Wednesday, April 17, 2013

SEO Tips for Image Optimization

A picture is worth a 1000 words... humans love to see pictures. We prefer pictures over text most of the time (which is why infographs are so popular, even when the don't tell us anything). And now, search engines love pictures as much as we do. Including the right information about pictures and images on your website can help boost your site in search results. Here are some tips to follow to take advantage of this feature.

1 – Use Keywords in File Names
It's pretty common knowledge that keywords are important in meta tags, page copy and URLs. It is less commonly known that search engine 'bots also look at image file names. Give your images descriptive names that are aligned with the copy / subject material on the page. A file name like “logo_75x75.jpg” tells the search engines nothing about your business or page subject. The file name “companyName_logo75x75.jpg” at least includes your company name and is one more thing for search engines to latch on to. It is extremely important that pictures of products have names that describe or match the product.

2 – Title Text
Have you ever noticed that when you leave your mouse over an image, often times a little message will pop up? This message is contained in an attribute called “title.” Search engines read these titles. Image titles should tell us something about the image/picture, but should also be related to the page copy. It's one more thing that 'show' search engines that your page is relevant to the search string being entered by the user.

3 – Alt Text
The 'alt' attribute is similar to the text attribute except that humans never see it unless there is a problem. 'Alt' stands for “alternate” and was set up to be used if an image could not be displayed. Have you seen words show up when an image does not load? What you see is the text in the alt attribute. Search engines use the information in the alt attribute to help determine what the image is about. Put a keyword or phrase in here that explains the image, is aligned with the page copy and is not the same as the title attribute text – it can be similar, but why wast the space on exactly the same text?

4 – Use the Right Images
Finding the right image can add a 'wow' effect to your page. Good images will encourage visitors to share your page and site – causing backlinks. Search engines like to see backlinks to sites. Backlinks mean people are finding what they are looking for on the site. This is very important to search engines because if their users are not finding relevant information through the search results, the users are going to try a different search engine. So, it's safe to say that a good image 'sells' your page.

It is also important to make sure your images are 1) owned by you, or 2) have public or Creative Commons licenses, or 3) are purchased for use on your page. Good places to look for images: Flickr, iStockPhoto, stock.xchng, and clip art catalogs. Or search Google using search terms like 'public license images' or 'Creative Commons images.'

5 – Images Should Match Page Content
The content or copy on the page should align with everything discussed so far – file names and URLs, meta tags, alt text, title text, and link text should all relate to page content.

A final note: do not over do it! Keep you keywords and phrases down to the essentials. Don't cram a lot of words and phrases into the tags and attributes in an attempt to score higher rankings. Too many words and phrases can 'confuse' the search engine bots and drop your ranking. Also, the search engine bots will only pick up so much and then the rest is ignored.

Author: Russ Thompson - Owner and Lead Programmer, Freelance I.T. Solutions