As the internet has become a more visual place, images have become a mandatory part of any successful website. They serve to attract and retain the attention of visitors. But many people don’t realize that they can also be the avenue through which visitors find your site.
The importance of images has grown as Google’s search engine has become more and more sophisticated. It probably won’t come as a revelation that many people perform image searches on Google and find the content they’re looking for exclusively through images.
Also, as Google continues to tweak its normal search engine results pages (SERPs), images play an increasingly important role. For many queries, the top Google image results now show up in the results of a normal search, usually in position two or three. If done properly, image optimization can leapfrog a site to the very top of the Google results, significantly increasing its traffic.
Here’s how to optimize the images on a site so that they’ve got a better shot of showing up in the Google search results:
Alt Tag & Image Name
Every image should have an alt tag (<alt>), an html tag that provides search engine crawlers with information about that image. The alt tag should include keywords that are relevant to that image and to the subject of the page as a whole. The same goes for the image’s file name.
Even though the alt tags and file names should include relevant keywords, they should not be stuffed with them. And they must accurately describe the image or else searchers will just pass over it, as they can see instantly it’s not what they’re looking for.
Images are good, but they shouldn’t increase the time it takes a webpage to load. Slow load times can be toxic, as they force frustrated visitors to bounce back to the search results.
Good ol’ SEO
Ultimately image optimization can’t be separated out from normal optimization and a website’s overall SEO efforts. How an image ranks in an image search is going to depend in large part on the other SEO elements of the page, including title tags, meta descriptions and heading tags.
The various elements of SEO do not exist in isolation, they all reinforce one another. In order to rank well in the search engines, for both images and regular results, the whole site must be well optimized.