When it comes to SEO, optimising images is often considered low priority, when actually, they can be extremely influential in improving your site’s click-through rate (CTR), bounce rate and, ultimately, your ranking.
According to HubSpot, content with relevant images get 94% more views than content without relevant images. However, this doesn’t mean suffocating your content with images is the solution, for they also require careful implementation to be beneficial. With this in mind, here are seven steps on how to optimise your images for SEO:
Creating descriptive, keyword-rich file names is crucial for image optimisation. Search engines not only crawl the text on your webpage, but they also search for keywords within your image file names.
Before uploading images, ensure your files names are relevant to your image – digital cameras will typically assign a numeric file name to images, for example ‘009.jpg’, and considering Google is currently unable to recognise the contents of an image, this type of file name will provide no information on the subject matter. In WordPress, the file name will automatically be used as the title (see above), so make sure you change this before uploading!
Aside from the image title, it is important to describe the contents of your file, which is where alt text comes in. Google’s algorithm uses the alt text attribute to determine the relevance of this data to a search query. This is also advantageous for those who have trouble rendering your image, whether through slow internet connection or by screen reader software for the visually impaired – the alt text will appear instead of the image, providing important information.
Create appropriate alt text that is relevant to your context. Remember – avoid ‘keyword stuffing’ (including excessive keywords to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google’s SERPs), for your site could be perceived as spam. Here are examples of ineffective, effective and keyword-stuffed uses of alt text HTML codes for the previous image:
This example includes no alt text; meaning Google is unable to retrieve any relevant information from the image.
Avoid keyword stuffing (such as shown in the example above) at all costs. The use of repetitive keywords (dog, pups, etc.) and irrelevant dog breeds makes the alt text appear unnatural; meaning a site using this will be perceived as spam.
Above is a useful example of alt text – the information is descriptive of the image’s context and avoids using repetitive keywords. Google can read this and will glean the necessary information from it for future searches.
Captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself, so failing to include any could mean you’re not engaging with a substantial number of potential readers.
Captions are a fantastic way of encouraging visitors to read your content instead of scanning through it; which is vital for improving (i.e. reducing) your bounce rate (the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away after viewing only one page). In the example above from an Express article entitled ‘Top 10 Facts You Never Knew about Nuclear Energy’, the caption includes an interesting fact; this is more likely to capture a reader’s attention and potentially lead to further interest in your content.
Rich Snippets/Structured Data:
Images are beneficial for a wide range of content; especially for blog posts and articles, also for enticing readers to your website and is essential for increasing your CTR and lowering your bounce rate. Rich Snippets display additional, small snippets from webpages within SERPs using structured data to mark-up content helping the searcher to identify exactly what they’re looking for. This is available in a variety of forms, such as ratings, addresses, events and reviews.
In the recipe example above, from BBC Good Food, the structured data image has been used in conjunction with the rating for added appeal and information – if the searcher can see the finished product, alongside positive ratings without needing to crawl through your website, they are more likely to click and use your recipe.
Optimising Image Size and File Size for Fast Loading Speeds:
Fast loading times are essential for an improved user experience (UX) – according to Kissmetrics, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load and ridiculously large images can often be the culprit, especially if the image is shown in reduced scale (i.e. using a 2500×1500 pixels image and showing it at 250×150 pixels).
Resize your images to increase your loading times and therefore your CTR and SERP rankings. You can use Photoshop to resize images, or various online tools such as Picresize or this image compression tool from Website Planet. Also, use Google PageSpeed Insights to determine whether your images are preventing a faster loading time.
Image XML Sitemap:
You should be using an XML sitemap – a file used by search engines to crawl the organisation of your site’s content.
This allows you to provide Google with metadata about specific types of content on your webpages, including images – for example – a sitemap image entry can include the image subject matter, type and license. Google encourages the use of sitemaps, you can find more information on the image tag definitions here and below is an image sitemap example from Google for the URL http://example.co.uk/sample.html:
Note – if you are running a WordPress website, you can also take an advantage of available plugins. For instance, Google XML Sitemap for Images and Udinra All Image Sitemap both automatically create Google XML sitemaps for images.
When sharing content on social media your posts need to be engaging enough to encourage users to open the post and prevent from scrolling past on their news feed. Open Graph protocol allows any webpage to become a rich object in a social graph, allowing you to control how information is displayed or shared on social networking (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) whenever a link is shared from your site. Below are examples of a post that could use Open Graph and one that has used Open Graph successfully:
The lack of personalisation on this post means users are more likely to ignore the content or share it further; decreasing the CTR for your site.
In this example Open Graph has been used to implement a relevant image to the post encouraging users to click to read more.
Open Graph can be added to your website by including meta tags in the <head> part of your website’s code with the information you want displayed on social media platforms. If using WordPress you can use the NextGen Facebook Pro plugins, read more about implementing open graph here.
If your website is under-performing and image optimisation is only one of many problems, you may benefit from an SEO audit. Contact Receptional today to see how we can facilitate the functionality of your website and improve its overall performance.