Using Images to Supercharge SEO
Images serve several vital functions on your website, not the least of which is to make it look nice. Images break up large blocks of text, making them easier to read and provide a look and feel that is essential to communicating your brand. Images can help describe complicated concepts, help customers and prospects connect through the faces of your people, and showcase your products in a way that makes them irresistible. Search engines like Google and Bing are placing increased importance on images. Often the first results returned for keyword searches are images, like the search for red t-shirts below. But most people are not aware of how much the images contribute to your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). In fact, images have a huge potential for impact – if you treat them right.
Image optimization is one of the most impactful aspects of SEO, and yet, it is one of the most often overlooked. Follow these tips to get the most out of your website images.
Size and Speed Matter
Websites are becoming more visual. They seem to contain less text and more big, bold images and video. Good web design practices dictate that your images should be high quality and high resolution so that they look good on any size screen and any type of device. The caveat is that hi-resolution images can slow down the time it takes for a web page to load once the viewer clicks on it. Page load speed can be an SEO killer if it goes unchecked.
Tip: Use images that are as big as you need them to be but not bigger than they need to be. Use a plugin or tool on your website that optimizes image file size to speed up page loading. And finally, always check this when you edit or create a new page…
Alt Text, Always
You may have seen the term ‘Alt text’ or ‘Alt tag’ associated with images on your website. Alt text is a short string of text (usually about 120 characters) describing the image. Alt text is used by page readers to improve accessibility for visually impaired visitors and can also be displayed if the image does not properly load. Adding Alt text is important because while page readers cannot interpret an image’s content, they can read alt text. For viewers who cannot see the images, alt text gives viewers some context of what your website looks like and what the content is all about. Alt text is also read by the bots that index your site for search engines. As such, alt text is a good place to include keywords relevant to the page’s subject matter.
Tip: Make it a habit to add Alt text to each new image uploaded. It can be tempting to leave alt text for later, but you’ll be missing out on lots of SEO goodness in the meantime!
How to Do Alt Text Correctly
To put it bluntly, most people don’t do alt text well, if they do it at all. However, it’s not a particularly difficult task. You have about 120 characters to describe your image and include keywords relevant to the page content. The alt text should be a combination of describing the image and keywords relevant to the page. For example, the image below appears in a Cm2 Media blog post. The alt text for this image is ‘The words brand strategy written in a spiral notebook. Cm2 Media blog on the basics of Brand Strategy for your business.’
This text describes what the image looks like and includes the keywords Cm2 Media, Brand Strategy, and blog.
Tip: Try to include the focus keyword for which your page is being optimized. Any other keywords you can work in are a bonus.
Mistakes to Avoid
With a limited number of characters, you may need to do some wordsmithing to fit in everything you want to include. Describing the image can be tricky, but once you’ve done a few, it gets easier. Think about your words as if you were not able to see the image. Does it make sense to you? Have you described the most important aspects of the image? Avoid using the words ‘picture of’ and ‘image of,’ which use up characters but do not add to the description. Also, avoid stuffing in too many keywords that make the text awkward to read or difficult to understand.
Tip: Read your alt text back to yourself. If it makes sense and sounds natural, you’ve done it right!
Bonus tip: Did you know that you can also add alt text to social media posts? While these images are not often indexed by search engines (yet), having alt text allows visually impaired followers to experience your images just like everyone else.
Image optimization is a relatively easy way to improve your website SEO. It’s a combination of ensuring that alt text is well-crafted and image file size won’t affect page load speed. SEO experts have tools that can flag images needing optimization in addition to many other SEO issues. Get in touch to chat about how we can help improve your SEO to get you noticed by search engines and more prospective customers.