Image SEO is a tactic used to increase the image file ranking in search engine results pages. Just like with regular URLs, images also have the potential to appear in the SERPs, such as Google Images.
But unlike with normal pages, search engines have a much more difficult time knowing what an image is about since they cannot see the image as people do. Instead, they have to rely on additional information one can offer through image SEO.
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Should Image SEO Be Included in Your Strategy?
To know if image SEO is a good idea for you, let’s first consider what are the potential benefits of this practice.
Potentially, image search could be a great drive for high-quality traffic to your site. When a user searches in image format, once they click on a particular image they can easily tap the ‘Visit’ button to see the original page the image appears on, and read the content.
But, to know whether this effort will genuinely pay off for you generally depends on the type of business you run, and the reason why people search for images in the first place. If, for instance, you offer 24/hour handyman services, you might not need to focus a lot on image SEO, since it’s unlikely people will try to find such services through image search.
But image SEO does make a lot of sense if your services or products have a strong visual appeal. For instance, users may search for a particular product, and look for images of it, rather than look through the links on a SERP. when they see the product images they want, they can go to the website and even make a purchase.
The same may apply to news sites, stock photo sites, any kind of eCommerce sites, etc. If you’re unsure if it applies to you or not, you can check to see if you have any traffic to your site coming specifically through images. If you do, it may be worth improving your image SEO efforts.
What Goes into Image SEO?
Image SEO might be a good idea regardless of the traffic potential, as it can support your overall SEO strategy. Image optimisation has many different components that can help improve the quality of your user experience at times.
Here are the top ways to approach Image SEO:
1. Choosing the Image File Format and Compress Them
The file type influences the image quality. For instance, a JPEG image file is great if you have special photography such as portraits or landscapes you want to make a statement with, but only relying on JPEG is not ideal since these files are larger, on average. PNG is much more efficient at offering good quality for less used space.
A combination of different file types is often the best way to approach it, just consider what the final goal of those images on your site serves. Then, optimising images for the web prevents the SEO-dooming problem of having web pages that take forever to load. As you know, page load times are a ranking factor for Google and other search engines.
Through compression, you can reduce the file size while keeping the quality of the image as intended. The loading times stay optimal and the user still gets to see a high-quality picture on their screen.
2. Make Images Mobile-Friendly
Another big ranking factor to consider is the mobile-friendliness of your site. This doesn’t just mean you have to focus on the theme of the website itself, but also the images.
And now, it’s more important than ever, considering we’re living in the mobile-first Google indexing era. Developers need to make sure the mobile sites work seamlessly on mobile devices, just like on desktops, and for images that means ensuring the file doesn’t interfere with the user’s ability to navigate the page.
One solution to this issue is responsive images. The image showing on your page will automatically scale depending on the screen size used to access the URL, whether it’s a mobile device or laptop with different display sizes. This ensures everyone can get the same experience on the page when it comes to images.
3. Make Images Worth Clicking
If we’re talking image SEO specifically, the goal is to encourage users to visit your page through the images you have on your site. To do that, images should:
- Be high-quality
- Be original
- Faithfully represent the product or service
Stock photos are great, and you have the benefit of quickly gathering high-quality images to use on your site, but you won’t generate much traffic from them. Especially if a lot of your competitors are using the very same ones.
For image SEO, you should think of your images just like you would a blog post or an ad. The goal is to get users to visit the site, and the image should be the medium that gets them to do that.
4. Focus on the Title and Alt Text
Naming your images a random string on letters and numbers does nothing for image SEO. Search engines and users can use the file name to make sense of what the photo represents, particularly certain details that might not be easy to make out from the photo itself.
For instance, you can have two pictures of sunflower fields, but taken in two different countries. You could name the images “sunflower-field-America” and “sunflower-field-Australia” to help search engines and users distinguish between the two.
But it’s not just the image file title. The alt tag is also a text alternative to provide users and search engines with more information about what the image is about. Since search engines cannot tell what the group of pixels represents, they rely on the file name and alt tag to decipher it. If you also leverage important keywords, the images can support your other content efforts to boost your rankings.
And alt tags matter for users, too. If there’s a poor internet connection and the image doesn’t load, the page will display the alt attribute info, so the user can still know what the image is about. But, perhaps the biggest benefit of focusing on these alt tags is that you’re increasing website accessibility.
People who are visually impaired often rely on screen readers that can read the contents of a page out loud, or render it into braille. Thanks to alt tags, screen readers can basically describe the images to people and increase their access to web page content.
5. Add Images to the Sitemap
Sitemaps are files that provide more information about your site, pages, images, videos, and more. They allow search engines to crawl your site more efficiently, and can even be used by people to navigate through the site, especially when you have a lot of different page categories and sections.
You can create separate image sitemaps, or add your images to an existing sitemap, the results are pretty much the same. It allows the search engines to quickly crawl and identify the images on your site, which means they can be featured in Google Images a lot sooner than expected.
6. Focus on Structured Data
Structured data helps SEO because you make it easier for Google to understand the content of your page. It can also help your content be featured in a rich snippet, which is the box of content Google creates on a SERP. It will show more information to the user about your page, which can lead to more clicks to your site.
And images can be included in the structured data, which could be a way to encourage users to click on your link and not rely just on the content in the snippet. For instance, if you post a lot of recipes, adding images to your structured data could mean the user gets a preview of the recipe right in the SERP. If they like the image they see, they will click to get the full recipe, as opposed to continuing to go through the other results.
Whether you’re optimising images to rank better in Google Images specifically, or are doing it to support a wider SEO strategy, the golden rule here is this: upload your images with a purpose.
Any image showing up on your pages should be a tool that helps you reach your goal, whether that’s to keep users engaged or provide more information about what you’re offering. If you need some help improving your current SEO efforts, Australian Internet Advertising is just a few clicks away.
Reach out online or call us at 1300 304 640, and let’s see how to get your Sydney business on the right SEO path.