Whether you’re doing SEO, web design, or writing a blog post you will inevitably have to use images. First of all, because it improves the user experience by bringing the page alive. But also because it’s important if you want to rank high in search results. However, creating SEO-friendly images might not be as clear as it is for someone who knows what they are doing. Therefore, we compiled this post so you can fully optimize your images and beat your competition.
There is no question about the fact that images can add tremendous value to your web pages and probably are the difference if you rank at the top or not. For example, imagine you are talking about a study a university did on population growth. At some point in that article, you’d want to see how much the population has changed over the years. An image of a graph that shows that growth would add context to your article. It helps the reader understand and conceptualize what they read.
What Is Image SEO?
When someone is doing image SEO, they are making it easy for search engines to read and understand your content. Consequently, this improves your rankings and visibility in search engines such as Google. There are many factors that determine how SEO-friendly your images are. For instance, the SEO image size, type, alt text, usage of keywords in file names and alt text, etc.
Very often image SEO is something that is overlooked and ignored. The reason for this is because it’s often small changes that don’t have much of an impact if done to one image. Instead, you have to optimize all your images. The good news though is that if you spend time optimizing all your images you will have an advantage over your competitors. Because the most likely scenario is that they have an alt text and maybe they compressed the image as well but they probably skipped the other things. This depends on what keyword you want to rank for though.
How Do I Make My Photos SEO Friendly?
So below we have outlined some tips and tricks that you can do to have better images for SEO. Please remember that if you follow all these steps and don’t see a change in your rankings or website performance it could be due to other reasons. SEO rankings are determined by many factors beyond just images. Please keep that in mind.
1. Compress Images
Do your website a favor and compress images for SEO. Google with thank you. This will reduce the file size, which means images will load faster leading to a faster website speed. According to the HTTP archive, unoptimized images make up about 75% of a website’s total file size. Just as an example, before we optimized our own website, we had a Pagespeed Insights score of 38. Now before you laugh in my virtual face. We actually did something about it. We decided to compress all the images on the entire site and the score jumped to 92. Now that is not perfect but it’s a lot better than 38. This just shows the power of compressing images on your loading times has.
At this point, you might be wondering what it is that you can do to compress your images. There are many tools out there that all pretty much do the same thing. Our favorite SEO image optimizer online is Optimizilla. The reason for this because you can choose how much you want to compress your images. Another image compressor is TinyPNG. The best thing to do is just to try a few of them and see which one you like the most.
If you use WordPress, an image SEO tool or plugin might be a good option for you too. Again there is a multitude of plugins that you can use. From personal experience the ones we find the best are either Smush or ShortPixel. These are great to optimize your SEO images on WordPress.
2. How to Tag Images for SEO?
If you are a location-based business you should consider geotagging your images. The easiest way to do this is to just go to geoimgr.com and upload your image. Then select your location on the map to the left. Once you have chosen your location, select “Write EXIF Tags”. This geotags your images for better local SEO. What that means is that geographical positioning data such as longitude and latitude is added to your image. Your website visitors won’t see this information but search engines do when crawling your page.
There are several benefits to this:
- It helps search engines make the connection between your images and your location. That will give you a little boost in your SEO efforts.
- As more searches are made on mobile devices, search engines factor in the device’s location when delivering their results to achieve more relevance.
- Web searches get more specific and people want precise answers to their questions. Geotagging helps you pinpoint your customers and makes your business more relevant in the top search results. For example, if you are looking for roofing services in New York, you don’t care about the roofing businesses in Los Angeles.
- It contributes to higher rankings. On average the first ranking website gets about 31% of all website traffic. By the time you get to the 8th position, the traffic is only 2%. That means you want to do everything in your power to rank first to get as much traffic to your website as possible.
So spend those extra minutes to geotag your images because your competition is most likely not doing it. Therefore, you will have an advantage over them and you’ll have more SEO-friendly images.
3. Does the Image File Name Affect SEO?
Name your images’ file name with keywords in it. This is probably another step that your competition is skipping. Why? Mainly because it’s tedious and if you have a media library with hundreds of images, it will take a lot of time to do this. If you have hundreds of images on your website and haven’t named your images, I strongly recommend you put in the work and do it because it will pay off. The filename tells Google and other search engines what the image is about.
So the SEO image naming convention is to include a descriptive text that explains what the image is about. You don’t need to include complete sentences but instead, focus on the main words that explain the image. Each word you be separated with a dash and not a space or underscore. The reason for this is because Google only recognizes dashes.
Normally, images have a filename with something like IMG_1234.jpg. Instead, if your target keyword is elephant then your image name could be group-of-elephants-in-africa.jpg for example. Now search engines know this image is about elephants in Africa and can therefore categorize and rank your image accordingly. In the image below is an example of how you could name the file name of your images.
