Images + SEO: Best practices

SEO for images is something that often gets overlooked by inexperienced marketers. But the value of image optimization for search is indisputable, so it’s best to arm yourself with some best practices moving forward. The great thing about images is that they are likely EVERYWHERE on your website. But this also means that  if you’re not tapping into their SEO potential, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to promote your site to search engines. Here are some tips to get you started, or help refine what you’ve already got!

1. Find the right balance between image size + quality.

Slow page loading time is a killer. In fact, if your page takes more than three seconds to load, over half of visitors will close out of it. That’s a really, really big deal. Images play a huge role in page loading speed. However, you don’t want to compromise on the quality of the image just to make your pages load quicker. 

One of the most effective ways to size an image is with Adobe Photoshop’s “Save for Web” option. Photoshop offers presets for you to choose ranging from 1.38MB to 86k. You’ll want to choose somewhere in the middle. Make sure that compressing the image does not affect the quality in any way. This might require some trial and error, but it’s worth putting in the effort to ensure that your images look clear and clean, and your page loads fully in under three seconds.

2. Come up with descriptive file names.

The actual file name of the image is important for SEO purposes. You want to create descriptive, keyword-rich file names that will alert Google and other search engines to the subject matter in the image. For example, if you have an image of a red flower growing in a field, you want to expand the file name to be more than just “flower”. Something like “red_flower_field” would be preferable.

3. Avoid stock images when possible, and try to use mainly high-quality, original photos.

While optimizing your images properly can take you far, it won’t take you as far if the images you source are all generic stock photos. It’s usually pretty obvious when you use stock photos, especially if that’s all you use. We totally get that it may be difficult (especially for smaller businesses with lower budgets) to get original photography. You can use stock images to fill in the holes, but try your best to flood your website with as much original content as possible.

4. Be wary of using copyrighted photos.

You can’t just pluck any old image off of Google and expect to get off scot-free, especially as your website garners more and more traffic over time. If there is a copyright conflict for any of the photos you’ve used, you can have a major lawsuit on your hands — which definitely does not help your SEO. Even images that come from “free to use” sites may not be what they appear to be on the surface. Always make sure that not only are the images designated as “royalty free”, but that they are also “designated free for commercial use” and not just free for personal use.

5. Make sure Alt Text is SEO-friendly.

We’ll get to the SEO aspect in a second, but the most important thing to know about alt text is that it is actually required under the American Disabilities Act, for those who are vision impaired or need text to be read aloud to them for any reason. The alt text should include a thorough description of the image. For example, in the code it would look something like this: <img src=”red_flower_field-1.jpg” alt=”red flower in open field”/>

Alt text also serves another purpose. If the person’s browser cannot properly render them, the alt text will pop up in place of the photo so that the person knows what image was supposed to be there.

Adding appropriate alt tags to images can help your website rank better on search engines by associating keywords with images. Google has stated that they use the information provided in alt text to determine the best image to return for a user’s query.

Image-in the possibilities

If you’ve read this article through and are realizing you’ve got some major holes in your SEO, this is good news! Now you can get in there and squeeze even more SEO into your site, which is never a bad thing. Imagine how much better your site could do with these simple updates!