The proverb that “A picture is worth a thousand words” is still relevant in the modern era for websites and blogs. Images not only improve the user experience of our website but also play a major role in improving our site’s SEO. This might seem a bit odd to newbie bloggers and site owners. Let first understand the importance of image SEO before going to the techniques.
Why is Image SEO Important?
Search engines have grown far beyond the era of just checking the content and backlinks to rank our content. The artificial intelligence-powered algorithms of Google and other search engines can now analyze user behavior metrics based on bounce rates and the time visitors spend on a web page. No one would like to read a 2000 word long content without any images or infographics unless you are publishing a research paper on some advanced technical stuff. So for bloggers images are a great tool to attract the audience as well as to improve dwell time on our website.
We must be extra careful while adding images to our site as these might affect our website SEO negatively. Bloggers should have a basic understanding of the different SEO terms before proceeding with this image SEO guide.
Let us now see 9 simple techniques to improve our image SEO.
1) ADD ALT TAGS FOR ALL IMAGES
ALT tags are text alternatives of images that are displayed when browsers are unable to load images. The ALT text not only improves the user experience for visually impaired users but also adds many SEO benefits. The crawl bots are unable to see and interpret the images as such. So they depend on ALT text of images for understanding the image content. Matt Cutts has well explained the importance of ALT tags in images and how this tag is utilized by the search engines to better understand images.
For example, if we have included a picture of a Labrador as shown above on my website, the better option of ALT text could be ‘Black Labrador Retriever Dog Lying on Grass’.
This ALT text provides complete information about the image as compared to a non-descriptive ALT text mentioning either ‘Dog’ or ‘Labrador’ or even ‘Black Labrador’.
2) DO NOT IGNORE IMAGE NAME
Google finds clues about the subject matter of the image from file names. If the image of the above given Labrador was taken via our camera then the default filename would be something like ‘IMG_20200129_105745.JPG’. This filename does not give search engines any idea about the image.
A better name for this image file would be ‘black- labrador- retriever-dog.jpg’. Never try to stuff keywords in file names as this is considered spam. For example, if a pet shop website in Rhode Island uses the above image and gives a file name like ‘best-labrador-puppy-sale-rhode-island-lowest-price.jpg’ then Google will most probably consider this as keyword stuffing which is very bad for our SEO.
3) ALWAYS OPTIMIZE IMAGE SIZE
The image captured via a DSLR is normally of high quality and large size. These large size images will definitely slow down our website and hence negatively affects our SEO. There are many online as well as offline tools that can reduce image size without compromising quality. The popular online tools are
4) USE FOCUS KEYWORD IN THE FEATURED IMAGE
If we are using multiple images on a page, then it is always better to set the file name and the ALT text of the featured image using the focus keyword. Thus Google bots can directly connect the image with our content providing us with an SEO advantage
5) USE RESPONSIVE IMAGES
This allows different images to be rendered to the user based on device screen size (laptop, mobile, etc.).There is no need to render larger images to users browsing our website from mobile screens with smaller sizes. Responsive images drastically improve user experience and page load time, thus giving a boost to SEO. WordPress has introduced this feature since version 4.4. If we inspect any image on our WordPress website using the browser we can see a srcset attribute which makes our image responsive.
6) IMAGE FORMAT IS IMPORTANT
Google has explained the type of image formats that should be used in different scenarios.
Following these guidelines will definitely optimize our images for search engines.
7) CHECK IMAGE DIMENSIONS
Large images really affect loading times, especially if the image dimensions are reduced via CSS code. If we have an image of dimension 3000*1800 pixels and we have displayed the image as a 300*180 pixel on our website then first the entire image has to be loaded and then later code changes will be applied to reduce the dimension.
Surprisingly, many websites still use this method and this certainly affects the site performance. CMS like WordPress resizes every uploaded image so that the appropriate image could be used in different cases instead of dynamic resizing. It is highly recommended to follow this strategy for improved speed.
8) USE IMAGE CDN WITH CAUTION
If we are using a CDN for images, then we should ensure that we are not penalized for duplicate image content. This is because when CDN is enabled our image path would be
Google identifies these as duplicate content which might cause SEO issues. This can be solved by adding a rel=” canonical” tag to all images loaded via CDN. This tag will let the search engines know that the content is a duplicate. Also, the search engines are informed about the original source of the content.
9) STOCK IMAGES ARE NOT BENEFICIAL
Stock images are those professional-looking royalty-free images that can be used for commercial purposes. Although stock images are well optimized they do not provide uniqueness to our website. For example, if we are writing about making a pizza and then include the below image of pizza from Pexels then definitely we are misleading our audience.
Although Google does not consider this as a ranking factor now they might include it to ensure that original content reaches the audience. If we are not able to create original photos it is best to use Flickr.com and use images with a creative commons license.
Note: This guide provides just image SEO techniques that improve our CTR and reduce our bounce rate. I am currently working on a mega list of actionable SEO techniques that every blogger must be aware of to ensure that his/her site is perfectly optimized for SEO. I will have this content published on this site in a few weeks. Subscribe to my mailing list if you want a copy of this ultimate actionable SEO list delivered directly to your inbox.