Optimize Your Images for an SEO Boost: Here’s How

Optimize Your Images for an SEO Boost: Here’s How

By Karen TaylorAug 17 /2015

Optimize Your Images for SEO

As an ecommerce business owner or a digital marketer, you’re pretty savvy when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). You follow and adhere to all of Google’s updates (you were way ahead of its mobile search update in April 2015), and you’re active on your company’s social media sites. You avoid keyword stuffing, update your blog regularly and avoid posting backlinks on spammy and shady websites.

But did you ever think about optimizing your site’s images?

If you didn’t, here’s why you should and how you can easily optimize your website’s images.

Why Image Optimization is Vital to SEO

Contrary to what many believe, optimizing images on your site can bring in a large amount of traffic from image searches on Google Image and other search engines. This is a great way to capitalize on your website’s images and get ahead of your competitors with only the images on your site.

Some ecommerce owners and digital marketers thought since Google updated its image search design in 2013, there isn’t much need for optimizing images. On the one hand, they’re correct. According to hints from Google executives, Google Image accounts for less than 10 percent of the total number of searches done on its site. 

However, when you consider that there are about 3.5 billion searches done on Google everyday, suddenly 10 percent seems rather high.

Others argue that with Google’s newest push for responsive website design for mobile sites, images do more harm than good. We know that having large images slows download times, and in the age of instantly loading pages, even a 5-second loading time can cost websites valuable visitors. Some website designers therefore opt for taking out images altogether.

This isn’t necessary. New software programs can help website designers scale images across several types of browsers and then link those images in HTML (already optimized using one of the strategies below). With programs like Adaptive Images, appropriate file sizes will load depending on the type of device requesting the image.

This might sound like a lot of work, but images are a key component of any website. They add color, flair and style, and it isn’t worth giving them up for the sake of faster loading times. As with any other Google update, you must modify your image optimization right along with it.

Easy Way to Optimize Images

So how can you easily optimize your images so they can be shared and accessed through multiple devices? It’s not like images have keywords, so how can the search result spiders that crawl and catalogue your pages know what your images are? 

Follow these simple tutorials and see just how much your site can benefit:

Alt Text Option

In order to teach the spiders how to categorize your image, you need to help them along. The technology to help them instantly recognize the subject matter of an image is not yet available. Using the alt text in your website coding, you can show the spiders where to put your images. 

Alt tags will also display themselves when someone hovers their cursor over the image. If you have multiple images on your page, this will help the searcher identify which image is which (if it isn’t already plainly obvious).

To be able to do this, you need to have some knowledge of HTML coding or general website coding knowledge. If you’re unsure, you could always ask your web designer for help.

If you’re going to do the coding yourself, follow these simple steps:

  1. Go into the coding of your website and scroll down to an image, which should look like: <img src= “saved.filed.jpeg” />
  2. After the file name, add the phrase “alt=”image title” with the image title being whatever you want to call the image (houses, Melbourne; Sydney Opera House; baby smiling).
  3. Make sure the image tag is still closed ( />) before closing out your coding.

And you’re done! Easy as pie.

Alt tags allow you to be a little more specific when naming your images, so be specific when choosing your alt names for each image on your website. If you sell clothing or accessories, try to choose one adjective and the brand name, if applicable. 

You can also use serial or model numbers in your alt tags. People looking for a specific model of a product will often search based on the serial number so they can be sure that they have an exact match. This will bring in those who are searching for a certain model and leave out those who are searching for a different number (they can hurt your bounce rate, but more on that later).

Whatever you do, do not try to keyword stuff alt tags. This will only hurt your rankings.

Remember, you do not have to add alt tags for all your images, especially the decorative images that add a little panache to your pages. Google and other search engines actually penalize websites that over optimize images. Optimize only the images you believe will help searchers find you.

File Size Shrinker

Everyone knows file size matters when it comes to images, and if you didn’t know it before, you certainly do now. When Gomez.com and Akamai.com teamed up to survey website users, their findings portrayed just how important fast loading times were to customer engagement:

  • As the page loading time increases, so does the abandonment percentage (the number of users who click back and don’t allow the page to finish loading). After 10 seconds of loading, about 37 percent of users have already clicked back.
  • 40 percent of shoppers abandon websites that take more than 3 seconds to load.
  • 79 percent of shoppers won’t buy from a site with poor performance.
  • 44 percent of shoppers are likely to share their poor experiences with a website with their friends.
  • It takes only one additional second of page loading delay to lower conversions by 7 percent.

