The power of the photo – how to optimise your images for SEO

When you are optimising pages on your website for SEO, you may look at the content, structure and links… but have you considered the images on the pages too?

Images and photos on your website appear in Google and Bing’s image search functionality, meaning optimising them can be a great way of guiding people towards your web page of choice.

One in five web searches happen on Google images, so it’s vital to ensure your website’s pictures and photos are front and centre!

Looking to make your photos more prominent? Here are seven simple ways that you can optimise the images on your site for SEO.

  1. Name your images accurately

When you take photos on your camera and smartphone, they are usually given a naming structure in line with the date and time the photo was snapped.

While this can be a useful way of sorting images on your desktop, it’s not a great naming convention to use on your website.

Giving your photos a descriptive name before you upload them to your site gives the search engines additional context. It ensures that your images appear for the right keyword searches.

Our top tips for naming your images are:

  • Use the same target keywords that you are using on your page
  • Put your target keywords at the start of the file name; this will maximise the chances of the search engines reading them
  • Use hyphens rather than underscores – search engines don’t recognise underscores
  1. Utilise alt text

When you upload an image to a page, you will have the option of adding alt text – sometimes referred to as alternative text or alt tags. As tempting as it may be, don’t leave it blank!

Alt text serves two purposes. Not only does it help with search engine optimisation, but it also provides additional information about the image to people who use screen readers. The alt text also appears if a visitor’s browser can’t load images for any reason.

Keep your alt text descriptive and relevant. It’s recommended that you keep it under 125 characters as some screen readers cut it off after this point.

  1. Optimise your images

Page speed is a critical factor when it comes to SEO.

A page load time that goes from 1 second to 3 seconds increases the likelihood of a visitor bouncing off the page by 32%. A high bounce rate is a negative ranking signal in the search engines and will pull your website down in the results.

This means that it is vital not only to ensure that your images are optimised but to choose the right format. As a rule of thumb, jpegs are best for photos, pngs are best for line drawings, gifs are best for moving images and svgs are best for vector images.

Play around with compression and file sizes to make sure that your images are as small as possible, without compromising on image quality.

There are a lot of great tools out there to help make image optimisation as pain-free as possible. If you use WordPress, the Smush plugin is a good choice.

  1. Take your own photos

When looking for photos to accompany a blog post or news article, it’s easy to jump on a stock photo site and download an image that someone else has taken.

However, using your own images can help increase the chances of people visiting your site.

Whilst stock photos do not have a detrimental effect on site SEO, search engine users are more likely to click on a unique image than one that has been used several times.

Another bonus of unique imagery is that you can ask people who use your images to credit you with a link. This is an excellent way of boosting your link building efforts and passing additional authority to your website!

  1. Use captions and titles

Although not as important as alt text, captions and images can be valuable for SEO purposes.

Descriptive captions to accompany an image can improve the page experience and reduce the chances of visitors bouncing off your page.

Titles (the description that pops up when a web user hovers over an image) can provide additional context. Google has advised that titles aren’t always used for SEO purposes, but they can be if they are relevant.

  1. Use appropriate images

This tip sounds overly simple, but using relevant images on your page will help provide context to search engines. For example, if you have a blog post about cheese, using photos of cheese rather than a loaf of bread will add more value.

Placing images near the most relevant text on your page will help the search engines associate the images and text more directly too.

  1. Avoid using images as text where possible

Although search engines like Google and Bing can guess the context of words when they are in an image file format, they cannot understand what the image says outright. This can not only hamper your SEO efforts but is not good for accessibility either.

If you do have to use images as text, use the file name and alt text to explain what the image says.

We hope these tips will help you optimise your images and boost your pages’ search engine rankings.

We’d recommend running an audit of the images on your site and seeing which ones need improving or changing. Even making small changes can have a considerable impact on SEO.

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