What if I told you that the majority of your SEO problems didn’t have anything to do with broken links, thin content or even SEO keywords?
Yes my friend, not even SEO keywords.
According to Raven Tools up to 78% of SEO problems were linked to poor image optimization.
Don’t worry though, making your images more SEO friendly is much easier than you might think.
With some simple tweaks and being smarter about using images on your site you can DRAMATICALLY improve your SEO. So let’s take a deep dive into how to make your images SEO friendly.
What is Image Optimization for SEO?
Optimizing your images is pretty much making them smaller and “readable” for Google (and other search engines). First, let’s look at what it means to reduce your image’s size for optimization.
Uploading high resolution images may look pretty awesome, but they are hurting your SEO by making your browser work twice as hard to actually show them to people landing on your website.
Here’s an example.
If you upload an image to your site that’s 3000 pixels wide the browser has to first upload that behemoth of an original image, then it has to reload the image but sized-down to fit the area it has been uploaded to (like your blog post which isn’t 3000 pixels wide).
What this does is put your browser under more strain, leading to slower loading times.
And neither Google nor your site visitors have time for that. In fact, slow loading times caused by heavy image files can actually be costing you MONEY.
According to Kissmetrics having a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load hurts your conversion rate by 7%.
So just by making your images more SEO friendly, you can end up with more $$ in your bank account (Sounds pretty awesome, right? We’re just getting started….)
The second most important aspect of image optimization is making them more ‘readable’ for search engines, but what does that even mean?
Well, search engines aren’t actually great at figuring out what an image is all about – they depend heavily on text associated with the image to tell them what’s going on. That’s why using ALT text and using descriptive file names can help Google work out what your image is all about (more on that below).
Do Images Help with SEO?
Is fall the best season of the year? [Hint: YES].
There are 3 main reasons why image optimization helps with SEO.
- It give Google extra clues about your content
- Having more text associated with your image will help Google understand exactly what your content is about so you can increase your chances of ranking for your chosen keywords
- It helps Accessibility
- Using ALT text for your images allows you to add a description of the image. This was originally designed to improve the accessibility of your site by people with sight problems who use screen readers. It also means that if your image doesn’t load in the browser, ALT text can be shown so the visitor at least knows what the image was
- It helps you get found on Google Images
- Getting discovered on Google Images opens up a new opportunity for your content to rank on Google
In a nutshell, any practice that can help Google figure out what your content is all about will help your SEO. By optimizing your images you’re able to spoon-feed Google the information it needs to help your content rank.
6 Ways to Make Images SEO Friendly
#1. Make sure your image is relevant
Images should only be used to improve the user’s experience somehow. If it helps your reader digest information or complements what you’ve written then go ahead and use an optimized image. Just make sure that it actually adds something to your post – don’t just throw it in there.
Images that complement your content and help your reader digest information? Good.
Random images that mislead or confuse your reader and have nothing to do with the content? Bad.
(Bonus Tip: Creating graphics to display your information in a fun visual way is AWESOME for user experience. Infographics are SO shareable. But remember, don’t ONLY put the important info in the image….Google bots can’t read that.
Your information should be in TEXT on your page AS WELL. So users can see the information in the content AND the image. This will also help your visitors see the information on mobile if the image size shrinks too much!)
#2. Save your image in the correct format
Google Images supports the following formats: BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG. But you’ll probably only use JPEG or PNG for images on your website.
Here’s a useful breakdown of when to use JPEG and when to use PNG.
PNG- higher quality image
- For images with transparent backgrounds
- For smaller images such as logos or icons
JPEG- lower quality image
- For images with a lot of different colors, like photographs
- For product images and backgrounds
- For most of the images on your website
#3. Resize your image
I mentioned this briefly already, but it’s important enough to mention it twice.
When you upload a 3000px wide image to your blog post, you’re making the browser work 2x harder. The browser has to FIRST download the original 3000px wide image, THEN it has to re-load the image sized down to fit the area that it’s uploaded too.