Clearly, having a speedy website is vital to the success of any ecommerce business, but how does the size of an image play a role? If the combined size of all the images on a single page is between 100-200 kb, then it will take just over 6 seconds to load, according to Yottaa

For files that are between 0 and 50 kb, loading time will take roughly 5 seconds, and images between 50 and 100 kb will take just under 6 seconds. While it should be noted that all images will require some loading time (that’s life), anything longer than 5 seconds may send users back to search results before they see what you have to offer.

Even more telling is the data Amazon found from its own pages. If they were to slow their page loading times down by just one measly little second, they could lose $1.6 billion in a single year. Do you want to miss out on money like that?

As Gomez and Akamai proved earlier, every second of loading time is precious. The faster your website loads, the better chance you have of converting leads into sales. It’s also clear that buyers talk, so if your site has a reputation for poor loading times, you might miss out on other sales, as well.

So our main concern here is to shrink the image sizes you have already so they don’t slow down your loading times. With software programs like Image Optimizer and Picnik, you can resize your images so you don’t have to sacrifice the image’s actual quality and you can still use it on your website, no matter the device used to access it.

If you’re using Adobe Photoshop, then there is a function that will help you compress your files. When altering a file, click “Save for Web” and Adobe will automatically shrink the size of the file down to the smallest size acceptable without compromising the overall quality of the image.

Whatever you do, do NOT leave the resizing work to your browser. It should not be in charge of making a large image look smaller. What we mean is do not go back into the < img > tag in your coding and put in your desired width and height preferences. The browser will load the image before the text and then resize it. Either way, you sacrifice the image’s quality.

To avoid this, just use an editing program to keep your images small in size and large in quality.

Filename Optimization

Did you know that even the filename of your image could affect your image’s search results? 

If you’ll recall from our earlier example, you have to list the image’s filename when you are writing your code (<img src= “filename.jpeg” />). That filename.jpeg could actually affect your position in the SERPs, so it’s important you name your files appropriately. 

Think of it this way: no one will search for IMG1345683638.jpeg, so don’t keep that name.

Your best course of action is to name the file as if you were searching for it on Google. If the image is of a specific person, place or thing, name the file as such. Your image will come up whenever someone searches for that name or place, and if your sight has solid rankings, it should appear relatively high.

When naming images of goods you sell, use an adjective, a brand and the name of the object itself to better improve rankings. For example, you might have images of “black Nike sneakers” or “red couches” as your titles. You don’t always have to include an adjective and a brand name, but you should definitely include one or the other.

Caption contests

From what we know of Google’s current algorithm, there are technically no correlations between an image’s caption and its rank in SEO. This information comes from everything Google has told us and the updates that have taken effect over the last several years.

That being said, there is actually a case for bounce rates and image captioning correlations. There isn’t really any data to back this up, but if we take into account what we know of search engine users and the information in captions, we can draw some conclusions.

Let’s say a user searches for an image on their search engine, and your page pops up. There is no description in the image caption, so when the user clicks to your page and discovers it wasn’t what they were looking for, they click back quickly.

This can drastically affect your bounce rate, defined by Google as the percentage of single-page sessions on your site. In plain English, it means the percent of users who click onto your page and then quickly click back to search results without clicking around your site or interacting with it.

Bounce rates aren’t always something you can control. There will always be users who click to your site, get distracted or have to stop searching and click out of your site. You can’t help these bouncers, but if you add image captions, you might be able to attract just the right people to your site.

With search results, you really don’t want to bring just anyone to your website. You want to bring people who are actively searching for your products or services. Anyone else will just click back and make your bounce rate jump. Since bounce rates affect your position in the SERPs, your website may dip, making it harder for interested buyers to find you at all.

Take the time to caption your images. This makes it easier for skimmers (people who don’t read and just skim articles) to get some of the bigger ideas of your article. If they like what they skim, they might even read the article.

Hopefully, by now you can see just how important image optimization can be to the ranking of your website. Like your copy or your meta descriptions, it’s all one cog in the search engine ranking wheel that places your website higher in search results. 

Mike Bird is a co-founder of digital marketing agency, Social Garden. Social Garden specializes in data-driven lead generation & marketing automation to grow  companies’ revenue in the finance, property and education verticals in Australia. Mike is an influencer in the social media marketing & Facebook advertising space and contributes to Social Media Examiner, Social Media Today, Yahoo! Business Advisor and most importantly, the Social Garden blog.

Karen Taylor
The Author

Karen Taylor

Karen Taylor is a professional content marketing writer with experience writing for over 100 companies and publications. Her experience includes the full range of content marketing projects — from blogs, to white papers, to ebooks. She has a particular knack for creating content that clarifies and strengthens a company’s marketing message, and delivers optimum impact and maximum results. Learn more at karentaylorwrites.com.