Search engine optimization (SEO) can be described as “the practice of improving and promoting a website in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.” Organizations are continuously looking for ways to increase their search rankings, and ultimately grow their website’s organic traffic. Images play a big part in SEO strategy, and should be optimized properly in order to work toward your organization’s goals.
Here are a few tips and tricks to optimize images for search engines:
Clear and Descriptive File Name
Image SEO starts with choosing the right file name. The goal is to create a title that explains what the photo is, without Google having to actually “look” at it. If you are using a photo from your organization’s event, your image name shouldn’t be DSC3452.jpg, but rather, endangered-species-awareness-benefit-2017.jpg. Your title should include keywords that will ultimately help Google better understand what your website is about.
The alt-text (also known as alt-tag) is the descriptive tag associated with the image when it cannot be viewed. Alt-text serves in situations when an image is not available, either because it cannot be rendered or the visitor is using a screen reader due to a visual impairment. Alt-text may also appear when a visitor hovers over the image or the page loads incorrectly. Alt-text should include keywords as it is indexed by Google. In addition, alt-text increases the likelihood of click-through-rates, in case images appear broken.
XML Image Sitemaps
An image sitemap file title such as nonprofit-name/images/ simplifies the path to images for search engines. This also helps webmasters stay organized behind the scenes. Creating the sitemap is not too complicated. Basically, for each URL you list in your sitemap, you can add additional information about images on that page.
Google is explains it like this:
“To give Google information about images on your site, you’ll need to add image-specific tags to a sitemap. You can use a separate sitemap to list images, or you can add image information to an existing sitemap. Use the method that works for you!”
You can find more information and a complete set of image tag definitions here. An XML image sitemap is just another way Google will index your photos, so make sure it’s not ignored.
File Type & Size
Use images that are scaled and served in the smallest size possible. This does not mean you should reduce the quality of the photos - quality should remain at 100%. There are different tools to help you reduce file sizes, but the easiest means of making this happen is to use an online compression tool like TinyPNG or TinyJPG. Simply upload your image and the web application will take care of everything for you.
JPEG is the most commonly used image format, while PNG has become the modern alternative. It's also a good idea to have the extension of your filename match with the file type (Ex: .jpg or .png).
Page Load Times
Organization’s can use the “Site Speed” tool in Google Analytics to monitor page load times for their website. By monitoring these load times, you can compare how each page is performing compared to the site’s average. Slow load times can be caused by using too many images on a page or using images that are too big. Pingdom has also shared their findings from 2015 (using their own clients as the data source), where the average load time for web pages 3Mb was 5 seconds. In a Google Webmaster video, Maile Ohye, states that “2 seconds is the threshold for website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half second.”
Google Webmaster Guidelines
To stay up to date with image regulations, Google has created a set of guidelines for reference, stating “With image search, just as with web search, Google's goal is to provide the best and most relevant search results to our users. Following the best practices listed below (as well as our usual Webmaster Guidelines) will increase the likelihood that your images will be returned in those search results”. By following Google’s set of rules and guidelines, organization’s will be rewarded with higher search rankings and increased organic traffic.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have about your website needs.