While text searches are the main utilisation of Google and other search engines, image search is the next best opportunity for marketers and business owners to improve their SEO and get to the top of the search engine results. As Google mentions, image searches on mobile devices have grown by over 60% in the last years.
In order to generate more visits and determine users to stay on the website for longer and take other actions, you should take image optimisation for SEO just as seriously as you do for your written content.
The problem is that when it comes to image SEO, most people focus on alt text and file size as the primary ways of optimising their images. However, there are many other tactics you can use to optimise the visual content on your website.
Let’s start with a little introduction to how Google selects images that rank the highest in the Google Image Search tab
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SEO for Google Image Search
Have you wondered how Google selects the images to be shown in the Google Images Search results? As you may already know, Google crawlers (software that goes over the content on the website, gathering information) are used to gather data from web pages, which then Google compiles and organises (indexing) in its enormous database.
Same crawlers play a role in Google’s Image Search by determining the ranking of the content on a page (just as the normal search function works). You are then shown the images appended to that text, plus a selection of visually similar images, which Google finds through machine learning, vector matching, and so on.
By combining the data it gets from indexed text with matching visual similarities and other factors (like the ranking of a website, its performance, and others), Google is then able to retrieve an array of similar images and link to content relevant to the search query.
Now that we understand how Google and other search engines rank and index your images for the image search, we can make better decisions in terms of SEO. We will go through the main SEO tactics you can implement for an effective image SEO ranking.
Choose the Right Images
One of the main things you need to make sure of is that your images are relevant to the content they are matching. Choose impactful images that can’t be easily taken out of context or minimal graphics that will fit the ideas you are writing about.
You can choose several images for a content piece, and break down the text with their help, a very effective tactic that will help you both with the relevance of the text, and the user experience.
When it comes to the source of the images you should put in your content, don’t be afraid to use stock photos, even if they might appear on other web pages as well. Google won’t penalise image duplicates in the same way it does with text. As long as the source of the photo is mentioned correctly, you will be fine.
Make Sure the Images Are Legally Sourced
This is a very important step before you publish any image on your website or you attach it to your blog post. Unique images are great, and we strongly encourage you to create your own visual content whenever possible, but doing so depends a lot on your resources and needs. If you publish content twice a day on your website, it’s not exactly feasible to create a photo or graphic content each time.
Stock photos are an amazing source of images, and they have clear rules about what you can publish and how to mention the source. Copyright infringement is not something you want to deal with, especially if you are a small business or a blogger at the beginning of their journey.
Always check the policy of the stock photo database owners, and make sure that you have permission to publish the images on their website on your own web pages. Search the web for proper image sourcing protocols and always do it before publishing a photo, as their owners are very likely to reverse check to see if their images are used without their permission.
Local Image SEO
Any small business owner or the owner of a brick and mortar business is aware of the importance of local SEO. Apply the same SEO principles to the images on your website and, if they are relevant to the area you operate in, mention the location in the alt text, title tags, and other alt attributes.
Also, make sure to include image content in your Google MyBusiness profile and show your potential customer what they can expect from visiting your business.
Use a Relevant Name for the Uploaded File
You might think that no one cares what the file names of your images are, but Google crawls that too. Include the relevant keyword you have researched prior to publishing the content piece in the file name of the images as well. If you have several words in the name of the file, separate them with hyphens instead of underscores, as Google treats them differently.
Once you have optimised your images, you will notice more traffic being driven from the image search section of Google and other search engines
Use Keywords in the Title Tags
A lesser-known way of optimising your images for SEO is to include keywords in the title tags of images.
Here is an example of an HTML image title tag:
<img src=”file-name.png” alt=”alternative text” title=”image title”>
As you can see, image titles add yet another dimension where you can include relevant keywords and convince Google that your image is, indeed, relevant to the topic.
Submit an Image Sitemap to Google
If your website has a lot of images, like the case of eCommerce websites, you will need to submit a sitemap of the images to the Google index. Image sitemaps make it clear for the search engines, as they tell them where the images belong, what they contain, and how they should be indexed.
Compress Files, to Not Affect Page Loading Speed
User experience is highly influenced by the loading times of the web page the user lands on. If you upload very big files, it will take more time for the page to load them. A visitor will likely bounce off your page if they don’t see the images properly, especially if they are relevant to the content.
Other times, it might not affect their decision, especially if you include relevant, descriptive alternative text to each image. But page load times have to be kept as low as possible, so compressing image files should be a default action, especially if you have lots of images on your website.
But, to stay safe and avoid high bounce rates, compress your images you upload to the server and make sure you do it without compromising the quality or resolution of the images.
Add Relevant Alt Text
As mentioned before, it might happen that the images on your web page are not displayed properly. In this case, the user can get information from the alt text you have edited when publishing your content. This is an accessibility function that is very important for blind or visually impaired users.
Google also crawls alt text in search of relevant tags, combining them with other factors that will eventually rank your visual content higher or lower in the search results.
Best SEO Practices for SVG
SVG images (Scalable Vector Graphics) are wonderful for SEO, as they are responsive images that will enhance the user experience, therefore the ranking Google gives your website. To define an SVG image, you need to create XML text files, which can be done with Adobe Illustrator or another text editor.
Choose Good Spots to Insert Your Images
Last but not least, picking the best spots for your images within the content is important for the look and feel of your web page, as it should help the reader better understand the content and make it easier for them to go through the text, especially if you publish long pieces, like pillar pages, etc.
Need Help With SEO?
Image SEO comes with numerous benefits. It can improve your page speed, create a better user experience, boost your ranking, and compel visitors to purchase your products. But, to reap all these benefits, you need to work constantly to make sure your images are properly optimised and in line with Google’s best practices.
If you need help with your SEO, whether it’s about image optimisation, content marketing, or off-site SEO, our experts at Australian Internet Advertising are ready to make a proposal to you, based on your needs, the performance of your website, and what you can invest in your marketing tactics.
Contact us via email, phone, or by simply filling in the online form on our website. You will get a free health check that would normally cost you $500, as well as a 30 minutes session with an online expert to determine what course of action to take towards higher revenue, better performances, and better SEO overall.