In this post, we’ll look at three ways you can optimize images for SEO.
Image optimization is one of the most overlooked aspects of SEO (search engine optimization). But how your images are formatted also affects user experience and accessibility.
By integrating a process for optimizing images for search, you’ll improve the search rankings for both your images (in Google Image Search), and the pages in which they are embedded (for regular Google Search).
We’ve put together a video that sums up everything we’re about to say in the rest of the article. Check it out below.
Tip #1: Rename Your Image Files
This might seem basic, but, the first thing you should do before uploading is rename your image files to include your target keyword phrase.
Many times, we’ll see people upload images with file names like
IMG_1034.jpg — but that doesn’t give Google much information about what is depicted in the image. By renaming the file to indicate what’s in the photo, and adding the keyword phrase from the page, it adds some context.
Google looks at the file name of the image, so renaming an image from
your-keyword-phrase.jpg will help Google understand what your images, and the pages they appear in, are about.
Tip #2: Include ALT Text with Your Images
ALT text, (aka Alternative text, ALT attribute, the ALT tag), is descriptive text of what’s in the image.
This descriptive text is part of accessibility, the guidelines that make websites easier to use for people with sight, hearing, mobility, or other disabilities.
Most government and many municipal websites are required to be 508 compliant, or accessible.
There is some overlap with having a website that is accessible and having a website that is optimized for search.
Blind, or visually impaired users can use special web browsers, called screen readers, to read the text content of the page. This allows them to “see” images, or hear the description of what images are in your page — provided you have ALT text in your images.
What does ALT text look like in the source code?
<img src="https://www.yourwebsite.com/path/to/image/your-image.jpg" alt="Description of the Image" />
In the example above, we have a
img tag with the path to the file, and the ALT text, which is read aloud by screen readers.
When you skip adding ALT text to images, it creates a bad user experience for the visually impaired. According to a 2004 report by the CDC, about 3% of Americans are visually impaired.
I can hear many of you saying now, “Blind people don’t use our website!” Consider this then — Googlebot is also a screen reader.
That’s right. The crawler that indexes your web pages cannot literally “see” — it reads the text and code of the page, including the ALT text used to describe images.
Google wants to send it’s users to pages that are usuable by everyone. High-quality websites are designed to be accessible, meaning among other things, there is descriptive text for images that are in the page. Have someone look at the source code, and make sure your website is outputting ALT text for images.
Tip #3: Use Appropriately Sized Images for a Fast Loading Time
If you are uploading photos directly from your smartphone to your website, you’re probably adding several seconds of load time to your web page.
Modern smartphones take photos at a very high resolution. Similarly, photos from a professional photographer are going to be high-resolution.
Most computer monitors today top out at 2600 to 2700 pixels wide. An iMac is 2560 pixels wide, and there are some 4k monitors out there, but in most cases, you don’t need to use images that are 4000 to 8000 pixels wide on your website.
Consider the trade-off between page load speed and image clarity. In most cases, it’s better to have a web page that downloads quickly, than to have full-resolution photos. You can resize the original photos into smaller versions in Photoshop, or use a service like Kraken.io. This becomes especially important if you have an image slider on the page.
Saving download time on your web pages is good for both user experience and SEO. No one wants to wait ten to twenty seconds for all the images on your page to load. Resize your largest images to find a balance between image quality, page download speed, and the specific uses for images on your website.
Summing Up Our Image Optimization SEO Tips
Use the appropriate sized image for a page. Download speed affects both UX and SEO.
Rename the image file before you upload it to the site. Use keywords in the filename. Don’t leave the generic filename in place, because that doesn’t give Google any extra information about the photo.
Always include ALT text for your images. Visually impaired people use screen reading browsers to get information about images in web pages. When you leave out ALT text in images, this makes it much harder for 3% of the total US population to use your website.