How would you like to attract more visitors to your website? You can do that by optimizing your images.
In this article, we’ll go over the goals of image optimization and discuss what it takes to optimize images for search results and social media.
Image optimization might be one of the most overlooked elements of search engine optimization (SEO). Many professionals view it as overkill.
It’s not overkill. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to outrank your competitors and build brand-name awareness.
Image Optimization Goals
When it comes to image optimization, you’re aiming for three goals.
First, you should include images that support your page ranking and traffic.
What that means is this: images should relate to the keyword that you’re ranking for on the page. For example, if you’re optimizing for “faded blue jeans,” then you should not only include pictures of faded blue jeans on the page but also optimize those images for that keyword.
We’ll see more on how to optimize images in the next section. For now, keep in mind that individual search engine results are based on how images are optimized. So, if you want to optimize a page for a keyword, you need to optimize your images in addition to your text.
The second goal is to rank well in Google Image Search.
In case you’re unaware of it, Google has a search engine designed specifically for people who are looking for images. You want to make sure that your pictures rank well in that search engine.
Why? Because it’s a great way to get the word out about your brand.
For example, go to Google Image Search and search for “conversion rate optimization.” One of the top results is a featured image from a Marketing Land article about – you guessed it – conversion rate optimization.
How do you know that’s where the image came from? Because Google is nice enough to share that info right next to the image itself. The search result even includes a hyperlink that you can click to visit the site.
Google does that with every image search result. So if your image shows up in the image results, people will have the opportunity to click on a link to your website and learn more about what you’re offering.
That’s a great way to attract more business.
When you post a link to your content on social media, you’re more often than not going to want an image associated with that link. You also want that image to look great.
You’ll need to optimize your images to make sure that happens.
Add The Right Keywords to Your Images
When it comes to optimizing images, the first step is to make sure that they’re associated with the right keywords. There are several parts to that step.
First, name the image file based on your keyword. For example: if you’re trying to optimize for “marketing,” then name the image something like “marketing.jpg.”
The Googlebot will try to derive meaning from the file name. If that meaning is associated with the keyword that you’re applying to the content of the page, so much the better.
Let’s take another look at that “conversion rate optimization” image search from above. One of the first results is an image from a website located in India.
How did it rank so high? Take a look at the file name: 21950308-conversation-rate-optimization_orig.gif.
Do you see how it has “conversion-rate-optimization” in the name? That’s one of the reasons Google decided to rank that image at the top.
Once you’ve got the file name in line with your keyword, you’re not done. There are still several other things you need to do to fully optimize the image.
First, include the keyword in the alt attribute. If you’re unfamiliar with the alt attribute, it was originally added to assist people who are visually impaired.
For optimization purposes, though, you can think of it as just another attribute.
Next, you should also add the keyword in the image title and caption.
Fortunately, a content management system (CMS) like WordPress makes it very easy to add alt text, titles, and captions to images. Just click on any image from the Library and on the right-hand side of the screen you’ll see that it’s easy to add that detail.
Image Sizing for Google Image Search
Another important step when it comes to image optimization is to make sure that your images are the correct size.
If your images are too small, they might not add a whole lot of value to your page. On the other hand, if they’re too big, then your page might take an excessively long time to load.
The optimal size for your images, at this point, is based on the width of the area where your content is displayed, not including any sidebars.
For example, if your content area is 1200 pixels wide but 300 of those pixels are used by the sidebar, then your optimal width is 1200-300 or 900 pixels. That’s based on how your site appears on a desktop or laptop monitor.
In that case, you would want your images no wider than 900 pixels, otherwise, your site will just compress them so they fit in the content area.
You could, of course, go a little smaller than 900 pixels. That would leave some white space around your image so that it stands out.
Also, if you’re using Photoshop to create or edit your images, make sure that you use the “Save for Web” option when you save the image.
Why? Because that option will preserve the integrity the image while minimizing the file size. That smaller file size will ensure that your page loads faster.
Add an Image XML Sitemap
You might have a sitemap for your content. But do you have a sitemap for your images?
If not, you need to create one.
Fortunately, if you’re using WordPress with Yoast SEO, you probably already have an image sitemap. Yoast creates it automatically.
You still need to inform Google about your sitemap, though. Just head over to Google Search Console and click on “Crawl” on the left-hand sidebar. Then, select “Sitemaps” from the dropdown menu that appears.
Click “Add/Test Sitemap” on the right side of the screen to add your sitemap URL.
Make Sure Your Image Doesn’t Create Its Own HTML Page
Some content management systems will create a separate HTML page for an image when you upload it. If that’s the case with your system, disable that option.
It’s perfectly okay (and necessary) for a CMS to create a separate URL for just the image. However, it should not create a whole separate page for that image. That will hurt your optimization efforts.
Image Metadata for Google Image Search
There are three types of image metadata: technical, administrative, and descriptive.
You don’t need to worry about the first two. However, you should use the descriptive metadata when you optimize images.
How do you do that? It’s just as easy as adding alt text, caption, and title info. If you’re using WordPress, you’ll see a description field on the right-hand sidebar when you edit an image.
Just add some informative text in that field. Make sure that text includes your keyword.
What image format should you use? That depends.
As a rule of thumb, use JPG for “standard” images that you include on your web pages.
Use the PNG or GIF format for more “sophisticated” images, such as your corporate logo or other marketing graphics.
What About CDNs?
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can give your site a performance boost. However, they can also work against you when it comes to image optimization.
How? By changing the URLs of your images. That can lead to 404 errors and cause your site to lose rank.
That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to people at a CDN company before you sign on with their service. Make sure that they use 301 redirects when they move images.
You need to optimize your images for social media as well as for search engines. You need to make sure you’re using an image that’s the right size.
That “right size” will vary based on the social media platform.
For example, when it comes to Facebook the ideal size is 1200×630. The minimum size is 600×315.
You can go smaller than 600×315 for Facebook, but then your image might appear as a thumbnail. It’s generally a good idea to use larger images so they stand out more.
For Twitter, the ideal image size is 435×375. The minimum size is 280×150.
For Pinterest, the best image size is 735×1102.
Remember: you don’t have to use the featured image that you specify in your content management system as the image that appears with your link on social media. Various social media platforms offer markup that you can use to specify a related image.
For example, Facebook uses OpenGraph markup. You should use that markup to associate an image with your URL.
Wrapping Up Google Image Search
Some marketers think that optimizing for images is “going the extra mile.” The reality, though, is that it’s an important part of any SEO strategy. Make sure that your web pages gain maximum visibility by optimizing your images.