Most business owners optimize their website content for search, but miss out on optimizing their website images. Here is how you can do better!
Why You Need to Create SEO-Friendly Images
You already know that your text content helps your website rank higher in search engine results. But many business and website owners are not aware of how images affect your search rankings. To help you get a better understanding of why that is important we want to share some tips on how to create SEO-friendly images yourself.
In 2018 the web is visual, in case you have not noticed. Studies have shown that pages and posts that include images get 94% more page views than those without visuals. Of course, that means that your images need to appeal to your audience, be relevant to the subject matter, and load fast enough for your target audience to actually see them. Let’s see how SEO-friendly images will help you do just that!
SEO-Friendly Images and User Experience
In 2018 you must pay attention to user experience if you want higher search engine rankings. Google and other search engines place special emphasis on UX when ranking websites for search. They look for pages that are easy to read and comprehend for site visitors. Therefore, you must create your website content based on the reader’s perspective, not your own! That includes creating SEO-friendly images.
One of the main problems I notice on many websites is that while the images may be SEO-friendly they are not really aligned with the expectations of the target audience. Let me make this very clear; low-quality or inappropriate images will simply make your potential consumers look for another brand or business that provides a better visual user experience.
If you intend to provide a better user experience by attracting and engaging your target audience, you need to do better than that. Let me outline a few essential tips for creating SEO-friendly images that will appeal to both search engines and your human visitors alike.
SEO-Friendly Images Take Planning Ahead
You already know that pages and posts with images get more total page views on average than those without images. Therefore, it makes sense for business owners and marketers to include images in their blog posts and web pages. But what are the best practices for utilizing these images regarding search engine optimization (SEO)? Let’s take a look at what it will take to create SEO-friendly images that appeal to both search engines and human visitors.
13 Tips for Creating SEO-Friendly Images
1 – Plan Ahead
Not every image will actually work to tell your story and support your business and marketing objectives. For instance, I know you are simply trying to illustrate that your services allow your clients to relax and have fun. But is that image of screaming people on a roller coaster really the most appropriate? Or will it simply scare your potential clients away?
Before you start creating SEO-friendly images you should first determine what kind of images you need, and how many of them. Start by creating a list of pages and posts on your website. If you want or need higher search rankings you need at least one image for each page or post. That will give you a better idea of how many images you will need.
Keep in mind that you can use different types of images, such as full-screen hero images, background images, graphics and infographics, web icons, etc.
2 – Select Appropriate Images
Once you have an idea of roughly how many SEO-friendly images you will need you can start determining what kind of image will work best to support your website objectives. Remember, you are building a website for your target audience, not yourself! So what type of image is appropriate, you ask? Well, that depends on your specific industry or business.
To really hit the right note for search engines and your human visitors your website images should clearly illustrate what your target audience is looking for. Using your own images, or images taken by a professional photographer will always perform better than stock images.
Here are some basic considerations for selecting appropriate website images:
- Your website mages need to reflect your target audience. If you market to a certain demographic, include them in your images.
- SEO-friendly images need to reflect your actual business. If you are a small business don’t come across as a corporate giant.
- The best web images are authentic. Avoid using cliché images; in 2018 your online audience is much smarter than that.
- Use unique images wherever possible. Using the same image as your competitor will not help either of you.
- Always have permissions! I should not even have to mention this, but here is a gentle reminder that grabbing images off Google or your competitor’s website is a big no-no!
3 –Optimize Image File Names
The next step for creating SEO-friendly images is to optimize the actual image file name. In most cases that means changing the actual file name of the intended image from something like DSC_0467406312_87.jpg to something more SEO-friendly.
If you want to create SEO-friendly images the image file names should accurately describe what the image is and the keyword you’re using. Don’t abbreviate words. If you must use company details in the name, still add a descriptive title after the file code. Separate the keyword-focused name in the title with hyphens, and do not use special characters or “kute” spellings!
Here are my basic recommendations for optimizing image file names:
- Include your brand or business name. If you are a known brand, consumers will search for that. If you are still building your brand adding your business name to your images makes your brand come up in image search.