4. How to Write Alt Text For Images for SEO?
The alt text is another important part of creating SEO-friendly images. It is essentially the text alternative to images when the browser can’t display them. For example, visually impaired people use screen readers to understand a page. The alt text helps those people understand what’s in the image. However, the alt text is also used when the image cannot be displayed to normal users for some reason. Then the image is replaced with the alt text. Google uses the alt text as a ranking factor for SEO so it is important that you have good and well-optimized alt tags.
Some things to consider when writing the alt text:
- Ensure every image on your website has an alt text
- Include your target keyword in the alt text
- Write a descriptive alt text to make sure that individuals who can’t view images understand what’s in them.
- Alt texts are the anchor text when you use the image as a link
Let’s say you have an image with the code <img src=”elephant.jpg” alt=”elephant”>.
While this is fine as an alt text, a more appropriate way to write this would be:
<img src=”elephant.jpg” alt=”many elephants walking towards the sunset in the African savannah”>. The reason the second alt text is better is because it’s more descriptive and describes the image in more detail.
5. Image Title With the Keyword On WordPress
The image title is another small step in the process of optimizing your images. Again this is probably not something your competitors are doing. So, for example in WordPress, in the media area, you have the title, alt text, and captions. Focus on putting the exact match keyword you want to rank for in the image title. However, expand the title by adding refinements from Google image search. The refinements can be found in boxes at the top in image searches, just below the search bar. These boxes help you make your search more precise and cut down the noise.
For example, if your target keyword is SEO then do an image search on Google with SEO. Refine the search with the boxes and then add those words to the title of your image. Now the title might be “Improve your marketing with SEO” instead of just SEO. This will give you better image rankings for refinements but also for main keywords and lead to more traffic.
6. Image Sitemap
Image sitemaps are the fastest way to tell search engines of new content on your website. This leads to a higher chance of Google crawling and indexing your images. Thus, more site traffic.
Google explains it this way:
A solution to this, if you’re using WordPress, would be a plugin. Pretty much any SEO plugin will do but personally, we use Yoast. We feel like that plugin gets the job done.
7. Optimize Images for Mobile
Make sure you have SEO-friendly images on mobile and that they look good! Mobile SEO is extremely important, especially now that more searches are made on mobile than desktops. Good mobile SEO can increase conversions and rankings especially in combination with structured data. Doing it badly though can give you the opposite with a high bounce rate.
The good thing is that if you’re using the WordPress version 4.4 or later you don’t really need to worry about it. However, you should always see how your website and images look like on mobile. Also, make sure you check it on several devices.
If you’re not using WordPress things can be a little bit more complicated. You need to use the srcset attribute to make sure your images scale with the size of your website whether you’re using mobile or desktop. Mozilla has a guide on how to use the srcset attribute for your images.
The caption of an image is the text that is usually below an image. For example, the image above has a caption. Today most people don’t read an entire blog post but instead skim through it. When they skim they usually read the headings, the images, and cations. An interesting fact is that people are 300% more likely to read a caption than the body text. That means that you’re missing out on a massive opportunity to engage your readers if you’re not using captions.
That does not mean you need to have a caption on every image to have SEO friendly images. Use them where they are appropriate depending on what purpose the image has. Don’t add captions for the sake of SEO purposes. If you decide to have captions for some of your images include your target keyword or its synonyms.
9. Format of SEO Friendly Images
In terms of format, there is no such thing as correct or best format. It all depends on the image or stock photos and how you intend to use it on your website. Below are some format types for images and which one is best for which use:
- PNG yields better quality images but has a greater file size. It can be good for background image SEO. If you want to conserve the transparency of the background of an image then this format can be a good choice.
- JPEG has a slightly worse images quality but a lower file size which is great if having a fast loading speed is a high priority for you.
- With the WebP format, you get better lossless and lossy compression for images on the web. Squoosh is a tool you can use to convert your images to WebP. WebP is the only image format supported by both Mozilla and Chrome.
- The SVG format is used for logos, favicons, etc.
Have a look to see what browsers and devices the majority of your audience uses and then see if your preferred format is supported by those browsers.
These Are Our Tips to Create SEO Friendly Images
To have SEO friendly images on your web pages is not just one thing you need to do. It’s the sum of several different steps you need to take. That is what will make a big difference for your Google image SEO. Google is getting better at understanding images every day. Therefore it is wise to ensure your images are optimized and provide the best user experience possible.
The reason I kept mentioning that there are certain things your competitors are most likely not doing is because these small things are tedious and don’t add much to SEO by themselves. But when combined with all the other small steps they will make a big difference in your efforts to reach the first spot.
We are happy to help!