Make Your Images Work for You: How to Optimize Images for SEO

Make Your Images Work for You: How to Optimize Images for SEO

Reading Time: 5 minutes
OPTIMIZE IMAGES

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.

File Types

JPEG
Pros Cons
  • Most popular digital photo
  • High-resolution images
  • Maintains high quality when resized or compressed
  • Supported universally
  • Doesn’t support transparent backgrounds
  • Lossy data compression
  • Settings can affect image quality
PNG
Pros Cons
  • Used for logos
  • Can have high quality at a small size
  • Supports transparent backgrounds
  • Image doesn’t degrade with resaving
  • Color palette can be limited
  • Large images sizes can disrupt website flow
GIF
Pros Cons
  • Can be high quality at a small size
  • Can be animated
  • Supports transparent backgrounds
  • Only 256 colors available
  • Best at small sizes
  • Not recommended for photos and images

Editing Images

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.

File Name

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.

Alt Text

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

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.

Need some help growing your web presence and strengthening your brand? You’ve come to the right place.

For Those Who Love Words: Finding the Best Keywords for Your Website

For Those Who Love Words: Finding the Best Keywords for Your Website

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Keywords are the linchpin of SEO. They’re what users are searching for online and what allows them to find your website. Which keywords you choose can affect your search rankings and what users are directed to you site. Therefore, it’s vital to choose keywords that will be the most relevant to your site’s content so users may have the best chance of being directed to your domain.

Choosing the Right Keywords

Keywords aren’t just about the content on your website. They’re also about the users searching online and what they’re looking for. To choose the best keywords, you’ll need to understand your visitors:

  • What brings them to your site?
  • What language do they use to search?
  • What kind of content are they looking for?

Search for Your Keyword

Because keywords are so important to driving traffic to your website, keyword research is one of the most valuable activities in marketing. The first step in keyword research is to search for your sample keywords on a search engine (Google is recommended because it is the most visited search engine in the world and as of 2018 has 77% of all search traffic in the United States). You can see what other results come up and what competitors may be doing.

If there are multiple adwords listings at the top of the search results page (SERP), that keyword is likely to be very valuable. If your keyword is valuable, then it could potentially drive a lot of traffic to your site, but it’s also difficult to place highly in search rankings.

Google Adwords Campaign

Google Adwords Campaign

Searching for your keyword can provide a lot of valuable information, but it cannot tell you how well it will work for driving traffic to your website and content. To test out how a keyword works for your site, buy a sample Adword campaign for Google (or the equivalent for your preferred search engine, such as Adcenter for Bing). You can then track impressions and your conversion rate to see how well that keyword performs.

Resources for Keyword Research

There are fortunately a lot of free resources that can help you in coming up with keywords. Google provides several, including Google Keyword Planner, which is a part of Google Adwords, and Google Trends, where you can search for your keyword, see the number of people searching for that keyword, where in the world they’re searching from, and what topics and keywords are similar. Other resources include:

Long-Tail Keywords

When researching keywords, something to consider is that the days of single-word keywords are mostly numbered. Single keywords tend to be vague and have such a broad range that while they may be relevant, they may not engage the type of visitors you’re looking for. For example, if your main keyword is panda (the Google update), and you rank highly for that keyword, a lot of your traffic may end up being users who are looking for pandas (the adorable Chinese bears), which isn’t the type of traffic that will benefit you.

Instead, consider using long-tail keywords, or keyphrases. Many people, especially through voice search, which is becoming increasingly popular, search by asking a question or typing in a phrase. This can also help narrow down your audience so it’s easier to ensure that you’re getting relevant traffic.

LSI Keywords

It’s also important to make sure you’re using LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords, which are all of the words related to your keyword that you would expect to see come up in the content. For example, if your main keyword is panda, you would expect to see the LSI keywords of bamboo, China, and zoo.

Google actually uses LSI keywords to determine the authenticity of a page – if it sees words within the content that are related to the page’s keywords, then it considers the site to be genuine and can actually boost the search rankings. There are some free resources you can use to determine LSI keywords that can be used alongside your main keywords or phrases.

Keyword Maintenance

Unfortunately, the work of keyword research is never finished. Staying on top of keyword trends and ensuring that you are using the keywords that will perform best for your site requires frequent maintenance and regular re-evaluation. The language used to perform searches changes constantly and there are always new keywords being coined. Whether you’re producing a new post or page or maintaining an existing one, it can benefit your site and your search rankings to revisit these keyword research steps to make sure you’re staying on top of your keyword game.

Need some help growing your web presence and strengthening your brand? You’ve come to the right place.