To think that optimizing a website is mostly a copy-oriented issue is a familiar mistake. In fact, search engine crawlers take virtually everything on your site into account, including photos and images. By making your images as search-friendly as possible, you improve your rankings and build a more welcoming site for all users.

1. Use original images

In the same way that original content (articles, blogs, product information, etc.) is vital for achieving higher SEO rankings, images operate in the exact same way. Google and other search engines have developed complex algorithms to read and recognize pictures and graphics. If your site contains an image that has previously been posted elsewhere, Google knows. As a result, you lose points. Venturing down the sneaky route of renaming an image you found online doesn’t work either.

We know it’s time-consumptive, costly, and less efficient to take original pictures or to design custom graphics for your website. As soon as you opt for stock images or “borrow” them from another website, the search engines go to work to analyze what you posted. If that image has appeared online before, it will have already been mapped and stored in their database. Not only do you not get points (and a higher ranking) for uploading an original image, but you actually get dinged and lose points for doing so.

It’s not always convenient, but if possible use only unique images. Their originality is graded by the crawlers.

2. Choose pictures that tell the true story

Images and graphics should closely relate to the content in your story. When you write about one subject but post an unrelated picture, you hurt your SEO. Search engines give greater weight to the connectivity and relevance between what your user reads and what they see.

Let’s look at a website that promotes camera gear. If their blog article about zoom lenses is accompanied by a picture of a puppy, points will be lost. Sure, puppies are cute. However, a photo of a puppy is not ideal for a camera lens article. Instead, post a close-up photo of hands around a lens or perhaps a bird’s-eye view of a camera on a desk.  

3. Name and tag your images sensibly 

One of the most basic image mistakes site owners make is leaving default image names unchanged. Think about it: Has any human ever searched for something like “20160917_180850.jpg”? Probably not, but people do search for things like “Sony Blu-ray Disc Player” or “Minnesota State Capitol Building.” By giving all of your images straightforward, descriptive names and alt tags, you make it easier for search engines to direct visitors to your content. Not only that, well-named images help bring you up to date with current web accessibility standards, thus making your site easier to use for visitors of all abilities.

4. Size matters 

Beautiful images captivate the user’s imagination and draw them into your site, but a good balance between size and resolution is extremely important. Large images impact the load time of your page and impact your SEO. Not only do load times figure into most major search algorithms, but they’re also a major factor in retaining site traffic. Studies show that even a one-second delay in load time can drive away a significant percentage of visitors. A study shows that a one-second delay reduces conversions by seven percent.

Too-large image and video files cause significant delays that drag down your rankings and disappoint your users. Whenever possible, reduce the size of image files to dimensions that won’t affect your website’s load times on either desktop or mobile devices. Just be sure that you don’t degrade your image resolution in the process. There’s not much point in giving your visitors a speedy load time if the end result is a pixelated blur.

Bear in mind that image upload size is not a black and white issue. Siteimprove Front End Developer Rickard Andersson states, “You have to look at the context and the technical process. There’s a whole science in how you serve the correct image.”

Whether you’re displaying thousands of products or just a few, pictures and graphics make a world of difference. Use those images, but leverage them for a positive SEO boost.

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