5 Ways to Best Optimize Your Website Images for SEO

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Image optimization is a vital step you can take to improve your on-page SEO.

Creating valuable website content can help you to achieve goals like improved user experience, faster page loading times and increased conversions.

By using responsive images that your readers can engage with, you increase your chances of obtaining these benefits.

Not only do images have a positive impact on your search engine optimization, they can provide a more comprehensive overview of your content to the reader.

Images can be used as an enhancement tool to make your content more engaging.

A reader will be better able to grasp the image subject matter as it relates to your brand or product. Images can be fantastic illustration tools, allowing you to show the reader a complex idea in a much simpler format.

Many different types of websites and content creators may benefit from including quality images in your content. Better image SEO can be beneficial for brands, bloggers, influencers and content creators.

However, including multiple images that don’t align with your subject matter or stuffing images where they don’t fit is not the answer.

In this article, we’ll guide you on how to optimize all your images to perform to their maximum potential.

We’ll focus on the 5 key steps you can put in place to gain the benefits of image optimization for your own site and SEO performance.

We’ll give you image SEO tips and techniques that you can implement to ensure a positive user experience and improve your performance in search engines.

What is Image SEO?

Adding images to relevant text within your website is a sure-fire way to improve your SEO performance and enhance the experience of visitors within your site.

The premise is simple: by adding images to your content, this content becomes more attractive, engages the reader, and pleases the search engine.

By optimizing the images and the image attribute of your site, you may even be rewarded with more traffic.

By taking the time to research the ways to optimize your images, you can understand and tailor your content to align with how Google extracts information from your site.

This tells Google how to rank your content within search engines.

By appearing within image search results, you increase your chances of reaching more users and outranking your competitors.

As with any element of SEO, there are best practices you should aim to follow when it comes to optimizing your images.

The effort you put into optimizing your images will not go unnoticed by the visitors to your site. A solid block of thousands of words can be off-putting for any visitor.

That’s why images on your site are crucial to improve the understanding and engagement of your readers.

They will benefit from an enhanced experience and more interesting content. They are not only more likely to discover your site, but they may also stay for a longer visit.

The work you put into optimizing images won’t just increase the chances that people can find your site in Google images search results, it will mean they like your site more once they’re on it. 

What Are The Benefits of Image SEO?

Before diving into improving the search engine optimization of your images, it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of what images can do for your website.

Image SEO is often an aspect of on-page SEO that many webmasters overlook.

You may make the mistake of using a range of stock images randomly added throughout your website, paying no attention to the image attribute.

Putting thought and effort into obtaining high-quality, unique pictures that take advantage of the image structured data will yield you the best results.

You can use tools like Google Search Console to determine the impressions your images are getting, and other valuable data.

Read on to discover the in-depth benefits of utilizing well-optimized images.

Reduced loading times

By optimizing your images to ensure they don’t clog your website loading time, you can reduce the loading time of your pages. This is a crucial element of user experience. The chance of a visitor bouncing from your site is greatly reduced if your site has lazy loading times.

The quicker your site loads, the better your conversion rate. A user may spend more time on your page and interact further with your brand, engaging with content and product pages.

Speedy site loading times will be looked upon more favorably by search engines.

Google generally ranks sites higher where they provide a great user experience and fast loading times for their visitors.

Increased conversions

Well-optimized image SEO can help you to appear higher in Google web search engine results pages.

Once your ranking has improved, you can gain more visitors to your site and increase your chances of positive conversions.

The relationship between conversions and optimized image SEO should not be underestimated. Site visitors may be more inclined to buy from you repeatedly if they feel engaged with your content and have a positive experience on your website.

Improved visitor engagement

A great user experience can come directly from providing valuable content, which includes high-quality images that relate well to your subject matter.

The satisfaction of your users is directly related to how well your site performs and the quality of the content you provide.

Reduced page loading times and increased engagement with content can be a recipe for SEO success.

You can do this by optimizing your website images, placing them where it makes sense throughout your content, and improving the loading time of your pages.

Users who engage more with your content are more likely to become brand loyal customers.

Some other benefits you can look forward to once you optimize your image SEO can include less storage within your server being taken up by large, laggy images.

Compressed images require less bandwidth. SERPs can rank you higher when each element of image SEO adheres to best practices.

How To Optimize Your Image SEO

Images are a crucial element of any web page and have a big impact on the SEO of a website, along with the experience of site visitors. Images can influence the bounce rate or time spent on your website metrics.

There are elements that add structured data that you can use to your advantage, to improve your SEO experience. This image structured data can include image captions, image alt tags, and image titles.

On-page SEO values the use of keywords within an image caption or alt tag. This type of image optimization gives you more opportunities to use keywords within your site.

