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People are very visual. Website visuals can enhance an online visitor’s experience, keep people on a page longer, increase the chance of social media clicks, and of course, give you a better chance to make a sale. Used correctly, images can also improve search engine rankings. Used incorrectly, images might not display well on certain devices, slow down a page’s load time, or at best, just not be particularly helpful for SEO.
Search engine professionals, marketing experts, and website developers typically advocate the use of images. To make the most of your own photos, icons, and informational visuals, consider some SEO optimization tips for images that will help you get the most benefit from your site’s visuals.
These are some general best practices to always employ when using images on a website:
Use a descriptive word or phrase for filenames. Search engine bots are much more likely to pick up on words than interpret pictures. For example, purple1990skyline.jpg is a much better filename than img1961.jpg.
The Alt tag allows you to add a description to your image. Don’t stuff this tag with keywords but write a coherent description that can help associate your content with relevant searches. For example alt=”1990 purple skyline” is much better than alt=”1990, blue, skyline, purple skyline, 1990 purple skyline, skyline 1990 purple,”
You can use image software to compress images to ensure they load as quickly as possible. Page load time is considered an important search engine ranking factor. It is important to keep the image size as small as possible without losing quality. A good rule of thumb would be to keep it under 1mb.
A few of the most popular image software programs that you might use to compress your images include, Adobe Photoshop, Pixlr and Gimp. Each of these programs have features that allow you to choose the file format and even set the compression ratio to 80% , 50%, etc, while saving your image. This in turn gives you the power to really dial down the image size while optimizing the quality.
The .JPG format has become a web standard as it delivers good quality at a great file size which equals a faster page load. The .PNG format has a better image quality but a much larger file size. This file type is not recommended unless you are a photographer or someone who truly needs to display high quality images of products for sale on your website. It’s still important to have PNG’s on hand as they allow for transparent images when needed. When it comes to smaller, simpler images on your site such as thumbnail images, logos, and icons, a .GIF might be a better choice as that file type provides a more lightweight file size when high quality images are not necessary.
It’s easy to argue that product images or informational graphics add value to a web page and might be worth some additional load time. However, exercise some thought when using non-essential images that could speed up load times without adding value. Examples might be background images or decorative borders.
The items below are more advanced best practices for optimizing images on your website:
Image sitemaps provide a list of URL’s that navigate to the images on your website. This list of URL’s or sitemap can be added to the robots.txt file and Google Search Console so Google can easily discover the images on your website for faster indexing. This does not guarantee that Google will index all of your images but the sitemap will help Google find them much easier than solely through their own crawling bots.
A Content Delivery Network or CDN in it’s simplest form is a separate place to host your image files besides your own website. This is comparable to uploading your images on Facebook or Flickr and simply displaying them on your website. Installing a CDN can definitely speed up your website but it is not recommended for most.
First, your images won’t rank anymore within Google Image Search and they won’t link back to your website and provide the website as a whole any seo value. CDN’s recreate the image URL on your website and link back to their own.
Second, CDN’s are mostly for very large websites with visitors into the millions and their servers struggle to keep up. CDN’s will help these websites “take a load off” by taking their images and helping with faster load times and server bandwidth. if your website only receives thousands of visitors your server should be able to handle it and you won’t need a CDN.
Mobile searches have become a huge factor in Internet searches recently. For one thing, the percentage of Internet searches that get performed on a smartphone or other mobile device keeps growing every year. Also, Google has already warned webmasters that optimization for mobile has become a ranking factor. Finally, images need to display as clearly on small devices as they do on large ones. Website owners who do not optimize for mobile searches are bound to lose website visitors.
These are some things to consider about optimizing images for mobile use:
With these SEO tips, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of images that can even boost your rankings.