Picture Perfect: Optimizing Images On Your Website For Search Engines

Writing compelling content isn’t easy. You have to find a voice, adapt it to your audience, and do your research. One of the easiest ways to bring blog content to life, though, is incorporating optimized images.

Everyone’s real first heartbreak was finding out that not all books had pictures in them. It’s understandable. Images break up long blocks of text, keep the eye interested, and it’s almost like taking a little brain break before you dive back into the words.

Images also serve as a means of helping you understand what you’re reading. Think about a science textbook. It’s full of diagrams, pictures, charts, and graphs that rearrange the information from the text into an easily consumable form. Needless to say, pictures are imperative when you’re trying to keep people interested in what you have to say.

Just like meta descriptions, keywords, and titles, your images need to be optimized for search engines. Incorporating image SEO into your normal posting repertoire can boost your SERP rankings, if you do it correctly.

The Hunt for the Perfect Image

Image optimization starts with, of course, the right image! Ideally, every business would have an on-site photographer ready to go out on missions to capture the perfect image for every post. Obviously, that’s usually not possible, unless your business happens to be in the Fortune 500.

What you can do, though, is use your own team. Need a picture of a guy in a suit? There’s probably a guy who owns a suit at your company. Need a picture of a girl laughing while eating a salad? Spring for lunch and tell Janette down the hall a really great joke. Just about anything is better than the same stock image of a zoomed-in handshake.

If you absolutely have to use stock images, and sometimes you do, try free sites like Pexel or Flickr, and hunt down the ones that look a little more genuine. It’s worth it!

Optimizing Images for SEO

1. Format

Once you’ve got your hands on the perfect picture of Janette eating that salad, you have to put it into the proper format for your website. The exact format that you use really depends on the website platform and audience that you’re creating the content for. In general:

  • JPG is for large photos and illustrations, as it preserves color and clarity the best.
  • SVG works best for logos and vector icons.
  • PNG allows you to maintain your transparent backgrounds
  • WebP products high quality images in a small package. Online tools can help you convert.

You can also check out what formats work on what devices the best with online web tools like Can I Use

2. Scale

Neglecting to scale your images could mean that your site loads molasses-in-wintertime slow. This has a heavily negative effect on the user experience and their willingness to continue to browse your site. Slow load times can also affect Google’s willingness to rank you highly on their SERP. WordPress offers multiple sizes of images right within its media manager, so try out a few options to find the one that provides the resolution that works for your site.

WordPress also automatically turns your images into responsive pictures by adding a “srcset” attribute. This loads a different image size based on the device, which is necessary for optimized mobile viewing.

3.Compression and File Size

Compression is still important, even if you resize your image manually, or prefer to keep it at 100% quality. Online compression tools, like JPEGmini and TinyPNG will remove the EXIF data. This is like a hidden timestamp for the image that isn’t really necessary and adds to the overall size.

4. Captions

According to KissMetrics, “Captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself, so not using them, or not using them correctly, means missing out on an opportunity to engage a huge number of potential readers.” Write compelling captions under your images that are easily scannable and add to the overall flavor of your content.

That being said, always create content for real, human readers. If it doesn’t make sense to have a caption, don’t put one. But if it does, try to use your focus keyword if it flows in naturally.

5. Alt-text

Alt-text is the snippet that is displayed in case a reader has images turned off or is using a read-aloud tool due to visual impairments. Every image that you use on your website should include alt-text. Not only does it meet accessibility requirements for those with disabilities, it also gives you the opportunity to squeeze in your focus keyword, if appropriate. When writing your alt-text, keep this in mind:

  • Be specific. Instead of saying “Woman eating in kitchen,” say “Brunette woman enjoying romaine salad and laughing.”
  • Keep it under 125 characters– a little shorter than a tweet
  • Don’t use “picture of.” It’s redundant and uses up valuable characters.
  • Don’t try to put your keywords in every image’s alt-text. This could come off as unnatural and spammy. Always, always write for people.

Images spice up your content and, when used correctly, can draw readers in, even if the content is dry or technical. Optimizing them for SEO is just the icing on the cake. Spend just as much time considering your pictures as you do your words– It could mean the difference between being skipped over in a news feed or being shared worldwide.

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