I think it’s fair to say that we have gotten beyond the point now where we need a reminder to always include at least one image on every piece of content that we publish (but if we haven’t, then consider this that reminder).
Images are essential for content marketing in 2016. This is an absolute truth, with no wiggle room whatsoever. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve written that “social media has gone visual” – and I’m sure this won’t be the last.
Images are what will entice users to click-through to your website to read your blog or view your product or see what all the fuss you’re making about your product/service/solution is all about. A headline – no matter how emotionally engaging – simply doesn’t cut the mustard on its own anymore.
And this means that the inclusion of an image itself is good for SEO. Google ranks our websites and our pages with regards, in part, to the amount of traffic that they receive. Images improve traffic, and therefore images are good for SEO.
Furthermore, a header/featured image on its own is not enough (with the exception, perhaps, of news shorts and any other mini blogs you might publish that are below 300 words). We must always remember that internet readers display different behaviours to those reading from print. According to a very revealing (not to mention amusing) article from Slate.com, 38% of you who clicked on this very article have already left the site without engaging at all (i.e. you didn’t even bother to scroll down).
The Slate blog goes on to point out that when people read online, very rarely do they read every word of the article. Rather, the habit we have is to scan and scroll the page, looking for the bit(s) that is (are) relevant to us. And this is why it is best practice to break the text up with lots of paragraphs, subheaders and, of course, images.
These all make for easier scanning, and of course the images we use within our blogs once again have the added bonus of being attention-grabbing, hopefully keeping our visitors engaged a little bit longer, improving our bounce rate and thusly our SEO.
How To SEO Optimise Images On Your Blog
So, the inclusion of images on your blog already improves your SEO without you having to do anything.
However, to just bung in a few images and leave it at that is to miss an important search engine optimisation opportunity that will help your blog and your website compete for rankings even further. For starters, the overwhelming majority of bloggers in 2016 are very much aware that they need to be including images in their content, which means that you need to do so too just to keep pace.
However, not quite so many bloggers understand the importance of optimising their images for SEO purposes, nor indeed how to do it.
And so, to give yourself the edge over those less-informed members of your blogging brethren, follow the tips below.
Search engine bots can’t read images – but they can read file names, and so this is where your image SEO needs to start.
Always choose an appropriate file name for your image that makes it very clear exactly what the image is – the trick is to think in terms of describing the image without actually seeing it, as this is essentially what Google will be doing. With this in mind, never settle for a random set of letters and numbers – rename the file so it describes the image.
Alt tags are probably the most important part of image optimisation for the web. Essentially, the alt tag provides a text alternative to the image, which a browser will display when an image cannot be properly rendered, or a user might wish to display instead if, for example, they are visually impaired and use a screen reader.
Alt tags are your opportunity to work your keywords into your images – and of course, keywords are essential for SEO.
Put very simply, your alt text needs to describe the image. This means that it can go beyond the information provided in the title – indeed, as is explained on the Yoast blog: “The title attribute can be very useful, but it is not a safe way of providing crucial information. Instead it offers a good way to provide non-essential information, for example the mood of the image, or what it means in context.”
The alt tag, therefore, should be written to replace the image should the user not want to see it displayed. It should be written in plain English with keywords in mind for search engines.
No one wants to hang around for an age for images to download – especially these days as more people are using their phones to search the web than ever before.
Indeed, if you use images with exceptionally large file sizes, then these will slow down the loading time of the whole page, and if it takes too long, users simply won’t hang around. Your bounce rate will spike as a result, and this will negatively affect your SEO. Consider the fact that Amazon found that if page load times slow down by just one second then they lose $1.6 billion a year – yes, load times are that important.
If you use Adobe Photoshop, when saving your images, simply select Save For Web and you can optimise from there, making sure that the download time is 2 seconds or less.
If you haven’t got Photoshop, then consider using online image editing tools for the same purpose:
The different types of image format you’ll typically be choosing between are JPEG (JPG), PNG and GIF.
- JPEG format –JPEG format is best used for digital photography and is the most widely used format.
- PNG format – PNG is a lossless format and offers amazing compression. Even if you edit the image multiple times or resize it and compress it, it won’t lose any data or degrade in quality.
- GIF format –GIF format is popular mostly because it supports small size images.
Of all the image formats, the best image format that you can use is JPEG. The reason behind this is very simple. JPEG formats are comparatively smaller in size which means the images will load faster – which is exactly the outcome you’re after.
Got any more image optimisation tips for our readers? Let us know in the comments below.