Image SEO (Why It Should Be a Top Priority)
Web pages that contain images and videos generate 94 percent more impressions than pages with text alone, and nearly a third of internet marketers worldwide say that visual images are the most important type of content for their business.
Image optimization is often overlooked in SEO plans that focus on text-based pages and posts, but if you aren’t making image SEO a key part of your marketing strategies, you may be missing opportunities to increase engagement, boost search engine rankings and build brand awareness.
Here’s why – and how to optimize your photographs, illustrations and other visual content for maximum SEO impact.
Visual Content is a Powerful Marketing Tool
Text has always been an important part of most websites, and text-based pages, posts, and documents still play a powerful role in building a site’s rankings in Google and other search engines.
But visual content of all kinds – images, slideshows, infographics, and videos – draw viewer interest in different ways, working with text to create a synergy that generates more engagement and SEO value than text alone can do.
Website visitors want the best possible experience online – one that offers them the most relevant information in the most accessible format, delivered in the shortest amount of time. And while Google’s much-amended algorithms lean heavily toward rewarding meaty, long-form articles that include long tail keywords and natural language, the world’s largest search engine also loves images – and rewards sites with the right kind of images, properly optimized, in the same way.
Image SEO Improves Search Rankings
Visual content can and does improve a site’s rankings, but that depends on the nature of the images and videos that appear there. Purely decorative elements don’t do much for a site’s visibility, but useful, relevant images do, especially when paired with relevant, keyword rich text. Properly optimized, high-quality images that are inserted at appropriate points can amplify the message of a post or page and boost the site’s rank in multiple ways.
When Google crawls webpages for indexing, it looks not only for keywords, but also how and where those keywords are used, both in text and in visual content. And just as it does with text, it considers the value that content adds to the site and to the experience of users who visit. The same criteria apply: images need to be high quality, optimized for SEO in multiple ways, mobile responsive, and relevant to a user’s search query. Visual content that meets those standards can enhance the ranking potential of the page or post to which it’s attached, and the content itself can generate quality backlinks as it’s shared and searched with tools like Google Image Search.
How To Improve Your Site’s Image SEO
Google’s crawlers index images in ways similar to documents and webpage text –by keyword, search relevance, and quality. Although Google can’t index text that appears directly on an image, it can crawl an image’s HTML tags and metadata, and evaluate whether it actually enhances the overall relevance and quality of the webpage where it appears. That means that there are many ways to optimize visual content for search relevance.
Plan Image Placement
Just about every website has multiple destinations for visual content, and they can all be optimized for search. But Google prefers that images and video appear close to the content they refer to and that the content references the visuals in some way. If you’re building your site with WordPress as over a third of webmasters are, images can appear in places like headers and backgrounds, on landing pages or as the featured image in a blog post. All of them offer opportunities for SEO if they add value and additional information to the text.
Optimize for All Devices
Google rewards sites that are mobile responsive, and the same is true for images. Before posting, images such as photographs and illustrations need to be optimized for the highest image quality to display on all kinds of devices. That means selecting the right dimensions (usually square or rectangular), at the highest possible resolution while keeping file sizes small for fast loading.
Optimize for Safe Search
To make your content available to the right audience, optimize with Google Safe Search in mind. Safe Search is a family friendly filter option for Google Search that screens out explicit adult content. If you have adult content on your site, add “adult” to the relevant image tags so that it can reach its intended audience.
Add Alt and Title Tags
Both “alt” and “title” are HTML attributes for images, and if you don’t add information about the content of an image and its title, those fields are left blank. That means that they can’t be read by screen readers that make web content available to the visually impaired. Filling an image’s alt, title and caption fields with relevant keywords makes the image searchable and relevant to Google’s crawlers.
Make Video Content Searchable
Video is arguably the most popular visual content on the web, and most videos can’t be directly optimized using a website’s own tools because they’re generally embedded from another site. To make video content more searchable, optimize it on the site where it appears, such as YouTube or Vimeo. Consider creating and posting a transcript and video sitemap to aid Google’s indexing.
Image and video content consistently outperforms text-based pages and posts in searches and engagement. In today’s content marketing world, images reign – and image SEO works with text-based content strategies to increase engagement and boost search rankings.