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Google estimates that 50% of today’s online marketplace is driven by image content. More than ever people are relying on image search results to answer their questions or to search for new ideas.

Although image optimization for SEO can seem tedious the costs of not optimizing your images is substantial. You risk getting lost in cyberspace without proper image file naming, sizing and labeling.

To your visitors your images are worth a thousand words but to the search engines they are worth nothing without the words that describe them. Unfortunately those who make the mistake of replacing words with images on their website are being lost in cyberspace.

Don’t get left behind in Google Image ranks and miss out on significant levels of traffic. Make a commitment to stop making these common SEO image optimization mistakes today!

Mistake #1: Neglecting to Properly Name Images for SEO

You may be asking, “Do image file names affect SEO?”

The answer is a resounding YES. When you upload your digital pictures from your phone or camera or even purchase stock photos the files are typically named with numbers such as DSC0546.jpg. Although it seems like a minor detail and can take time, it is important to change the number into a file name that actually tells what the picture is.

Think about it – when a Googlebot crawls your website and finds an image file named “DSC0546” it could be a picture of a pair of red gumboots or a picture of a girl with braces. Renaming the image will help give clues about the image to the Search Engines so they can determine whether you are a shoe retailer or an orthodontist.

Best Image Naming Conventions for SEO

If you want your picture or image files to make a difference in your ranking factors, pay attention to the details of file naming:

  1. Be Descriptive. Name the file with a full description of the picture. When you name the file, give it the same value as the title of an article or blog post. The more sophisticated the search engine algorithms get, the more relevant a file name will become as a search engine factor.
  2. User hyphens to separate words. Avoid underscores or plus signs (_, +) to separate words. Google sees dashes as word separators and underscores as joiners. For example Google reads “mobile_phone” as mobilephone and “mobile-phone” as mobile phone.
  3. Don’t spam your file name. While Google does not have a preferred length for image file name you should never put excessive keywords into the file name. Make sure the filename accurately describes the picture.

Mistake #2: Bigger is not better!
Image File Size and Type for SEO Matters

Image files are heavy. They consume a huge number of kilobytes on webpages. While printed media needs images of the highest quality, a site with images saved in high resolution will be weighed down by these large files and take too long to load. If your site loads slowly (more than 2 seconds) people won’t wait around to see what you have to show them. Your website may look fantastic but it doesn’t matter if people don’t stick around to see the website once it loads.

Before you save your file for upload, make sure you have cropped and edited the image to finished size and attributes. From there you can compress the image while maintaining a good enough quality for the web.

While we are talking about re-sizing it is an important time to talk about how to save your image files to the best file format. There are 3 basic file formats for images on the internet: PNG JPG, and GIF.

  1. Portable Network Graphics (PNG). PNG’s are favored by site developers because they have great compression while maintaining good image quality and transparency effects. The one drawback of a PNG-24 is that only modern browser support the format.
  2. Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPG or JPEG). JPG’s are most commonly used format for handling photographs. The various levels of compression is selective in the data it discards. Unfortunately, it is not useful for transparencies.
  3. Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).  GIF’s are seen as the ideal format for illustrations and logos. They have great compression levels and preserves the image transparencies. The drawback of GIF’s is that they have a maximum display of only 256 colours and are not a viable option for photographs.

No matter what you choose as your image file format, check that you do not exceed a maximum of 50 kb per file. When you add up the number picture files you have uploaded, you find this is critical in the load health of your site. Plus large images waste your bandwidth and can cost you money.

Remember when saving a picture or image for the internet, use the original image, otherwise you will be compressing a previously compressed image. Compression reduces image quality – by using previously processed pictures you create a situation of reduced visual quality.

Mistake #3: Not Using Image ALT Tags

The Alt Tag is a vital part of the image HTML tag. It displays when the image doesn’t load or when your visitor has images disabled, plus is useful for visually impaired software. Most important to SEO the ALT tag is used by Googlebots to find out what your image is about.

And once Google or any other search engine can decipher what your image is and what it is about, it can establish credibility in ranking to your image and your site. Your picture provides actual keyword relevance on the search engine results pages (SERP). Checking for these Image ALT Tags on your website is just one aspect of our Site Audit packages.

Image ALT Tag Best Practices

  1. Text should be 150 characters or less
  2. Keywords should be placed near the beginning
  3. Description should be relevant to the image and to the content on the page

Search Engine robots can’t crawl images that they cannot find in your webpage source code. A good practice is to list these in an image sitemap using Google Webmaster Tools. Learn more about Google’s Image Publishing Guidelines and suggestions for using their image sitemap.

Mistake #4: Completely Ruling Out the Description

The description is not in the forefront and can often be forgotten or brushed off. However it may make a difference when it comes down to outranking a competitor, if all else is equal. Not to be confused with the ALT tag, the description is used on the Permalink pages of the Media Library. If you uploaded the image for use in a Gallery the description will also appear on the Attachment page.

Do You Still Think it’s “Just a Picture”?

When you look at that one picture you would never believe there is so much that goes on behind the scenes to make it rank and attract traffic for your website.

We highly recommend that if you follow these image optimization best practices. If you feel your time is better spent on running your business consider hiring a professional that can do it for you. The most successful business owners and managers learn to delegate and build a strong team around them.

Why not consider adding 1st on the List to your team and let us help with optimizing the images on your website? Contact us at 888-262-6687 to discuss image optimization on your website or click below to sign up to get monthly updates on current SEO topics.

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While we all work to beat the competitors for targeted search terms, hoping to land that top ten ranking; Google’s Universal search provides additional opportunities to increase your website’s exposure by mixing in universal search results.

Most companies are not taking full advantage of universal search and are really missing the opportunity to increase their exposure and interact with their visitors in a new exciting way. We’ll show you how you can utilize Universal Search to push your website to the top of the search results and drive more traffic to your website with this exciting addition to Google Search.

