Optimization of your website doesn’t end with homepage text and metadata, since other elements can have just as much impact on your ranking. We will examine some of the available tools you can use to turn images into a core component of your SEO strategy.

What is image SEO?

To ensure that your website ranks highly on search engine results pages, it’s not just the text on your page that needs to be optimised for SEO purposes.  The images on your website are also trawled by Google algorithms and need to be labelled accordingly.  Creating descriptive, keyword-rich file names is vital for effective image optimisation. Your images should not only be labelled using clear, simply language, they must also be scaled down and quick to load as Google uses page load time as a factor in their ranking algorithm.  Compressed, well labelled images will help your website to remain in a high ranking position on search pages every time.

From the earliest days of the internet, visual content has been displayed alongside text. It is such a default decision to place a few images on your website that true reasons for their inclusion are rarely even discussed on a serious level. Since practically every website strives to gain a prominent position on the search result page, it is worth considering how the images can contribute to this objective and analyze the most effective methods to achieve this. The truth is that the potential of images for SEO positioning is often underestimated, with most of the attention going to text optimization and link building strategies. That means smart website owners can gain a sizeable advantage over competitors if they manage their images according to best SEO practice, without investing almost anything and armed with only basic technical knowledge.

Let’s run through some of the fundamental techniques for image optimization that could be useful to a broad range of business-focused websites:

Match images to main content themes

The main principle used by search engines to sort the results is page relevancy, and this applies to images just as much as to other types of online content. In other words, if images displayed on your website are closely related to the rest of the content found there, this consistency will have a positive impact on your Google rank. Of course, matching text and images is a procedure you would likely follow anyway even without its SEO impact, as this helps the visitors understand what the website is about. Now you have another reason to avoid spamming your own homepage with good-looking pictures that have no ties to your business and aim a little higher. Don’t forget positioning either – the impact is much greater if the images are posted within the articles they describe, not independently on random pages.

Optimize image name and size

No, these are not merely technical details. Your images need to be properly sized for the web, which typically means the original files will have to be downsized, so your site can load quickly even for users with slower connections. A variety of online and offline tools are available for this purpose, but be aware that some pictures might not look as impressive in lower resolution (i.e. highly detailed images are more likely to degrade). When naming the image, pay attention to include the primary keyword for your SEO campaign, since this will allow for better synergy between various aspects of your online promotion. We are not living in the ‘stone age of internet’ any longer and standardisation of the most basic image features has been made easy with introduction of content management platforms such as WordPress.

Add captions and tags

Web crawlers search for bits of info on your site that could help to classify the content, so captions and tags associated with your image carry a lot of weight in terms of SEO placement. These chunks of text are suitable for planting keywords that you want emphasised, provided they are actually related to the image. Captions must be well-written and informative in addition to keyword-rich, since they represent a part of your user interface and must serve a dual function. On the other hand, tags are intended strictly for indexing purposes and don’t have to be creatively arranged, but need to include a carefully researched list of keywords that you want to be competitive on. Make sure you also add tags to the XML sitemap, since this is the place where they will provide you with maximal amount of ‘Google juice’.

Include alt text for every image

In instances when the image can’t be displayed for whatever reason, a customisable string of text (known as ‘alt text’ in the industry) is shown to the user in its place. Inexperienced website owners could disregard this element as non-essential and hence miss a great opportunity to enrich their SEO support structure a bit more. The benefits of adequate alt text include better user experience as well as strong reinforcement of your selected keywords, while the necessary time/skill investment is minimal. That’s why alt text should be mandatory for every picture on your site, with its exact formulation carefully aligned with image content and chief campaign objectives at the same time. Once again, play it safe here and don’t try to tweak the rules in your favour to include unrelated keywords, or Google might detect you and downgrade your ranking accordingly.

Matt Cutts from Google Webmasters talks about optimising images to boost your sites ranking

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