Even though search engines can’t read the content of an image, they’re still incredibly important to SEO. Not only do they just make your website look better (and break up large chunks of text), optimizing them correctly can really help your site’s search rankings. Take advantage of the images you have on your website and make sure they’re working for you.
Create Stand-Out Images
The main focus of any SEO efforts should be user experience. No matter how well-optimized your site is, if users aren’t enjoying the content on your site, they won’t stay and your bounce rate will increase, which will lower your search rankings. Images are important to your site because they can break up large blocks of text and help tell the story.
Original, High-Quality vs. Stock Images
Using stock images can be a double-edged sword. They’re useful and can save the time that it would take to create your own. However, many users see stock photos and ignore them completely. Also, there are a lot of other websites out there that use the same or similar stock photos – using an original high-quality photo will help your site stand out from the crowd.
Check Copyright Before Using
Before you use or edit any image that isn’t your own, make sure that you are allowed to use it under copyright laws. If you use a stock photo, check that you have a license to use it and whether or not that license allows you to make changes to it or that the image is available to use for free. Using someone else’s image without permission (or without paying) can result in a takedown notice under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and potentially an expensive lawsuit.
Whether you use original or stock photos, it’s important to make them stand out so that they can better enhance your website. While many use paid software like Photoshop, there are also free (or freemium) tools out there that you can use, like Canva, which we at BrainVine have used for many of our own images. There are also plenty of paid tools that will help you put a personal touch on any images you use.
|Freemium = a pricing strategy used by many businesses that offers free accounts with limited access to products or services and requires a paid premium account to access everything the business has to offer.|
Compress Your Images
Because more and more users are searching on mobile devices, Google is indexing mobile versions of webpages first. This means that websites need to load faster on mobile devices in order to keep users from bouncing. Because of the slower processing power of mobile devices (compared to computers), websites load more slowly, especially sites with lots of images and other media. If large image files are affecting user experience, this will ultimately hurt your search rankings.
Compressing images without sacrificing on image quality is important. A lot of what makes images slow to load on mobile devices is the file size. This is where using jpeg images can be useful – they can be compressed without compromising the quality or the size and can more easily be adjusted for mobile use. If you don’t use photoshop, which has settings that can automatically compress images, there are online tools that can do it as well.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
Once you have images ready for use on your website, the next step is to make sure that Google and other search engines can see their content. Search engines can’t interpret actual images, but they can read any text that’s associated with them. There are several places where you can add text to an image to boost your SEO.
Images are added to your website by using an img src attribute that points to the file name. The name of the image file is a great opportunity to add your keywords in to the image. IMG_9541 means nothing to a search engine, but if you give it a descriptive name, not only will Google understand your image better, but so will your users.
Even Google has stated how important alt text is to SEO. This is the text that users will see only if the image fails to load, so most of the time it’s not seen by anyone. However, search engines use it to understand what images are and alt text is actually required by the American Disabilities Act. The question isn’t whether or not to use alt text, but what to write as the alt text. The more descriptive you are, the better Google and your users can understand what the image is.
Captions are really the only text that will always be seen by your users – it sits in a box just below the image and is there to add useful information that might help users understand what an image is. This text is incredibly important to your users because, even if someone is skimming your page, they’ll most likely look at the image and its caption. The caption can thus be an opportunity to help both your users and Google better understand your image and also provide another opportunity to use keywords.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
With so many places to add text to your images, it’s important to make sure that you’re putting user experience above SEO. Just because you can put your keyword in the alt text or the caption, doesn’t mean that you should. Making sure that the text is descriptive of the image and is helpful for users is more important. Good user experience will keep users coming to your site, which will improve your rankings and in turn bring in more users. Too many of the same keyword in your alt text, file names, and captions may decrease the user experience, driving users away.