5 Reasons Image Optimization Matters for SEO
Your website is the homebase for all your digital marketing efforts, so of course, you want it to look good. Choosing high-quality imagery is a great way to set your website apart from the competition, but if you think it’s as easy as downloading some stock photos and uploading them, think again!
The most stunning image won’t do much to help you if it’s not optimized, and without image optimization you are wasting a valuable SEO opportunity. If you’re confused as to how images can help your website’s SEO, then read on. We’re going to explain what image optimization is, how to optimize images for your website, and why image optimization is an essential part of your on-page SEO strategy.
What is Image Optimization?
Image optimization is the practice of formatting your images for search engines using alt text, descriptive captions, appropriate file dimensions, responsiveness, and more. Image SEO makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your images, which can make your website more discoverable in both SERPs and image result pages (HubSpot).
Image optimization is an essential part of your on-page SEO strategy. At best you can make your images work double duty in both attracting visitors and making your content easier to find. At worst, poorly optimized images can impede the user experience of your website and drive away visitors along with potential customers.
How To Optimize Your Images For SEO
Luckily, optimizing your images doesn’t have to be difficult! Here are a few tips to make your images work for you and boost your on-page SEO.
Accurate Alt Text
The first thing you want to do is ensure your images have accurate and descriptive alt tags. Search engines can’t read your images without alt text (Search Engine Journal), so if you want them to be crawled and indexed by Google (which, of course you do!) then go through all your images and start writing!
Another benefit of alt text is that it provides a description for users if the image fails to load for any reason. This is why it’s important for your alt tags to be short, snappy, and accurate. For example, a product image showing Nike sneakers may have the alt tag “men’s Nike sneakers in white” or something similar. This way a web visitor understands what image was displayed on that page (if the image doesn’t load), and search engines know how to direct relevant search queries.
Unlike alt text, which is invisible to users unless an image fails to load, captions are displayed beneath an image for the purpose of being visible. This can be beneficial to contextualize an image if the rest of the on-page content does not already do so. Use captions when you feel they will help readers and bots better understand or recognize an image. Captions contribute to the user experience, so use your best judgement as to when they are necessary.
Know Your Image Formats
There are many image formats to choose from, but the 3 most relevant for the web are PNG, JPEG, and WebP. Here is a quick summary of each.
PNG: Better image quality, but larger file size.
JPEG: Lower quality but can be easily adjusted to find the right balance.
WebP: This is the only image format supported by both Chrome and Firefox. PNGs can be easily converted into this by using lossless or lossy compression.
Consider how and where your images will be viewed in order to select the best image format.
We all know that speed is the name of the digital game. Users expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less, and nothing kills a speedy load time faster than bloated image files. What’s even worse is that users will often click away if a webpage doesn’t load within that time frame. Stop losing visitors! Compress your images to the smallest possible size that doesn’t compromise quality to keep your load times lightning fast. You can do this in Photoshop or by using WordPress plugins like TinyPNG or Smush. Whatever plugin you use, make sure to find one that compresses the images externally on their servers which will reduce the load time on your own site.
Use Original Images
Stock images are super handy, but nothing beats original content when you can swing it. You want to stand out in a crowded online space… you won’t do that if your website looks like every other generic business site out there. Stand out and boost your SEO with images that are unique to your business and website.
Large image dimensions are more likely to be featured in Google Discover. As Google recommends in its Advanced SEO resource:
“Large images need to be at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting, or by using AMP.”
You’ll need to find the right balance between using original imagery, while also keeping the file size reasonable to maintain speedy load times. Consider where images are absolutely necessary to your website’s design to avoid overcrowding and compromising load times.
An Important Note:
Sometimes you have no choice, and you need to use a stock image. Nothing wrong with that! Just make sure you have the license to use that image to avoid copyright infringement.
Name Your Files
Before you upload your images onto your website, make sure you’ve given unique and descriptive names to your files! Image file names inform search engine crawlers about the subject of your image. Help search engines understand the content of your image with descriptive file names. Round out that understanding with the alt text.
Make Images Mobile Friendly
Mobile browsing is beating out desktops more and more every year, don’t let your website get left behind! In addition to building a mobile friendly website interface, you need to ensure all your images are mobile optimized. Create responsive images that automatically scale based on screen size for a seamless user experience.
Add Images To Your Sitemap
Why Image Optimization Matters for SEO
We’ve gone into all the ways you should be optimizing your images. Now it’s time to dig into why it matters for your overall SEO strategy.
1. Improves User Experience
To put it simply, good user experience is good for SEO. There’s nothing worse than dedicating time and resources to get visitors to your website, only for them to be immediately driven off by a terrible user experience. Focusing on UX means designing your website to meet the needs of searchers in a way that is easy, enjoyable, and intuitive. Optimized images that captivate, inform, and load quickly make for a positive user experience and improve website ranking, conversion rates, and the number of return visitors.
2. Speeds Up Load Times
Slow load times kill your web traffic. Your website’s bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that enter and then leave your site without continuing to view other pages. If users are clicking away before your home page even loads (because it’s taking too long), then you can kiss a healthy bounce rate goodbye. A high bounce rate will also cannibalize your SEO ranking. Optimized images mean faster load times which leads to a lower bounce rate, better traffic, and higher rankings.
3. Aides Indexing
The more information crawlers can extract from your website, the more information is stored in their indexes which are then directed to match user searches. If your optimized image is indexed and then considered relevant to a particular search, you have a higher likelihood of users discovering that image and the rest of your website. Search engines exist to provide the best possible answer to user searches, show them you have those answers by making your images drive traffic to your content.
4. Utilizes Visual Search
The last few years have seen a powerful rise in visual search as a tool for marketers and businesses. Google estimates that 50% of today’s online marketplace is driven by image content. Users rely on image search results to answer their questions and to gather ideas. How often have you been searching for a solution to a problem and clicked on Google Images rather than waste time clicking through a long list of links? Capitalize on this opportunity and reach new audiences. Optimizing your images means they have a higher chance of showing up on those image result pages.
HubSpot’s Marketing Manager, Kristen Baker, said herself that:
“After running an image experiment on the HubSpot Blog, I discovered that ranking in Google’s image packs increases impressions and clicks to our content.”
5. Boosts Discovery
Image SEO helps users discover your content. A well optimized infographic, for example, can provide the answer a searcher needs when browsing Google Images. Maybe they click to your website and read the full blog or maybe they include that infographic on their own website and link it back to you. An image can be a vital tool for ranking higher in search results, accumulating backlinks, and making your content easy to share on social media platforms. Original images and graphics are best for this since you are providing something no one else has. More website traffic, backlinks, and shares also boosts your site authority which has a compounding effect to bolster your SEO and your business.
So, have we convinced you that image optimization is important for your on-page SEO? Don’t wait to get started! Audit your existing content and begin with optimizing your older images and make them work harder for you. Looking for more tips on how to beef up existing content? Read our article on updating old website content to boost your SEO.
Let Us Help!
Are you looking to optimize your images for SEO, but not sure where to start? Drop us a line or call us at 1-877-567-1341. We will be happy to set up a meeting and chat about your strategy. Let’s work together to achieve your digital and SEO goals.