- Describe the image accurately. Don’t simply say “product.” Describe how your “awesome product” provides “great value” at a “lower cost.”
- Add your keyword to your image name. This will help your search rankings and allow your target audience to find your products or services through search.
This may sound confusing, but it actually is pretty straight-forward and logical. When you create your SEO-friendly image file names simply keep the search intent of your target audience in mind. For example, imagine you have a restaurant specializing in Sunday brunch. Which image file name do you think will do better in search?
Hint: It isn’t A!
4 – Use Appropriate Image File Types
The most common file type for website images is a JPEG. But it may not be the best file type for certain images. If you want to create SEO-friendly images it helps to use the most appropriate file type. Here are some common image file types, and when to use them:
JPEG – Commonly used for photographic images this file format does not support transparency.
PNG – This format supports transparency and is most often used for web logos, icons and infographics.
SVG – A scalable file format that allows graphics to render across multiple resolutions
GIF – An older and low-quality file format that is NOT commonly used in 2018.
5 – Pay Attention to Image Resolution and Size
Images are great, but they do come with one major obstacle. Especially large images can take a long time to fully load. And that provides a less than optimal user experience. Smaller images load faster but may appear fuzzy on larger monitors. Creating SEO-friendly images means avoiding both of those.
The standard image resolution for website images is 72dpi (dots per inch). Images that have a lower resolution tend to appear unsharp and fuzzy, and I recommend you avoid those completely. But using higher image resolutions is not going to help you much. If you have a lot of fine detail you may want to up the resolution to somewhere between 96dpi and 144dpi; the latter is mainly for ultra-high-resolution displays.
Another consideration when creating SEO-friendly images is the actual size or pixel dimensions of your image. Many websites use images that are too big or too small for the intended usage! Only use the highest resolution necessary for the space the image will take up on your page or post. Higher resolution just means your page will take longer to load – losing you valuable web traffic.
A basic guideline for image sizes is around 2000px x 1200px for full-screen or hero images, 1280px for an image stretching across the page content (as opposed to the browser width), 960px for an image that fills half of a page, and between 560px to 740px for images that are part of your text content.
6 – Compress and Optimize Images
The next step for creating SEO-friendly images is to optimize them for web use. Image file sizes should be decreased as much as possible. Smaller file sizes mean faster load times and less dead weight on the page, which in turn leads to a better user experience and higher search rankings.
If you are using an image editing program like Adobe Photoshop you can use the image export function to compress your images. I recommend you start with a JPEG image compression of around 30-50%. Check to see if your image still looks acceptable and sharp at 100% image size and adjust your compression levels accordingly. PNG files use their own compression that allows you to create regular or small file sizes.
Upload your compressed JPEG or PNG files to your website media gallery. The last step is to use an image optimization app to further optimize and compress the images on your website. Personally, I recommend Smush.It, but there are other options available. Once you have fine-tuned your compression settings they will automatically be applied as you upload images.
One final note about optimizing your SEO-friendly images. WordPress and other web platforms give you the ability to resize your images after you upload them. This is NOT a good option! What happens is your big image is uploaded, and then resized. This results in additional page load time by adding additional image optimization steps. You should always upload correctly sized images, and then compress and optimize them!
7 – Use Responsive Images
It is 2018, and the Internet is mobile. Which means that your SEO-friendly images must provide a great user experience across all devices and screen sizes. Which is where responsive images come in handy. As your website visitors consume your content on different devices, they will have different expectations. And that big hero image from your desktop just doesn’t provide the same user experience on an iPhone without some help.
One of the reasons we use WordPress for all our clients is that it is extremely SEO-friendly for images right out of the box. One of the most beneficial WordPress features is the ability to change image size depending on what size screen the reader is on, regardless if that is a desktop, a tablet, or a smartphone. Because responsive images are critical for SEO.
8 – Create Optimized Alt Text
A key aspect of creating SEO-friendly images has to be the search engine optimization part. Yet most business and website owners miss this essential step! They are not creating adequate (or any) Meta descriptions and Alt tags for their website images. And that works against them on a number of different levels.
