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Images can bring life to an otherwise visually drab piece of content. More often than many marketers realize, images can also draw users to their website. In fact, research reveals that Google image searches dwarf by 10 times any search on Bing or Yahoo, and exceed the amounts of searches on Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, and Google Maps. So how can you get your images to show up first in these searches? Here is why and how you should be optimizing images in content for Google image search.
Image via Flickr by JelleS
It’s not enough just to throw an image into your content. Optimizing images impacts many factors of your website. A primary concern is optimizing images so they are more likely to show up in a Google image search. Having your image show up more frequently in a search makes your brand more visible and relevant to users. Thanks to the visibility that image creates, you can drive more traffic to your website. But, the benefits of optimizing images don’t end with a simple image search.
Has your email ever prevented you from sending more than four images even though you just sent a thirty-page document? Image files are significantly larger than written files, which means they take up more space on your website when they’re embedded in content. This means that when users call up your site, their browser must download these large images, which decreases load speeds. In an age where we expect a site to load in a second or two, such lagging may send users away. Optimizing images can decrease their size, which will improve your site speed.
Sometimes your website experiences loading issues aside from slow load speeds. Hopefully it’s not a server issue, but maybe something is wrong on the user’s end and your images aren’t loading. Maybe they can read your content text, but the images won’t show up. Those image-less voids can quickly take away from the user experience, especially if the image is central to your content. If you optimize your images using alt text, however, the user can at least read what the image would have been had it loaded. The experience isn’t as strong, but it’s better than nothing.
Overall, the benefits of optimizing images all come together to improve your website’s SEO. Today’s advanced algorithms give search priority to websites that provide a positive user experience. That means they look for high-quality content, mobile optimization, and image optimization. Anything that slows your site or otherwise harms the user experience will earn your image and your website a lower spot in the search engine results.
Before you ever get to optimizing your images for search engines, you need to find an image that will enhance your content. Don’t just find a random stock photograph to get the check on your SEO checklist. Use images that relate to your post or somehow add meaning to the written content. If you have the time and resources, create and use your own images. That way, you can guarantee that the image reinforces the content, and you can avoid any potential rights issues.
You won’t always be able to use your own image, though. When you can’t, find images that can at least appear like they were made just for that particular piece of content. Avoid using stock images that were so obviously staged that they’re almost painful to look at. Users likely also won’t spend time looking at boring stock photos, which will do further harm to your SEO. For a good range of photos, check out websites like Flickr, Bigstock, or Unsplash.
Whatever image you choose, make sure you have permission to use it. If it’s not clear on the website, try to contact whoever posted the image. The last thing you need is to get hit with thousands of dollars in a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
You’re not ready to upload your image quite yet. First, you need to prepare it so it can live up to its rank-raising potential. When you save your chosen image, don’t save it as something completely meaningless, like DSC568952.jpg. When you eventually upload the image, you want Google to immediately know what the image includes, so make sure the file name reflects the content of the image. Include keywords in the file title, if you can.
Next, you need to adjust the size of your image. Remember, the larger your image, the more it will slow down your website, and the more the image’s search rank will drop. For many page layouts, an image between 600 and 800 pixels works great. If you can make the image even smaller without sacrificing quality, that works, too. Even when the image size has been reduced, the file may still be large, so use tools like ImageOptim to reduce file size. You should also ensure that the image is responsive so that it will work as well on a mobile device as it does on a desktop.
Now you’re prepared to add the image to your content. Be strategic about where you place it. Maybe you need the image to supplement a particularly complex piece of content, so place the image near that information. You can also use images to break up long sections of text, making the content more readable for users, which will, in turn, keep them on your page longer. If it will help clarify or enhance the image, or if one is needed for attribution purposes, include a caption below the image.
Remember the alt texts that we mentioned earlier? That text guarantees that if the image doesn’t load for some reason, as little of the experience as possible is lost. Add descriptive but short alt texts to your image, and try to use the keyword somewhere in that text.
Complete these simple steps and your images will not only add a splash of color to your lines of content, they will also enhance user experience and increase your page rank, so your brand can get the recognition it deserves.