With all of us having some spare time on our hands thanks to the Coronavirus, now’s a great time to do some of the busywork that always seems to fall through the cracks when we’re operating at normal speed.
One place where I am terribly deficient and terribly lazy is paying attention to things like SEO on my website and more specifically, taking the necessary steps to make sure my images are discoverable by search engines like Google.
So I decided to do some studying at all of the major search engine’s help pages and guess what, there are no secrets. It’s all right there if you take the time to dig for it. They tell you how to make sure your images get more traffic.
To save you some time, I am going to distill what I learned into this blog post. It is NOT a white paper and I am NOT saying that these are the only things you need to do, but they are a good start.
1. Make sure you are posting relevant content.
If your blog is about cats, but you are posting dog photos, that is no good as far as Google is concerned. If you write about cats and describe a specific breed for instance, put a picture you took of that breed of cat in the same paragraph so that it’s relevant.
2. Don’t embed text inside images. Keep text in HTML and provide ALT TEXT for images.
3. Know that page content quality DOES impact image ranking, so do a good job of keeping your blogs, websites and landing pages up-to-date with fresh, valuable, relevant, spam-free, content.
4. Make sure that your site is easy to view on mobile as well as desktop. Use this free tool (https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly) to check your content’s mobile-friendly score and know that pages which score well on both desktop and mobile, have their images seen first and more often.
5. Create good page titles and snippets. If you need help with this, Google has free guidance here – https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35624
6. If you really want to get serious about this, use structured data in your image descriptions when appropriate and relevant. This is too complicated for me to discuss here, but you can learn more about it, once again, directly from Google, here – https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/sd-policies
7. Select the right image format. I’ll go into more detail here because this is very important…
Start by selecting the right universal format: GIF, PNG, JPEG (note that in total, Google only supports the following formats for images – BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG.)
Experiment and select the best settings for each format: quality, palette size, etc.
Consider adding WebP and JPEG XR assets for modern clients
In addition to different lossy and lossless compression algorithms, different image formats support different features such as animation and transparency (alpha) channels. As a result, the choice of the “right format” for a particular image is a combination of desired visual results and functional requirements.
There are three universally supported image formats: GIF, PNG, and JPEG. In addition to these formats, some browsers also support newer formats such as WebP and JPEG XR, which offer better overall compression and more features. So, which format should you use?
Do you need animation? If so, GIF is the only universal choice.
GIF limits the color palette to at most 256 colors, which makes it a poor choice for most images. Further, PNG-8 delivers better compression for images with a small palette. As a result, GIF is the right answer only when animation is required.
Do you need to preserve fine detail with highest resolution? Use PNG.
PNG does not apply any lossy compression algorithms beyond the choice of the size of the color palette. As a result, it will produce the highest quality image, but at a cost of significantly higher file size than other formats. Use judiciously.
If the image asset contains imagery composed of geometric shapes, consider converting it to a vector (SVG) format!
If the image asset contains text, stop and reconsider. Text in images is not selectable, searchable, or “zoomable”. If you need to convey a custom look (for branding or other reasons), use a web font instead.
Are you optimizing a photo, screenshot, or a similar image asset? Use JPEG.
JPEG uses a combination of lossy and lossless optimization to reduce file size of the image asset. Try several JPEG quality levels to find the best quality vs. file size tradeoff for your asset.
8. Add high-quality photos. They appeal to users more than blurry, unclear images. Also, sharp images are more appealing to users in the result thumbnail and increase the likelihood of getting traffic from users. (Yes this is a no-brainer but in preparing my research for this post I came upon lots of sites operated by photographers that featured low-quality images.)
9. Use descriptive titles and filenames. Something as simple as “kestrel.jpg” is better than “20371.jpg” at being discovered. Taking even this small step will really help. If you blog, go back through your old posts and rename images there in this fashion. Even though they are old posts, they will bring new traffic with better file names.
10. Use descriptive alt text. Don’t be like Scott. Scott is lazy. Scott doesn’t always add the ALT TEXT tag to images. Don’t be like Scott! Alt text merely describes the image and improves accessibility for people who cannot see images on web pages whether it’s because they are blind, use low-bandwidth browsers, etc. Use keywords that match your site when possible. Using the example above in number 9.
<img src=”kestrel.jpg” alt=”American Kestrel with prey photo”/> is a whole lot more discoverable than-
11. Use semantic markup for images. Use the string “<img src=example.jpg” v. <div style”background-image:url(example.jpg)”An example</div>
12. Use an image sitemap. Here’s a detailed tutorial on how to do that from Google – https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/178636
13. Take the time to dig deeper on this topic by reading the Google SEO Starter Guide – https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7451184
Even if you only get through a few of the things on this list, you should see your images score better in search engines. And if you’re one of those who complains about posting images, but not getting traffic, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that ticking off the things I have described in this blog post will change that. I am rooting for you.
Picture Methods has partnered with Hunt’s Photo & Video to bring you the best gear at a competitive price and backed by personal service. Call Alan Samiljan at 781-462-2383 or Noah Buchanan at 781.462.2356. If you cannot reach either one try Gary Farber at 781-462-2332. You will ALWAYS get the best prices if you call the store v. Using the web site. You can also email Noah at: email@example.com or Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org or Gary at: email@example.com. Hunt’s has been around a long time and you can trust them. Make sure to mention that Scott Bourne sent you. That will get you the best deal.