When most people think of SEO, they think of words. Key words (which are becoming old school, by the way), key phrases, and search terms. But a very part of your website SEO are the images themselves! Are you doing everything you can to maximize the SEO value of the images you choose to share? Here are five tips for making sure your images do double-duty, as both valuable content and website lures.
1. Use the Best File Format
You probably already know the main image formats: GIF, JPEG and PNG. But do you know which file type to use and when? Let's do a quick review!
JPEG compression is terrific for making a very small image, but if you plan to use a ZOOM feature on that image, you may see a noticeable loss of quality. In order to achieve that compression, JPG basically drops pixels. Not great when you're trying to magnify a satiny smooth finish or show intricate detail! But if the smallest possible image is what you need, then the JPG is your format.
GIFs are terrific for showing a moving image, but if the image isn't moving, skip the GIF. The way a GIF image achieves its smaller size is by forcing the image to use a smaller number of colors. As a result, your image may have white spots, blotchy patches, or just look slightly off. If the color of your item is important, GIF is not your friend.
PNG files are a "lossless" format, which means that the compression doesn't affect the number of pixels nor the color. A PNG file will always look as sharp as the original image. The downside is that PNGs are always just a little larger than JPG files.
If you want a transparent background, you'll have to choose between a PNG and a GIF, because JPG doesn't support transparency.
2. Always Put Meaningful Content in Alt Text!
First of all, it's just thoughtful. After all, screen readers for the blind need the information in your Alt Text image field to say what the image is or represents. But the Alt Text field is also used by search robots to scan your pages. That's more data to help more customers find your site! If you really want to amp up your SEO, make sure every image on your site includes information that describes the photo and, ideally, contains the primary search terms for that article or page.
3. Use Captions
We know people tend to be skimmers rather than readers, so it shouldn't be a surprise that recent web use studies showed that website visitors read image captions more than they read body copy! Use the image caption to put your main thought across clearly and quickly.
4. Create an Image Sitemap
A sitemap is basically an organizational outline of your website that is only visible to search engine robots. Those robots are constantly scanning websites and creating indexes of the information that can be found at each site. An Image Sitemap provides the search engine robots with an index of your images. Internet users are constantly searching for images. Make sure yours show up!
5. Include Open Graph Tags
Here's the scenario: You are posting a link of your product on Facebook, but instead of showing a picture of the product and the right description of the product, Facebook keeps pulling your social media icons or your banner image, and some random text about your company. How do you fix that? With Open Graph tags. The Open Graph tags tell Facebook — and other social media providers — which information to pull when a link is shared. If you're not sure how to do this, ask your website support person or team.
Images have huge influence on the marketing effectiveness of your website. Better pictures sell more products, properly sized images make your website load faster, and doing all the things listed above make your site perform better on search engines. If you give your shared images the attention they deserve, you'll be rewarded with more traffic.