Introduction to Google’s Universal Search

While Google offers up the paid search results via Google Adwords and organic search results within the center of their search results page; they are now mixing in other types of results in attempt to give visitors a taste of everything that is related to their search. This includes:

• Products (Google Product Search)
• News (Google News)
• Images (Google Image Search)
• Blogs (Google Blogs)
• Geo-targeted Business Listings (Google Maps)
• Video (Google Video)

Benefits of Universal Search

For visitors, the benefits of universal search are that they can see various types of results without having to leave the organic search results page. Another benefit is that it breaks up the page adding images, video still shots and information in a way that is appealing.

For site owners, there are quite a few benefits. First, there are now multiple ways to have your products and services listed on the 1st or 2nd page of Google.

Second, if visitors did not select your organic listing, they may select your image, blog or business listing; offering more opportunities to obtain targeted visitors to your website.

And finally, some Universal Search results are bumped ahead of the organic listings. If your website is listed in the #12 spot on page two and you just can’t get your site to the 1st page, you may be able to have your images, videos or products listed above the organic results for specific search terms.

Users Intent

If you searched for the word “Apple” using Google in 1999, you were presented with various types of informational websites; discussing the various types of apples, how to use them in recipes and other great apple related information. But over time, people who typed in “Apple” would complete their search and then run another search for “Apple computers”. As this trend continued to happen, Google’s Algorithm learned that a trend was emerging. Most visitors who typed in the word Apple were looking for computers, not fruit.

Now when you type in “Apple” into Google, you are presented with the Macintosh Apple website, websites that review Apple computers and e-commerce stores where you can purchase an Apple computer. Google’s focus is to not only provide searchers with relevant search queries based on their search term, but to emulate the thought process that is derived from the search term itself.

Universal Search Example

When a searcher enters a query, Google’s artificial intelligence attempts to understand what the visitor may want to see before returning the search results. They have come to learn that when a visitor types in a brand name or a product, that searchers may want to:

  • See Photos of the Product
  • Read Product Reviews
  • Purchase The Product
  • Research The Product

In an attempt to give the visitor what they want they try to return the types of results related to the users intent.

To use Universal Search to your advantage, you must understand the user’s intent when they type in the search terms related to your website. The best way to see which universal search products are being used for your search terms is to search them within Google. Once you enter the search query, above the search results in the top left area of the screen you will see a listing for the products pulled into the results.

For example, if I enter the search query “red scarf” I see the following Google Products listed at the top left area of the screen:

  • Web
  • Shopping
  • Images

Essentially this means that Google attempted to pull in (web) organic search results, Google Product Search and Google Images.

The Strategy

Creating a strategy to increase your rankings through Universal Search can allow you to locate opportunities that your competitors missed; giving you more exposure and targeted traffic.

In the example of the “red scarf”, you will notice that although Google attempted to pull in images, there aren’t any images displayed within the results. This essentially means that you could possibly receive a listing on the 1st page of Google via Google Images if you optimize your images and submit an Image Map through Google Webmaster Central. Additionally, you can upload your red scarves to Google Base to get them listed within the Google Shopping results.

Now if you visit the second page of results, you’ll see that they are now showing different universal search results.

• Web
• Video
• Images

Towards the top of the results you will see 1 video; however in most searches where videos are in the results, you will usually see two. This indicates that you could potentially have a video listed towards the top of the second page. As you continue to view the remaining results on page two you will again notice that you don’t see any photos on page two; another opportunity to gain exposure over your competitors.

Once you have completed this type of research and analysis for the keywords important to your website, begin creating and optimizing your shopping feeds, videos, images, blog posts and other universal search products to gain the competitive advantage before your competitors do.

Optimizing Images

You can increase the chances of your images showing up for relevant search queries by optimizing your images. There are a few key areas that will help improve your ability to increase rankings for your images in Google Image Search, as well as where images are shown in Google Search.

Although these tips are for Google Images, these examples can be used throughout various areas of your website; to improve all of your universal search results.

File Names – Give your images accurate names rather than defaulting to what your camera or image editor provides. If the image is of a cashmere red scarf, then consider naming our image cashmere-red-scarf.jpg. This help to further classify the image and show relevancy to the search terms you are targeting.

Image Alt Attribute – Ensure that you have provided a quality description for your images using the image alt attribute. Try using product colors, sizes, materials, brand names, textures, manufacturer names etc. Remember not to overdo it, but provide an accurate description of the product to assist with increasing relevancy for desired search terms.

Captions – Include a caption for your image that describes or relates to the product. The text that surrounds the image helps Google to understand the subject matter of the image.

Anchor Text – The text you use when linking to the image helps to describe and classify the image. Try using descriptive anchor text rather than words such as “click here”, “larger image” or “more photos” when describing the link.

Google Image Labeler – While you can do your part in helping to optimize your images, you can also increase your chances of having your images appear in Google Image Search by allowing others to help classify your images through Google’s Image Labeler. By simply enabling the Google Image Labeler from the Google Webmaster Console, you allow Image Labeler users to provide words and phrases they believe accurately describe your images in a fun online game. As users are shown images from your website, they type in a few words they feel accurately describe the photo, which is later used to further classify the subject matter of your image.

Summary

Google has provided many new opportunities for you to reach searchers in the ways they want to be reached. Search engine optimization has been taken to another level; it’s no longer about who has the most number of pages, the best density; or who has the most inbound links. It is about who is utilizing the all their available opportunities.

Almost every aspect of your website is being analyzed and classified; use it to your advantage. Now is the time to take advantage of these opportunities and increase your visibility in every area of universal search; allowing you to increase your traffic and exposure in new and exciting ways.