Alt text takes the place of an image if it can’t show up on the viewer’s screen. If the viewer can’t see the image, it describes what they are looking at. This is especially helpful when optimizing your site for readers with visual impairment, or if you are using a visual content translator such as Amazon Polly. If they can’t see the image, they can still understand the message. When you write the alt text for an image, describe exactly what’s happening in the picture using relevant keywords.
9 – Utilize Image Captions
Part of creating SEO-friendly images is to make them as appealing and informative as possible. One easy way of doing that is by using image captions. Image captions provide needed context for website visitors and search engines alike. You can use them to add relevant information to the image, including focus keywords related to both the image itself and the overall page content.
10 – Create XML Image Sitemaps
You already know that search engines use sitemaps to better understand the structure and content of your website pages for indexing. But many business website owners don’t know that the same applies to website images. As you create your SEO-friendly images don’t forget to add them to your image XML sitemap, and then upload your image sitemap to Google, Bing, and other search engines.
11 –Use Images Effectively
Please don’t use images simply for the sake of using images. While this may seem tempting to many business and website owners using too many images usually has a negative impact. Instead of creating a visual mess limit yourself to one or two images that clearly explain what the content is all about.
An image that is surrounded by related text, ranks better for the keyword it is optimized for. –Yoast
Part of creating SEO-friendly images for your site is to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this the most appropriate image to use in this instance?
- Does the image add value to the content instead of distracting from it?
- Is the image aligned with your target audience expectations?
- Is the image aligned with your brand image, voice, and strategy?
If you answered no to any of these questions you may not yet have the SEO-friendly images you need to stand out and get noticed.
12 – Use Branded Images
If you want SEO-friendly images to elevate your brand, stop using boring stock photos. Not only are many of them overused, but stock images in general do little to make your business or product brand stand out and get noticed in the ever more competitive digital marketplace. Therefore, creating your own SEO-friendly images is your best option. But what if you don’t have the time or budget for that?
A simple and cost-effective solution is to modify existing images to reflect your brand. Start by making sure you are not using a copyrighted image. Then add your own touch, such as your logo or tagline. For a nice consistent image strategy consider adding a color screen or overlay to match your brand colors. Using black and white images with a single colored element is another very effective strategy for creating SEO-friendly images.
As always, don’t overdo it. A visually pleasing website that utilizes the same colors, gradients, or duotones throughout will create an elegant and sophisticated online presence that will get you noticed. Creating a garish mess of conflicting colors will make your target audience run for the hills, which unfortunately is where all your competitors are waiting!
13 – Mix It Up!
And finally, if you really want to create SEO-friendly images try to mix it up a bit! There are virtually endless types of images you can add to your content to attract and engage your audience and make your website or e-commerce store more SEO friendly and appealing.
So instead of simply relying on stock images consider using some of the following:
- Your own photos, such as images of your business, team, location, products, etc.
- Images of your happy customers and clients using your products or services
- Feature images provided by your consumers and audience, such as images of your events
- Have an image contest and feature the winning entries
- Use illustrations to illustrate more complex info
- Use infographics to illustrate more complex info
- Consider using branded memes as appropriate
- Use charts and graphs to illustrate data
- Use animated SVG files for a nice visual touch; this works great for logos
Any Questions About Creating SEO-Friendly Images?
Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? As you can see creating SEO-friendly images is pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it. Most of you get apprehensive when you hear the term SEO, and I can understand that. Forget all that technical stuff. Simply put yourself in the shoes of your target audience.
What is your target audience looking for? What type and kind of visuals will support that objective? And what do you need to tell search engines to make that intent clear? My 13 tips for creating SEO-friendly images will help you find the answers.
Keep in mind that no single strategy will work equally well under all circumstances. You may need to tweak my tips a little for creating your own SEO-friendly images. Feel free to let me know what works and doesn’t work for you.
You can also find more SEO and other innovative web design tips on our blog.
Now, go and optimize some images. You never know who may be looking for them, and your awesome business!
Thanks, we appreciate your help in eradicating bad business websites!
By Gregor Schmidt Co-Founder / Digital Strategist @gregorspeaks