what is image seo

Let Your Website Pictures Say a Thousand Words with Image SEO

Some might tell you that video is king in the content world these days, and in certain areas, they might be correct. 

But don’t get hasty

Photos are loaded with endless content possibilities well before they are strung together at 30 frames a second. Images and pictures certainly help your content thrive and connect with site visitors. 

And when you can learn to make your images work overtime by optimizing them for SEO. The results will help your image data drive new prospects to your site even before the image itself impresses them.

First, You Need to Choose the Right File Type

Not all file types are the same, and the three letters after the period on your image name can really affect how your site runs. 

Choose the wrong one, and your website might load significantly slower, leading to poor Google search engine rankings and, ultimately, fewer prospects seeing your site overall. 

When saving an image for your website, there are three major image file types to choose from JPG, PNG, and GIF. And while each is best used for different image types, they all share one thing in common: compression. They each compress image data down while limiting image degradation. 

So, what’s the difference between a JPG, a PNG, and a GIF?

JPG: The Perfect Solution for Photographs

JPGs, also known as JPEGs, are the most common for web images. This compressed format will incur some loss — aka degradation — to your image, but it will also make it the smallest size without ruining it. JPGs are best for photograph images; for this reason, they retain all the characteristics of the image while shrinking its file size

PNG: Great for Graphics and Text 

PNG is also a compressed file format, but it is lossless — which means all the image details are retained. It also means PNGs generate a bigger file, which can increase your website load time. PNGs are best used for line drawings and graphics, such as images of text or other graphical elements. The lossless format helps them retain their quality at the smallest possible size, just not as small as a JPG.

GIF: Get Your Photos Moving

GIF is also a lossless format, and it is similar to PNGs in that sense. However, this format is best suited for moving images. Most of the animated memes you see across social media and web pages these days are GIF formatted. And though the pronunciation debate around GIFs may rage on, we can agree that the only thing better than a still image is a moving one.

If you aren’t sure how to change file types, fear not – there’s a tool for that! Most professional photo editing software like Photoshop or its free alternative, GIMP, allows you to save projects into whichever file format you need. 

And if you are only looking for a way to convert the format of a saved image quickly, this tool is free and can export to your preferred file format after a simple upload process. It’s easy to be an image file expert without the expertise. 

Let’s Talk About Compression

Now that we have looked at how file formats affect image size and quality, we can begin to understand what file size is suitable for web images and how to compress stubborn images that are still too big.

When it comes to image quality, the larger the file, the more image data it stores. Usually, that’s exactly what you want — the most pixels to deliver the most detailed image. However, as we mentioned when discussing file format — compression is crucial for web images. 

For most of your web images, you should aim for a file size under 200kb, unless it is a full-page image or something akin to it, then you can max out closer to 1MB. If you are ready to dive in on image compression and what is the best size for your site, there are development-focused quality documentation and instruction available for free.

Tools for Compressing Images

If you’ve already saved your image files as JPGs and they are well above 200kb, there are a few free tools that can further help you.

Compress JPEG is a straightforward tool that allows you to upload any file, and it will compress it as much as it can. Google also recommends a more complex tool for either Windows or Mac users that is incredibly successful at compressing images without losing vital detailing.

Despite all this file size and format talk, your site is still yours. And if you believe larger, more pixel-dense images better suit your content, brand, and goals — then absolutely use them. 

A Note On the Importance of Responsive Images

The variety of screen sizes people use to access the internet constantly changes. Whether it’s desktops, mobile phones, or tablets, it is impossible to keep up with the changes.

That’s why you want to make sure any image you upload to your website is responsive, which allows them to adjust automatically to any screen size. No one hangs around on a site with images too big for the screen or too small to navigate around.

Unfortunately, ensuring your images are responsive isn’t a box you check off during the upload process or something like that. It’s done on the coding aspect of your site, so you should consider speaking with your web developer to make sure you’ve optimized your site. Some website-building software like WordPress can automatically make images responsive for you, which is one less thing on your to-do list. 

Why Naming Images for SEO Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

When it comes to managing your website’s content, there are many details that can get lost in the sheer enormous task of creating, posting, and overseeing quality content. One of those minor details that fall by the wayside is often uploading images with generic file names.

Since Google’s crawlers can use the file name to interpret what your image is, it benefits you to choose a relevant file name for them. Frequently, images are uploaded under whatever name they were saved under. For example, files with names like “Img012022” or “Image_final_v2” will not help your SEO. 

There may be unlimited options you can choose for naming your image files, but there are certain SEO naming conventions that are worth considering before you opt for your own system.