Read on to discover our top 5 tips to optimize your image SEO and reap the rewards of these benefits:

1. Use Unique Images

Taking the time to obtain an original image for your website, rather than using Google images or photos that don’t belong to you, is much more worthwhile for your SEO performance.

It impacts the user experience of visitors to your site.

Images that don’t make sense for your content or are unrelated to the subject you are writing about, can simply be confusing for your site visitors.

It may appear unprofessional, or give the impression that you aren’t serious about what you’re doing.

Unique images give you full creative control over every aspect of the photo. You can ensure that the matter of the image aligns with your brand messaging.

You can control the quality of all the images on your site if they are unique to you.

A photo that is blurry, cropped wrong or out of proportion, can come across as unappealing to the visitor and they may be less likely to trust your brand or make a purchase from you.

The images you use on your site should be interconnected and make sense for your content. The subject matter of the image should reflect the ethos of your brand.

You don’t need to overload your page or content with images. It’s a mistake to use any images that are of bad quality or don’t make sense within your content.

Stuffing your content with poorly chosen images can reflect negatively on you with customers and may decrease your rank within Google search results.

Avoid Stock Photos

You may be tempted to implement the use of stock photos or photos you find within Google images on your site.

This will take away from the authenticity of your website, and you may even find yourself in trouble if you don’t have the rights to use a photo belonging to someone else.

Using real photos of you and your team will always be a better option. Site visitors are much more likely to appreciate photos that show genuine people behind a brand.

By choosing to serve responsive images that you have created yourself, rather than reusing existing images, may be looked upon more favorably by Google.

Google is dedicated to providing its users with web pages that give them, new valuable content. You should consider that this ethos applies to images.

If you are using duplicate content that appears on multiple other websites, Google may determine that you are not providing a positive, unique user experience.

Creating new, valuable content can gain you more new visitors to your site and help you retain existing visitors.

Google will point users toward websites that provide new, fresh content. Ensure that the images you use fit this brief, rather than using duplicate stock content.

By using images that you have not created yourself you run the risk of undergoing a potential lawsuit.

These photos are typically owned by large media companies who do not take kindly to webmasters using their images without permission or rights.

Implementing images on your website that are not your intellectual property is a bad idea in many senses. It adds no value to your user experience and can be harmful to the legal health of your business.

There may be some instances where you feel you have to use stock photos. This could be, for example, if you need an image of a generic item or geographic location that you don’t have access to.

However, ask yourself the question: if it is not a photo you can take yourself and provide real value to your audience, is it worth using this same image at all?

Use Original Photos

The use of original photos has been proven time and time again to be a better option than using duplicate stock photos.

Real photo content can increase the traffic to your website and encourage more engagement from your site visitors.

The authenticity of an image can determine how well-received it is by your website visitors. Perfectly staged stock photos that don’t reflect your true brand identity add no value to your website.

It can be tempting to use photos that you do not have to put in a great deal of effort to obtain, but you may not receive the same SEO or user experience benefits when implementing these.

By allocating more resources to creating top-quality original images, you can increase your online presence and improve the quality of your website visually.

You will receive better SEO results and it will be appreciated by both search engines and by site visitors.

2. Image File Name

Optimizing your image file name is a step in SEO that is often overlooked. Changing the name of your image files is a small but effective step in optimizing image SEO.

When you upload images to your site, they commonly have a file name like “IMG_01”. This tells Google crawl bots nothing about what is in the photo, or the keywords you can use to optimize your site.

Take the time to customize your file names and change them to something that is relevant to your image and your brand. To further improve the SEO performance of your images, you can even include a target keyword.

What is an image file name?

The filename of an image is whatever you have labeled your image as within your own computer files. You can rename your image file name within sites that host images or media libraries.

You may have imported images from a camera or phone to your website.

The image titles here typically include no information about what is included in the photo. These file names may include the file format, which could be seen as ‘.jpeg’, or ‘.png’.

Why is the image file name important?

Despite the fact that visitors to your site will not directly see or read your file names, it is crucial not to underestimate the importance of customizing the names of your image files.

It gives you an opportunity to provide the search engine with more information about the context of your image, and include keywords associated with your brand.

Performing keyword research can help to ensure the keywords you’re implementing within your image file names are as effective as possible for your SEO.

It is important to understand what target keyword you are trying to rank for so you can optimize your images around them.

By failing to alter the names of your image files to match your content and branding, you are missing out on an opportunity to improve your SEO.

Depending on what is included in your image, you can come up with many variations of file names.

These file names can be descriptive, and help search engines to gain context around what the image is conveying, in order to show it to the right consumers.

For example, if you are writing an article about a recipe, you could name your images one of the following variations:

  • recipe-home-cooking.jpg
  • home-cooking-recipe.jpg
  • cooking-for-family.jpg
  • best-home-cooking-recipes.jpg

You can implement your target keyword and use different variations of it when naming your files, giving you another opportunity to appear in search results.

