I have a confession: I put dashes in my alt-image tags for months before I discovered it was not correct. Why? Because someone told me that was how you were supposed to do it. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon the correct way that I questioned it and had to admit it was wrong. As marketers and creators of content, we know the value of a captivating image but do we maximize the impact with SEO to get the most mileage out of an image? Probably not.
The more information you provide about an image the better Google is at indexing it. Better indexing means it will appear before images that are not as descriptive, thus earning you better ranking and more clicks.
Image search on Google occurs 10 times more than all searches on Bing or Yahoo and more than 40 times the number of searches on Facebook. There are steps you can take to optimize your images so they will be found. A little effort can drastically increase your impact. How often do you use image search or reverse image search?
While voice search is increasing impacting marketing, images and artificial intelligence will not take a back seat. Google Lens is one example of the future importance of visual media. Google has stated it intends to be Artificial Intelligence or “AI First” company. Optimizing images with the tools available today will ensure you are not left behind tomorrow.
Many default file names for photographs are in the format of IMG_xxxx; where x is a number. This is not very descriptive nor helpful to a human to discern what the image is about. You can do a Google image search with IMG_ and any random number and get a hundred thousand or more results. Your customers will never search for image using this format; rather they will search for an image using a key word to identify what they are looking for.
Always rename your images using a keyword describing the image or the context to make it more discoverable with image search. The keyword should be used at the beginning of the name.
Use hypens (-) rather than underscores (_) for separating words in the file name. Search engines do not read underscores but will recognize word separated by hyphens.
While high quality custom images are best, if you must use stock photos, rename the photo accordingly and choose stock images that don’t look like stock images. IMO most stock images with people do not appear genuine.
The file name for this photo is: shutterstock_3663995.
If this photo was being used in a blog post about hang gliding, then changing the name to Outer-Banks-hang-gliding would be much more descriptive.
While Google is getting better at analyzing the context of an image and new technologies are emerging to improve results, best practice is to upload the picture with a descriptive name to the CMS like WordPress. An image that is surrounded by related text, ranks better for the keyword it is optimized for.
High Quality Images & Image Size
While it is obvious to not have blurry or poor images on your site or representing your brand, image size must be balanced against load speed. Uploading a picture to the size that will be used will reduce load time. So, if you are only using a thumbnail size of the image at 250 x 150 don’t upload the picture at 2500 x 1500. Also, there are tools and plug-ins, like Smush, that can help reduce image load time and create a better experience for visitors.
Alt Image & Title Tags
The purpose of the alt image tag is to describe an image for a screen reader to aid the visually impaired. Besides describing what the picture is, the alt image tag is also an opportunity to use your keyword. Ideally, the image and the keyword will work seamlessly together and not stick out like spam. I am not aware of a length limit so feel free to be very descriptive and avoid abbreviations; unless the abbreviation is also likely to be a term searched for. The alt image tag for the above photo could be Outer Banks hang gliding at Jockeys Ridge.
The title tag is optional and rather than leave it blank, the same entry as the alt image is used.
A caption usually appears under the image and is another opportunity to describe the picture using the keyword or natural synonym. Captions help viewers to scan text and are another opportunity to get your point across. Captions are read 300% more than the body of the text. With that in mind, captions are not required but should consider the needs of the reader. If a caption will add value to the reader then include one. If a caption is redundant or at risk of over-optimizing for the keyword than omit.
The description field is the place to put a full explanation of the image and all the details.
Don’t miss an opportunity to increase your rankings through pictures. These few extra steps do not take long to complete but can make a huge difference for where your images rank and earn more clicks to your website and blog.
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