There’s so much more to SEO than being one of 10 simple links on a Google results page (SERPS). Google is now presenting users with rich results pages made up of paid and organic listings, shopping results, star ratings, maps listings and, of course, images.
Users’ eyes are drawn to the rich features of these results pages, meaning that if you’re competing in a space where many results have images showing up, you’re going to want to make sure you’re winning some of that traffic.
Here’s a guide to optimizing your images for the maximum chance of featuring highly in Google Image Search.
1.Start with the Basics: The Filename
The name of the file is the most basic of elements. But it’s key to getting this right. Maybe for file storage you’re using numbers of reference codes to name files. But when you upload them to your website, you’re going to want to make sure the file name is description.
Use a couple of words that best describe the image and separate words with hyphens or dashes (rather than underscores). Here are a couple of examples:
• If you have an image of a brainstorming session on your site, you might want to call it “Brainstorming-Session,” or similar.
• By the same token, if your photo is of a piggy bank with coins around it, you could call it “Piggy-bank-with-coins.”
• An image of a red leather jacket could be called “Red-leather-jacket”
2. Alt Text
Alt text is basically the opportunity for you to explain what your image is about to the search engines. While human users can see quite easily what the image is and what’s happening within the image, web crawlers can’t. So the alt text enables you to tell them.
Alt text can typically be a little bit longer than a file name. That’s quite common. So you have the opportunity to give Google and other search engines a little more context and information about your image and can potentially get more relevant words in there. Let’s go back to our initial 3 examples from above.
• Our brainstorming session image might have the alt text “brainstorming session in office boardroom”
• Our piggy bank image could be “black piggy bank surrounded by coins”
• That red leather jacket could be “red leather jacket with pockets”
Implementing the alt text is fairly straightforward. Based on our above 3 examples, here’s how that would work:
• brainstorming session in office boardroom
• black piggy bank surrounded by coins
• Red leather jacket with pockets
Bear in mind that certain accessibility tools for users with vision impairment may also use the alt text to tell the human user what the image is about. So your alt text should definitely be relevant and not just stuffed with keywords!
3. Use Title Tags on Images
Another piece of data you can give Google is a title tag for an image. These title tags should be short and relevant (very similar, in many ways, to your filename). It’s just another piece of information Google will read and it’s beneficial to give the search engines all the information that you can.
4. Use Unique Images Where Possible
In much the same vein as you benefit from having unique text content on your website, having unique images will be of benefit to you as well. So if you do have the ability to create unique images that will be original to you and your site, it will help!
Matt Cutts of Google has been quick to point out in the past that using stock photos and similar will not have a negative impact on your rankings. But if your competitors are benefitting from unique images, then the net result will be that they have a better shout than you have at stealing that image search traffic. Bear this in mind.
Check out Canva.com for making original photos that may include your stock photos and free clipart. You can bring them together to create one unique photo. It’s worth the extra effort.
Example Photo made in Canva using a Stock Photo and a Blur Filter.
5. Schema.org Markup for Images
In 2011, Google, Bing and Yahoo launched schema.org with the aim being to “create and support” a convention for structured markup. Schema basically lets Webmasters tell Google and other search engines what something is (e.g. an address or a product review, or a manufacturer name). This in turn helps search engines to understand the context of things on a website, so an address becomes and address, rather than just another piece of text.
You can mark up images too, as detailed at schema.org/ImageObject.
6. Image Sitemap
Set up a sitemap for your images (following the guidelines at support.google.com/webmasters/answer/178636?hl=en). This further assists Google in finding your images and, Google states that an image sitemap “can increase the likelihood that your images can be found in Image Search results”
With richer results pages than ever before and so much traffic to be won from optimising your images, getting a process in place for uploading images to your site is essential and doesn’t have to be complicated!