How to Name Your Images for SEO

Opt for file names that utilize relevant keywords for your site. For example, a thought leadership article with several images could all be named with primary keywords that the article is targeting to help maximize the piece’s overall SEO potential.

It’s not enough to just use a keyword expression repeatedly, though. Your file names should also be descriptive. For example, if your image is of a bicycle and your keyword is a mountain bike, you can’t end up with multiple images like “Mountain bike-1” and “Mountain bike-2.” 

Instead, add some additional descriptive language to your file names without trying to keyword stuff them. Let “Mountain bike” become “Fixed gear mountain bike” to give your images that tiny extra boost of SEO optimization.

The bottom line is that Google image SEO may not be perfect and although its machine learning crawlers are excellent at recognizing what an image is, why leave it up to chance? Keep it simple but effective when naming your image files.

What Is Alt Text SEO?

Image optimization for SEO is more nuanced than it first appears because images, in general, are often seen as content support — not something that can drive overall growth and organic reach. 

And SEO for images is like a snowball rolling down a hill because you can’t stop once you manage one aspect of it; you have to do it all to reap the benefits.

Alt stands for alternative and alt text is essentially the words that describe each of your site’s images.

Alt-text is important for two primary reasons. It is what is read aloud to people who use screen reading tools because they might be visually impaired, and alt-text also shows up on your webpage when an image fails to load. That’s why your alt-text must be descriptive.

Best Practices for Alt Text Writing

The better your alt text, the better your ranking for image-based Google searches. Here is a brief checklist for helping you craft the best possible descriptions for your images.

  • Define the goal: Choose words that focus on the goal of your site or brand. For example, if you’re a tourism website, instead of generic scene descriptions, include details like specific location rather than something generic like “beach with people.”
  • Use researched keywords: Similar to why relevant keywords are important for image file names, they are equally crucial to alt text. However, you can use keywords more specific to your overall content or website instead of just repeating the file name keywords.
  • Keep it short: Google recommends not using more than 125 characters for your alt text. That puts the focus on descriptive, quality word choices.

Geotagging Images for SEO

Geotagging is not a term we use all the time, so it’s okay if you aren’t exactly familiar with how to deploy it for SEO purposes. 

Geotagging is the process of adding location data or tags to an image. This can be as general as the country the image was taken in or as detailed as the exact longitude and latitude of the tagged image.

Geotagging helps Google and other search engines process a connection between what the image is depicting and where it was taken and is perhaps most important for websites and businesses within their local community. 

As more and more people use their cell phones for internet searches, the need for accurate, location-based search results has grown too. If your core business or website is heavily locally-focused, all of your images should be geotagged for that community to increase the visibility of your content. 

For example, if someone is searching for pottery made in south Florida and your pottery business is based in Miami, you want to ensure your images are returning as results for that search to increase the opportunity for your business to be found.

Think of it like this: In order to grow your business, you need local results from web searches.

Reverse Image Search SEO Can Improve Your Backlinks

Backlinks occur when another site links to something on your site

For example, if a travel website links to your vacation rental listing site in one of their blog articles. They are potentially the most challenging part of SEO to master, yet they are still part of the most successful SEO optimization. 

Backlinks are important to search engine algorithms because they signify trust and indicate the accuracy of the content. It’s like the internet version of someone recommending you for a job: That recommendation has more value because the employer trusts the person who suggested you.

The Last Piece of the Image SEO Puzzle

If you’ve done all the other important SEO graphic and image work, like using descriptive names and geotagging them all, then reverse image searches may prove helpful for you.

What you’ll do is take images from your site and perform a reverse image search. The process is as easy as navigating to Google images and using the camera icon on the page to upload a photo for searching. If you need some additional directions, Google support provides an easy-to-follow set of directions.

As you perform searches for each unique image on your site, the search results will point you to websites that have used your photos, including those who have done so without proper linking. Each one of those is essentially an unclaimed backlink. And, if you have used more original photos than stock images, you won’t be scrolling through endless pages trying to see if you have any missed backlink opportunities. 

Your Images Can’t Wow Anyone if They Aren’t Being Seen

You might not want to spend time making sure you’ve optimized your titles and sifted through Google image search for backlink opportunities. We totally get it if it’s not your jam! But at Carter & Custer, SEO really lights us up! 

We have a variety of services that can kick your SEO into high gear, including long-form writing, video production, website development, and more. And as a company, we’re constantly innovating new ways to help our clients amplify their organic growth and find their purpose.

We’ve seen massive success with our methods. Check out what we did for our client Ed Mylett, a #1 ranked iTunes business podcaster. In just four months, we increased his site traffic by 30% by repurposing his podcast episodes into long-form, SEO-rich articles.

Get in touch with us to see what we can do for you!