become a fixture on websites, and most regularly publish images as part of web design, to complement the website’s content, or as content in its own right. Regardless of the reason why you’re using images, it is important to handle its SEO – and it can have a dramatic effect on your website’s rankings on search engines.
Because search engines cannot ‘see’ images the way people can, extra care needs to be taken to optimize images. To do that effectively there are several areas that you should consider:
- Image relevance
Ideally the images that you use in your content should be relevant to the content itself and should contribute to it, or reflect its topic in some way. The more relevant the image is to the text around it, the more SEO value it will provide.
- File names
Because search engines cannot ‘see’ images, you will want to use file names that are descriptive. For example a file name like ‘picture001.jpg’ doesn’t really tell search engines anything, but one such as ‘iPhone-7-close-up.jpg’ tells search engines that the image is a close-up of the iPhone 7.
- Alt text
Sometimes known as alt tags or alternative text, these tags are added to images and used as replacement text if the image can’t load. For SEO however they are a treasure trove of descriptive potential that you can use to insert the keyword that you’re trying to rank on and describe the image for the benefit of search engines.
- File size and resolution
The reason the file size of images is important is because it can directly affect how quickly visitors are able to load your website – which will in turn affect its SEO. As such you will want to ensure that the file size of your images aren’t larger than is necessary.
In particular you should make sure that you’re not loading images at resolutions that are larger than needed. For example you don’t want to load a 2000×1000 pixel image when you’re displaying it in 200×100 pixels on your website.
On top of that you should try to optimize the image file size in other ways. Using JPG for images and reducing the quality to an acceptable level is a start, and you may also want to remove EXIF data to reduce the file size further.
- XML sitemaps
As you probably know XML sitemaps are an important part of SEO as they will give search engines information about the pages on your website. It is important that your XML sitemaps contain information about images as well, as it will make it easier for search engines to index them correctly.
- Responsive images
Considering a sizable number of your website’s visitors are likely to be using mobile devices, it is important that you cater to them. That is why many websites nowadays use responsive web design, and you should ensure your images are responsive too.
If your images aren’t responsive they won’t be displayed correctly on mobile devices, and that in turn could increase bounce rates and negatively impact your website’s ranking on search engines.
Make no mistake, if you handle your website’s image SEO carefully it can help to contribute to your search engine rankings significantly. Of course the value of images extends beyond that as well, which is why you will want to come up with attractive and compelling images to use in your content using photo editor tools.