Keep names concise and descriptive

Using a file name that describes the context of your photo and includes your keywords is ideal for SEO.

Be as descriptive as possible, for example, instead of saying ‘apple.jpg’, you could name your file ‘big-red-apple.jpg’.

Whatever photo editing or importation software you use may include an automatic file type within your file name, like ‘.jpg’.

Using the extension that is accurate and refers to your file type is what Google prefers, so be sure not to change the extension when editing the name of your file.

Use hyphens for word separation and don't include special characters

When manually renaming your file names, you should remain aware of the formatting and ensure this is done correctly.

Important points to note are to ensure you only use valid letters and numbers, include hyphens (-) when you want to add separate words.

Another important note is that special characters may impact your formatting.

Often, CPUs won’t even allow you to save a file with a special character, like ‘!’, or ‘%’.

Adhere to these best practices when renaming files, to ensure you make the most of your SEO and help crawl bots to understand your content.

Use your target keywords

Using target keywords within the structured data of your image can be very helpful for SEO.

Keep in mind that to maximize the potential of your keywords, they should only be used where it makes sense organically.

If one of your target keywords is an accurate description of the content of the image, feel free to include it in the image file name. This may be a short- or long-form keyword.

However, keep in mind that best practice is still to avoid keyword stuffing.

To adhere to image SEO best practices, use variations of your keyword if you are uploading multiple images to your site that could include your keyword in the file name.

If you are struggling to come up with alternative file names, consider whether each photo is adding value to the site for your reader, or if you could achieve a better result by using fewer images that include duplicate content.

Utilizing image sitemaps can allow search engines to find your images more readily. When you create an image sitemap, you can include image URLs or other relevant data like image type, subject, or size.

Including image sitemaps within your XML or HTML code can help Google to find extra content it could include in search engine results.

Don’t underestimate the power of an image sitemap to help computer vision algorithms find and see all of your relevant content.

These sitemaps may be used in browser caching, to save the images available on your website and reduce page loading speeds in the future.

3. Image size

The image file sizes you are uploading to your website can impact the performance of your image SEO.

Unfortunately, the process cannot be as simple as creating a beautiful, unique image and uploading it directly to your website.

It may be the case that the file size of a full-sized image is large and could contribute to a lazy loading time on your web pages.

You can remedy this by taking the time to compress the size of your images, to make them as small as possible without affecting quality.

The page speed of your website contributes to the ranking factor of your SEO.

If you are using many large images within your site that are slowing it down or making it lag, you are negatively impacting the user experience and search engine optimization of your site.

You may be taking advantage of hosting servers like WordPress.

These servers can allow you to physically resize images once they have appeared on your site, however, don’t forget that the original file is still in the backend of your website.

This can still slow down your page speed and result in lazy loading.

When assessing the size of your images, you can look at the computer file size of your image (often given in KB or MB) and the specs of your image (given in pixels, width x height)

The ideal image size before uploading to your website would be between 70KB and 150KB. Ideally, the smaller the file size the better.

How can I compress my images?

You can make your website load faster, while not compromising image quality.

By resizing the image files before they are uploaded directly to your website. This can be done on in-built programs you may have on your computer, like Apple Mac’s ‘Preview’.

You can implement tools like Adobe Photoshop to help you find a small file size that will still look good on your website.

A file size below 70 kb is a good target, however, there may be particularly large files that you will struggle to achieve this with, even after compression of the image.

For example, a 300KB image will likely only be compressed to 100KB. Even this compression can help ensure your site does not lag when loading the image and compromise your user experience.

You may choose to access a free tool within your web browser, like TinyPNG, that can help you to easily compress your images.

Compressing the file size of images is one of the most crucial steps of image SEO. It will directly impact your page speed and remedy any lazy loading time, influencing the performance of your site in SERPs.

4. Image proportions

The proportions of your images are a major factor when it comes to image SEO. The size of your image and the file size of your image are two different metrics.

Your image size, referred to as image dimensions or proportions, refers to the width and height of the image. This can be given in pixel format.

It is important when discussing image proportions to make note of an image’s aspect ratio. The aspect ratio of an image will help you to conserve its integrity and quality when resizing or cropping.

The visibility of an image will be improved when you consider its aspect ratio.

This is a metric to consider that can help you resize your images to speed up page loading time while ensuring the appearance of the image remains good quality.

When resizing an image, ensure that you do not take it out of proportion, causing it to appear blurred or skewed.

How to determine the proportions of an image

To determine the dimensions of an image or site element, you can now use the ‘inspect’ feature on Google Chrome.

You can do this by right-clicking on the image and hitting ‘Inspect’, allowing you to determine the aspect ratio or proportions of the image.

Test out different proportions for every image on your website, considering it may be displayed on multiple types of devices and screen sizes.

