IMAGE SEARCH OPTIMIZATION AND SEO
Digital content creators need their images found to get the clicks and remain relevant on the web. Image searches are fundamental for many professionals including photographers, architects, artists, ecommerce sites, and fashion bloggers. Even travel agents trying to book trips to Peru to visit Machu Picchu need their images found. Although overwhelming, it does not have to be complicated to optimize your content for better image search results from users of Google image search or any other photo search engines. With good organization and careful labeling, there may even be some benefit for reverse image search tools, but how these tools crawl data is still being developed.
The first step to getting your images found by search engines is to have well organized content that follows the basic rules of search engine optimization (SEO). The structure of a website is important to SEO, make sure your page titles, H1 tags, and page content is up to snuff with the correct keywords and grammar to get your page found. There is lots of information on SEO page design on the web, so it will not be thoroughly discussed in this posting. Instead, this post will focus on image search and how your images, photos, and pictures can be found more easily and ahead of others.
In addition to following the SEO basics, think about how your content is themed. If the images you show are essential to the success of your online presence, they should fit a theme. The theme of your site and its images should support the SEO structure of titles, H1 tags, and keywords found on your site. It doesn’t take a show stopping photo of Machu Picchu, Peru to get your website found. But if the entire site was themed to connect Machu Picchu, Peru, and the Inca Trail, your chances of being first in search engine rankings will be much higher in searches on Machu Picchu versus a site with keywords on many world destinations.
Sunrise view of Machu Picchu, Peru
SEO IMAGE BASICS
A good image SEO plan will go beyond visual page content and address the naming structure of image files to ensure they are coordinated across your site (and sharing platforms as noted below). There are a few basic rules to follow when posting images. The first place to start is by naming image files with keyword targets for your identified search criteria and writing alt attribute data that integrates keywords to describe the picture. Bottom line is if you expect your images to be found, don’t be lazy. Never post default photo names or numbers with no relation to the content. The photo below was titled “P8062743.jpeg” with no alt attribute data to describe the photo. Now the photo is named “Inca-trail-terraces.jpeg” and the alt attribute data reads, “Terraces along the Inca trail on the way to Machu Picchu, Peru.” This image is further supported by discussing it before its location on the page and adding a caption below that includes the keywords.
Terraces along the Inca Trail, Peru
Naming and utilizing alt data are only the first steps for image search optimization. Many photographers add information about their camera, shot settings and geographical location. These attributes are important on photo sharing platforms but will not hold as much weight against the image name and alt description in search engines such as Google images. For general website images, optimizing for name and alt description is the right approach. If image relevance is important a XML site map can be created or images can be shared across platforms as discussed later.
Not all image attributes are good, the embedded thumbnail should be avoided. Most search engines will automatically create a thumbnail for quick viewing in search results. Embedded thumbnails will confuse the search engines and may result in a low-quality thumbnail. Good quality thumbnails are people’s first visual filter when looking through search result pages. Page design can also impact how search engines interpret results. Do not place images that you want to be found via organic search results at page headings, along the side bar, or near ad graphics. Search engines will automatically think that these are design elements not content elements and reduce the image rank in the search algorithm.
LESS OBVIOUS IMAGE SEARCH OPTIMIZATION
There are other ways beyond SEO optimization and proper naming of images. Setting up and managing an XML site map for images is a good idea if image search relevance is important. An XML site map is a source of metadata associated with URLs to allow search engines to crawl for information on your images and photos through an organized structure. This site map can include type of image, subject matter, alt description data, and copywrite or license information. This allows for in-depth search criteria to be associated with images without visually clogging the web page with lists of image attributes.
Any images you post should be original images that you own the copywrite for. This will allow you to utilize image sharing to extend a network of links. High quality links will help your website be recognized as a source of high quality content by search engines. So, consider licensing your images to others for use. A simple agreement would be to require a link back to your site and an image credit. This may not be ideal if you are a photographer but could still be advantageous even if it is a limited number of images licensed for others use. If you do not own the copywrite for images you are posting, make sure you have permission to use the image and cite the owner of the work if required. Do not share images that you do not own.
Another good way to get your images seen is through social media and photo sharing sites such as Flikr and Instagram. To leveraging across photo sharing platforms always make sure you have a link back your site. This will increase the number of links to your site and increase click through traffic. Some platforms allow you to join groups where you can post photos and link them back to your site as well. Also, make sure to align keywords on the website to images on photo sharing platforms. This could be done in descriptions, available meta data options, or hashtags.
Sharing images is good and will build support for your website. A metaphor can be made between image sharing and this photo of a wall at Machu Picchu, Peru. Singular stones of the wall are supported by each other through a network of joints that utilizes unique shapes, angles, and overlaps. It is the joining of the stones that makes the wall strong and resistant to earthquakes. The images on your website are like one stone in the wall, the more they are connected to other stones the more support they will receive.
Wall detail, Machu Picchu, Peru
IMAGE SEARCH OPTIMIZATION VS.
There may be some confusion out there between the image search optimization and image optimization. These are two separate things, but related. Image search optimization is what this article has discussed and pertains to how images are found on the internet. Image optimization is how to achieve faster load speeds on your web pages by optimizing image size and format. These items are related because if your image loads faster, it will be viewed more frequently, and achieve a higher click through rate than images that load slowly. Always post high quality and images optimized for web viewing. Refer to this article on Optimizing Images for more information.
IMAGE SEARCH OPTIMIZATION CHECKLIST
- Entire webpage optimized for SEO
- Webpage and images are themed and supported by target keywords
- Images are original content owned by you
- Images are named with keywords
- Alt attribute data descriptions are filled out and contain keywords
- Create a XML Site Map for your images
- Assign additional attributes to images through your XML Site Map or image sharing platform metadata
- Consider licensing your images for use by others, creating links back to your site
- Share images on photo sharing platforms, creating links back to your site
- Optimize image size for fast and high quality web viewing
- Visit Machu Picchu, Peru – Like an image optimized website, it is well designed and engineered
Mountain alley, Machu Picchu, Peru
Thanks for reading!