In a nutshell: If the width of your website content is 800 pixels, your visitor’s browser has to load the 3000px image AND the 800px image. Now multiply that process by the number of images you have on that specific page…
See how that can turn into a pretty monstrous problem?
So, what should you do?
Before you upload ANY image to your website, double-check to see what size you’re going to need. If it’s going to be in your main content area, maybe you only need it to be 600px wide. If you’re uploading it to your sidebar, maybe you only need it to be 300px wide.
In terms of images for backgrounds, I usually recommend staying around 1800px wide. Why? Because it’s unlikely that your viewers will ever view your site on a screen that’s wider than that. And if they are, just make sure the image stretches to fit the container/screen and you’ll be good to go!
#4. Compress your image
Image optimizers trim all the fat from your images (stuff you don’t need like camera details, metadata, color profiles, embedded thumbnails, etc) which decreases the file size without affecting quality.
You can use a WordPress plugin like WP Smush It which automatically compresses your images when you upload them. If you’re a MAC user you can download a super easy drag-and-drop app called ImageOptim (this is what I use).
#5. Use Descriptive File Names
Most images have names like IMG00023.JPG which doesn’t tell Google anything about what your image actually is.
Help Google out and give your file name something descriptive which will give it another clue about what your image is. Find the image file you want to upload and rename it before you upload it to your site.
Let’s say we have an image of a juicy beef burger, we can change the image’s name to reflect that by naming it “beef-burger”.
TIP: Try to use hyphens between words for file names.
#6. Add ALT Text
ALT text is a description of your image that helps Google understand what it is (because as we’ve seen they aren’t so great at working that out from the image itself).
The difference between a filename and ALT text is:
- File name = name of the image file
- ALT text = description of what the image is actually of. So basically it’s how you would explain the image to someone if they couldn’t actually SEE the image.
Another big difference is that the file name is named in your computer and is automatically attached to the image and the ALT text is added in after uploading.
Meaning, every image on your website has a FILE NAME but images won’t have an ALT TEXT unless you go in manually and add it.
Now that the difference is clear, let’s see an example of good and bad ALT text. Let’s say you have a burger joint and you’re adding an image to your menu page. Don’t make the ALT text of your image a keyword-stuffed monstrosity like “hamburger delicious hamburger cheeseburger best hamburger hamburger recipe hamburger with bacon”
Simply describe what it’s about and be as specific as possible. A much better ALT text would be: “flame-grilled beef burger by Mario’s Burger Joint Buffalo NY”
That’s VERY descriptive, not stuffed with keywords and even has local keywords (so hungry Buffalonians can find you and grab a bite!)
TIP: you don’t have to use hyphens between words for ALT text.
BONUS: Should you use WordPress’ Caption and Description Box?
If you’re a WordPress user you might have noticed that once you upload an image you have the option to include captions and a description. Here’s what they are and whether or not you should use them.
Captions: this is a short description of what the image is and will display on the image. Most people don’t use them and usually it’s enough to add ALT text and a descriptive file name. You might want to use them for product descriptions or any photos that might require a bit of “backstory” to help the reader understand what they’re about.
For example, “Me exploring the streets of London back in 2005.”
Description field: this is the information that shows up on your image’s attachment page.
An attachment page is the page where your image lives on the internet. Anytime you upload a file like an image or a PDF your site creates a separate page to host that content. It’s similar to how each post lives on its own page with its own unique URL.
As these pages don’t contain valuable content and have a high bounce rate (people immediately clicking off the page) they can be harmful to your SEO.
You can use a WordPress plugin like Yoast to automatically redirect these attachment page URLs to a post or page so you don’t need to worry about them.
Optimizing your images will eventually become second nature the more you do it and trust me when I say it’s WORTH IT. At the end of the day it’s just an easy way to help Google understand what your content is about and to help speed up your website.
Want a Free Full Roadmap of Successful SEO?
Making your images more SEO-friendly can have a big impact, but it’s still only one piece of the puzzle. If you want to get a complete roadmap to getting on Google’s good side and finally ranking on page 1 then check out my FREE guide ‘Roadmap to Successful SEO’.
Got any questions about image optimization? Let me know in the comments below.