You should make sure it still looks in proportion and of good quality, even after you’ve reduced the size.

Finding a balance between file size, image dimensions, and visual quality can take time but is well worth it in order to improve your image SEO and attract more Google image search visitors.

5. Image Alt Tags

Alt tags, also referred to as image alt text or image alt, is a key element of image SEO. Each term can be used interchangeably.

Adding image alt tags can be useful for providing more descriptive content to an image that search engines can then access. They are written text descriptions that describe exactly what is included in an image.

It’s important to remember the original purpose of adding alt tags to images.

They provide a text alternative to visuals, allowing individuals who use screen readers to access content within a web page.

They use relevant text to explain to an individual what an image is depicting.

If your site has a lazy loading speed, a visitor to your webpage may see alt text before the image loads. An image alt tag shows up in the alt attributes of your visual elements, as part of the structured data.

Typically, visitors to your website will not see or read this text, unless they are using a dedicated screen reader.

An alt tag or image tag makes up the structured data of your visual site elements and contributes to your image SEO performance.

An image alt tag can impact your SEO performance, by giving search engines more context about your images, allowing your web pages to show up in a relevant Google images search.

When you write accurate alt tags that include your relevant keywords, you improve your chances of appearing in an image search.

Ensure that the alt text for your images is up-to-date and accurate. It should clearly signal to search bots what your webpage is about. By including your target keywords and a description of your visual element, you can ensure you show up in a targeted text or image search.

Avoid keyword stuffing

One technique to avoid when it comes to tagging images with alternative text is keyword stuffing.

By adding your target keywords where they don’t belong or don’t make sense, you risk gaining a red flag from search engine crawlers.

Alt text can be useful for appearing in Google images and improving your SEO, but don’t disregard its primary purpose. This is to improve the accessibility of your website, so the maximum number of people can benefit from your content.

Taking a few minutes to improve the alt text of your images boosts your SEO and improves the inclusivity of your website, ultimately improving the user experience.

Optimizing Alt-Text

There are a few best practice techniques you can adhere to when it comes to optimizing the alt text of the visual elements within your site.

Don’t overcomplicate the process by overthinking the text you’re going to include.

You should ultimately be led by what is included in the image. Use your visual senses to describe accurately what the image shows, only including keywords where they make sense.

Use the following tips to help you write your alt text, allowing you to appear in more Google images search results and improve your user’s experience.

Be Descriptive and Specific

Alt text was designed to give users a clear text description of images, if they are unable to see them.

If the image you have uploaded does not provide value or meaning for your audience, consider if it truly belongs within your content.

Aim to describe the contents of your images in as much accurate detail as you can.

By being specific in your descriptions of an image, you can increase your rankings within Google image search and improve the experience of visually impaired users.

Keep in mind that the context of your images should be described in relation to the content of your website.

When creating alt text, keep in mind that many screen readers will not read more than 125 characters. This is the optimum length for your alt tags to prevent the content from becoming redundant.

Be Relevant

Another crucial aspect of alt text is to ensure it is relevant to the image subject matter and the context of your website.

If you choose to take advantage of alt tags by keyword stuffing or spamming, you will do more harm to your SEO and reputation than good.

If an image is generic and you are struggling to create accurate alt text, reconsider its place on your website. Does it add value to your topic, or is it simply taking up space?

Use Your Keywords

While it is important not to spam your content or stuff it with keywords, you can still use alt text to your SEO advantage.

It gives you an opportunity to include target keywords where they are relevant to an image search query.

Your first priority should always be to describe the image subject matter accurately. If your keyword is relevant to the subject of the image, feel free to include it to boost your SEO.

Alt text does not need to be the most well-written content on your website, the important thing is to avoid spamming or stuffing it with keywords that are irrelevant.

As long as your alt text is specific, descriptive, and where appropriate include keywords, you are on the right track.

Final Words

When you take the time and effort to optimize images within your site, you can positively influence the amount of traffic to your site from Google Images searches and improve the experience of your users by reducing your webpage loading times.

Optimizing your file names and alt tags helps to make your website more inclusive, allowing individuals with screen readers to perceive what your visual elements are illustrating.

It is important not to overlook image optimization when assessing your SEO.

Images can truly improve the experience of your audience and Google places great value in this.

Before uploading images to your website, adhere to the best practice techniques we have discussed in order to benefit as much as possible from image SEO.

Key Takeaways

The key takeaways from this article include:

  1. Use unique images
  2. Customize your image file names
  3. Compress your image sizes
  4. Pay attention to image proportions
  5. Utilize image alt tags

We hope you have improved your knowledge of image SEO and can use these techniques to your advantage going forward.

Keep these best practice techniques in mind and focus on the user experience to gain success with image SEO.

Start your journey to a website that improves your bottom line.

With 20 years of experience, you can trust that we know how to get the results that you want from your website.

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