A website with no images is like a home with no decor or a billboard with nothing on it. It has potential, but it’s not making the best use of its space. Whether they grab the attention of your visitors, drive home a point, or simply make your site more pleasant on the eyes, images are a huge part of good web design. And by optimizing images for SEO, they can play a part in boosting your search rankings and site traffic, too!
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is an essential part of building a website for your business. Basically, it’s how we make websites easy for search engines like Google, Bing, or Ecosia to understand. If search engines know what’s on each page, they can list these pages as results in searches that are relevant.
But it’s not enough to simply add pictures to your site and hope for the best. You’ll need to optimize your images for searching. Here’s how to get started…
Pick the Right Image
The first step to using an image on your website, is to find an image to use. Sounds obvious, right? But you can’t use just any image to boost your search rankings.
First, make sure you have permission to use the picture on your site. If you don’t have permission, you could face consequences from the image’s owner. Taking your own photos is the best option, though perhaps not the most accessible one. Alternatively, you can search through Creative Commons images like the ones on Flickr. All you have to do is credit the photographer.
Stock photos are another great solution. Many stock photos can be a bit on the tacky side, so try to find ones that don’t look so obvious. In fact, the featured image of this article is a stock photo! There’s a stock photo for almost any topic… And we mean any topic. Just look at this one:
Secondly, you need to make sure the image is relevant to your existing content. A good rule of thumb is to only use images that add value to your article or website. If they look like they belong or feel like a natural addition, they’re good to go.
When you’re ready to download your image, give it a filename that reflects its content. Use its keyphrase, or the most important information the image conveys, in the beginning of the filename.
Make It Presentable
Optimizing your image isn’t as easy as plopping it on your site! You’ll need to take a few steps to get it ready for its debut.
Next, decide what size your image should be. When you post the image to your website you can set its display size, but this won’t actually change the size of the image itself. That means you can display a 100×100 image on your site that is actually 3000×3000. A browser has to load that huge image for a tiny result, which slows down your site’s load time and affects both the user experience and your SEO. Using your computer’s basic photo viewer, you can resize the image to be the same size as you intend to display it.
Now that you have the right image size, make sure the file is as small as possible. Again, small files are easier to load and will only help your SEO, so use a compressor tool to make the image size small and efficient. Here at Punch Bug, we use TinyPNG, not least because it’s free and it features a cute bamboo-munching panda. Some other tools include JPEGmini and Kraken.io.
Show Off Your Images
Now you’re ready to add the image to your website. Place it as close as possible to any related information – in other words, use the image where it makes the most sense. Not only is this good for the user experience, but search engines use the context in which they find images to help rank them.
In the interest of readability, we don’t recommend placing images on the left side of the screen. Because English is read from left to right, the left margin acts as an anchor. Left-aligning your images means some lines of your text will begin in a different part of the screen than the rest, making your content more difficult to read.
Once the image is on your site, there are a few things you can or should add to it. The first is a caption, or a summary of the image that’s visible just below it. Here’s an example:
Because images draw readers out of the text, they’re naturally read more than other content. In fact, according to marketing guru Neil Patel, captions are read about 300 percent more than body text. They’re also more likely to be read by people skimming your content.
Captions give you an opportunity to drive your points home and draw readers back into the rest of your text. But don’t overuse them: a good rule of thumb is to only use captions on photos that would benefit from supporting text or clarification. You can also use captions to attribute the image’s creator.
Making Pictures Talk
Accessibility is an important part of optimizing images for SEO. Every visitor to your site is different, and none of them should be at a disadvantage when using it. That’s why every image you post on your site should have alt text. An image’s alt text should describe it briefly but accurately. It appears when images don’t load properly on a page or when they’re turned off in a user’s browser settings.
Screen readers can read alt text out loud to visitors who use them due to visual impairments or for other reasons. Having clear alt text on every image helps make your site more accessible to everyone. However, title text isn’t as important. It only appears as a tooltip in some browsers – that’s the text box that appears on your cursor when you hover over an image. It can be unpredictable when used by screen readers, so it’s not necessary to include.
You have the image ready to go on your site. What else can you do to optimize it? Here are a few more things to consider:
- If your image is part of a recipe or product, you can add structured data to help search engines display it as a rich result. See Google’s Structured Data General Guidelines for more information about rich results.
- To make sure the image is included in social media shares, go to your page HTML and add this tag to the <head> section:
<meta property=”og:image” content=”http://example.com/link-to-image.jpg” />
- Use larger images when you know they’ll be going onto social media as well, as social platforms tend to use higher quality images when possible.
- Include your images in your XML sitemap. This helps search engines know what images are available on the pages across your entire site and in turn boosts your SEO.
Images are an integral part of a functional and visually appealing website. But they can be more than just set pieces: they can help your site rank higher in search results and be found by more potential customers. Don’t let your site go unadorned: picture what it could be with beautiful, optimized images!
There’s more to SEO, of course. To learn more about ranking higher in local search results, check out our beginner-friendly guide to local SEO.