Why Web Images Should Be Optimized for SEO

The elements that truly drive SEO are not, unfortunately, things that can be tacked on to an existing, non-SEO designed site: they’re things that are built in from the beginning, and form an integral part of the entire user experience. Maintaining that experience requires ongoing attention to every bit of new content.

As an example, consider the photos and other images on your site. From the very start, every image that is uploaded needs to be optimized. As additional pictures are added, they, also should be optimized.

Of course, “optimizing” images means different things to different people. Designers tend to think in terms of making the pictures look good, while programmers and web masters are thinking more about how to load those images quickly. Both of those things are important.

While you’re doing those things, however, you can also optimize images to make them easier for search engines to index. Here are some simple tips for optimizing images

  1. Use high-quality images to start with. If you start with blurry or pixelated pictures, there’s only so much better you can make them. To avoid being stuck with bad images, take multiple pictures to ensure you get clear ones, hire a professional photographer, or take advantage of any number of inexpensive stock photography sites. Please remember: unless otherwise stated, you have to pay to use those pictures … don’t simply download the thumbnail that has the site’s watermark. Not only is it illegal, the images won’t be large enough.
  2. Start with the largest files. Always try to start with as large a file as possible. The bigger the file, the more information it contains. Even if the image has to be resized, making a large image smaller is more effective than trying to enlarge an image that is too small. When you go to resize, you’ll want to make the image as small as possible while maintaining as high a resolution as possible. Keep in mind that the larger the image, the slower it will load, and the less effective it will be on mobile; all of that can hurt your SEO, so size limits are important.
  3. Use the correct file type. There is no one-size-fits-all for web image file formats, but the two used most frequently are JPG and PNG. Which one is “better” depends on the usage. There is a minor but permanent loss of unnecessary image info with a JPG, but you can normally get a smaller file size than with a PNG. PNG files are often used if size isn’t a concern, if the image is complex, or if the file may still need to be edited at some point. PNG also allows transparent backgrounds; JPGs don’t.
  4. Always add alternate text and captions. After you’ve named your images, don’t forget to add alt text and captions. Alternative text–often erroneously called “alt tags”–is the text that you may occasionally see in place of an empty image. Because Google cannot crawl images in-depth, it focuses on alternative text when trying to understand what an image is about. All the crawlers can read is the file name and the alt text, so make sure they are descriptive.
  5. Place images for maximum SEO: After getting the proper size, name, and alt text for your image, it’s also good to look at where the image is placed on a page. Whatever picture you choose should be related to what’s being said in the surrounding text; images that place close to relevant information will rank better, especially if that text includes relevant keywords.

As you can see, proper SEO requires a great deal more work than simply adding keywords. It isn’t impossible for a web owner to keep up with all of this, but neither is it advisable: most have many other things to worry about, from security breaches to keeping content current. If you would like to focus less on SEO and more on growing your business, talk to us today about how we can make your site faster, cleaner, and more SEO friendly.

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