Website optimization has gotten a whole new meaning with the world going mobile. The majority of web searches are performed on mobile devices, meaning that if your business’ website isn’t mobile-optimized, you are bound to lose customers.
On top of making your website responsive, using mobile-friendly fonts and buttons, you also need to optimize images. Just as you may need to digitally revolutionize your workplace, the same goes for your images.
But the story doesn’t end there. Image optimization is important on more levels than many people are aware of at first. How come?
Google Meets Image Optimization
When it comes to SEO, images play a no less important role than the content. Google image search is being used by hundreds of millions of people daily, generating 27% of all queries, according to Moz.
Google has recently updated its image search interface from the “View Image” button to “Visit [the Page in Question].” A direct result of the policy is that websites are witnessing increased traffic generated by image searches.
In plain English, that means that the visibility of the content accompanying the image has increased, as opposed to the visibility of the image without any context. This Google policy supports content directly, which has given a whole new meaning to image optimization.
It is reasonable to expect that the importance of image optimization will skyrocket in the future (and shortly, at that), seeing as Google has already put into action certain image recognition tools (reverse image search and Google Lens).
The developments in the field seem swifter than we can keep track of, actually. The first step to directly increase a brand’s profitability is “shoppable ads on Google Images,” which spell additional improvements yet to come.
If you haven’t optimized your images, it’s high time you get started now. Let’s see how to do that.
Image Optimization for SEO
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to image optimization for SEO, as follows:
- Proper image naming and description
- Proper image format, dimension and size
- Image simplification and compression
- Meaningful supporting content
Proper Image Naming and Description
Proper image naming is the simplest, yet too often overlooked SEO strategy. Including a keyword without any stop words (a, the, of, in, and similar) is the right way to go about it. You may also include more keywords, but make certain to separate them by hyphens.
The keyword in the image name works in the same way the keywords in the content do, meaning that your images will rank better, driving more traffic to the page they’re posted to (in accordance with the new Google image search policy mentioned above).
The next step is including image alt and title attributes. These are the two sole factors that boost user experience on top of helping your images rank better because they provide the context. Because of that, they should be written coherently and using proper grammar (no omissions) and explain the context the image accompanies.
Proper Image Format, Dimension and Size
Image sizes directly affect the loading time of the page; getting them right is, therefore, of extreme importance. JPEGs are the usual choice, closely followed by PNGs. The first are more SEO-friendly than the latter, so use them whenever you don’t need transparent backgrounds.
GIFs should only be used for animations (small ones that load fast), but keep in mind that they are limited to 256 colors only. Use other formats for longer animations, preferably a true video format.
As regards image dimensions, they should not exceed the average desktop screen resolutions (typically 2,560 pixels in width). This is important because of two factors. The first and most obvious is the loading time and the second – image adjustment. Namely, images automatically adjust to the screen size, which means they will not display properly if wrongly formatted.
Finally, whenever possible, the images should be no larger than 100Kb, to step up the loading time.
Image Simplification and Compression
Contrary to popular belief, using HTML or CSS to reduce pixels is not a good idea. The image will retain its original file size, albeit a smaller version will be displayed.
Instead, use an image compression tool. There are numerous free tools available (online or downloadable), with the most popular choices including TinyPNG, GIMP and Smush (but feel free to look it up and find the tool that works best for your specific needs).
If you need to display different image formats on your website (e.g., those not aligned with the average desktop screen resolutions, you may upload the same images in different dimensions and use a plugin to display the most optimized version for every user. Alternatively, you may use the <img srcset=””> attribute.
Meaningful Supporting Content
Ultimately, image search serves to lead the customer to the target page where the desired action is to be performed.
In that context, the supporting content should make the “visit” worthwhile. I.e., if the image represents a product, the page it is being displayed should contain a proper product description.
Bottom line, images should be where they are for a reason – not just to make the page look more eye-catching.
Image Audit and Performance Reporting
Now that we know how important images are in improving your SEO, it’s time to deal with image audits and performance reporting.
If you are your own webmaster, the easiest way to audit the images is by sorting the FTP image folders by size to determine which ones are too large. If you need to audit images on a third-party site, use a crawler (e.g., Screaming Frog) to perform the audit. Select an image URL and then click the “Inlinks” tab.
As for image reporting, Google Search Console is the typical tool of choice. The process takes a couple of steps, as follows:
- Log in to your verified Search Console property
- Select Performance Report
- Set the search type to “Image”
- Click “Apply”
The search results will display a number of feats, including impressions, clicks, queries, pages, devices, countries and CTR. The results will, however, not display actual image file names. Rather, you’ll see the pages they are posted to. In plain words, that means that Google Search Console doesn’t differentiate between different images on the same page (yet).
Instead of a Conclusion
Everything considered, images can improve your website SEO dramatically, so make certain to take your time with image names, sizes, descriptions, quality and resolution.
It is a good idea to check on the developments in the field and (especially) Google’s policies, as the giant is known for changing the rules of the game every couple of months or so.
That doesn’t mean that you will have to redo the process every time. Loading times will always remain, and mobile device user performed searches are increasing by the minute.
Rather, do your homework with the images already on your page and apply all the rules to the forthcoming ones. Game, set, match!
BIO: Angela Ash is a professional content writer and editor, with a myriad of experience in all forms of content management, SEO, proofreading, outreach and social media. She currently works with Flow SEO, a boutique agency founded by Viola Eva, which offers in-depth SEO analysis, custom SEO strategies and implementation.