I’m a big believer in the power of image search. When I’m writing blog posts or creating landing pages, I probably spend as much time optimizing images as I do writing the actual content. I even go as far as embedding descriptive image metadata into every image file that I upload. Even though there is much proof that image metadata does not have any effect on image search rankings, I still do it. I don’t care if it’s a waste of time right now. There will probably come a day when image metadata is factored into the various image search algorithms’ respective rankings. And when that moment comes, I won’t have to go back and optimize my images. It’ll already be done. Bam!
There are a lot of people out there performing image searches when researching products and services. If you have a graphics design website, a photography website, an ecommerce website, or even a personal blog, it is very likely that you have a lot of pictures on your website. You should always be thinking about how to optimize your images. Here is a list of 5 simple image optimization tips that will help you on your journey into image search optimization and SEO for your pictures:
- Image file names
This is an important one. Don’t use the default image name from your camera. If the picture contains a tense scene of a standoff between a herd of giraffes and zebras in Africa, your file should not be named ‘IMG_0024.jpg’. The file name for that image MUST contain keywords that accurately describe the contents of the image. In this case, consider ‘zebra-giraffes-africa-standoff.jpg’. You don’t need to go overboard with keywords in the file name. It doesn’t need to be 400 words long. Be concise, and be sure to include the keywords you want the image to rank for.
- Image Alt tag & Image Title attribute
The Alt tag and the title attribute appear in the source code. The Alt tag’s original purpose was to assist visually impaired people in reading pages on websites via screen readers. But as it turns out, it’s also an excellent way to add instances of keywords to the page. The Alt tagand title attribute are both located in the <img src> code. In the image above, I used “Standoff in Africa: Zebras vs Giraffes” for the Alt tag. I typically use the same copy for the image Alt tag and the image Title tag. In the image above, I also used “Standoff in Africa: Zebras vs Giraffes” for the image title tag.
- Place picture captions near the picture
Use captions, people. I know that sometimes it seems like it might take away from the overall look-and-feel of the website, but if you can add a caption or an image description somewhere directly above or below the image, you will be setting yourself up for image search optimization success. Proximity is the key. And the caption should not contain copyright data. Like the Alt tag and title tag, the caption/descriptive text must contain the keywords that you want the image to rank for. Again, don’t go crazy here. Be concise. Be descriptive. BTW I typically use the same copy for the image Alt tag, image title tag and image caption. I find that reinforcing the keywords in all 3 places can really help with ranking relevance.
- Use keywords in the post title, page name, page title tag and/or H1 tag
In many ways, ranking in image search is about creating an alignment between all the major ranking factors. If your picture is about giraffes and zebras in Africa, then it would be best to use those keywords in the post title, page name, the page’s title tag and the H1 tag. Create a solidarity between all the various ranking factors, and you will be setting yourself up for success.
- Content. Content. Content.
While it is possible to get rankings for an image on a page with little to no content, I wouldn’t count on it. I recommend writing a lot of content (300-500 words) for any given page or post. And inside that content, you should use several instances of the keywords you want the image(s) to rank for. In the example above, I would probably write 2-3 paragraphs about how awesome it was to see a herd of giraffes meet up with a herd of zebras. And then I’d go into various descriptions about their movements and actions. If you write a compelling story in your post, you will likely find yourself adding all sorts of great keywords throughout the post. Combined with the other tips listed above, you’ll be in great shape.
So I hope that enlightened you a little on image search SEO and image search optimization. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t immediately rank for any given image. It’s tough out there. Much like every other facet of SEO, it seems like everyone has recently hopped on the Image SEO bandwagon. Just do your best. Monitor your data. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from your competitors. And by all means – use captions!