Toshi Lys
Toshi Lys 15 July 2019

What You Need to Know About SEO Image Optimisation As a Blog Owner

Whatever your reasons are to have a blog – making money or spreading your ideas – you want it to be easily findable. For this, things like keyword research, writing SEO articles, internal linking, building backlinks are at the top of your task list. However, you cannot say you have done everything to help your blog get visibility in search results before you implement recommendations on SEO image optimisation.

Glorification of visual content aside (you have definitely heard about its importance for readers multiple times), it can also influence the way search bots see your website. So, what do you need to consider?

1. Quality and preferably unique images for each page

You might have started your blog long ago and managed to build a loyal audience when readers haven’t been pampered with bright visuals. Then, if you keep on supplying them with valuable, even if only textual, content, you shouldn’t think they will leave you now. The same works for Google, if you have gained trust from it. But if you are new to blogging and have yet to prove your worth, accompanying your posts with images is a must.

Not with any – they should be unique, otherwise, you just fill in the blanks and do not make your posts more eye-catching, understandable and structured. Firstly, your readers would appreciate your efforts – and remember that their behavior (like returning to the search results after briefly scanning your page or staying there for longer, following links on your website or closing a tab with it) has an impact on your rankings. Many bloggers think that it takes too much money to get decent images and your choice is limited by options like hiring a designer, buying a professional camera, learning how to use complicated software, or paying for not worn-out illustrations and photos. However, there is already a possibility to easily create original, pro-looking images for free with special software by combining different elements like photos, objects, shapes, stickers, fonts, etc. 

Secondly, images can help you with SEO indirectly, although it’s not a ranking factor (yet). Here is what John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, has said: “I think having a unique photo is definitely a good idea. Because if it's the same photo that's reused across a number of different articles, we'll pick one of those articles for image search to show as the landing page for that. So, you're kind of in the same group with everyone else if it's the same photo. Whereas if it's a different photo, then we can show it separately in image search but that's specific to image search.”

So yes, it’s not like even free stock images can do any harm to your website – but they often do not add any additional information to articles, and are mostly seen as an indicator of a low-quality content. That irritates readers and make them leave your post without skimming textual content. And yes, good images are not going to make your site rank better in the web search – but sometimes they show up in normal search results and motivate people to land on your website. And the more Internet users find them worth clicking on, the higher chances are for Google to move images up.

2. Relevant file names and alt text

Even now, when Google is pretty successful at guessing what images are about thanks to machine learning algorithms, it still needs help and relies on textual information about visual elements, which file names and alt attribute contain.

Naming all images properly may seem boring and unnecessary – and many popular websites do not do that. However, it helps search engines to index your images and keep your files in order, which is such a relief if you have plenty of them. Giving understandable names to image files is really worth turning into a habit. 

As for alt (alternative) text, which describes an image, it is often ignored. This element is being considered by many webmasters as not really important for SEO, while its initial purpose is to help visually impaired people to digest websites’ content with screen readers. So, having it is first and foremost showing that you care.

Alt description will help your image appear in relevant search results. There are many articles out there, Google’s official guidelines including, which explain how to describe images properly, so you won’t have any difficulties with it.

4. Image sitemap

If you have already searched for information about SEO image optimisation, you have probably stumbled upon advice to make an image sitemap – to increase the chances for your images to get indexed by Google. 

However, if you can implement something, it does not mean you have to. If you do not sell something with images, or have them as your main type of content (for instance, if you are a photographer or an illustrator), pointing Google to a regular sitemap is enough, since it already contains information about images on your website.

5. Using Schema markup for recipe and product images

Schema markup is basically a code, with which you can structure data on your pages and thus, show more information to Internet users at the stage when they see the first search results after typing their queries.

You have definitely seen how it is applied on some websites in web search results, but there is a chance you have not noticed it is being used for the image search as well. If your website contains recipes and products you sell, then it is reasonable to put a relevant “product” or “recipe” badge on your images (but it works only for mobile search!) To see how it looks like you can look for a “chocolate cake recipe” or a “Korean dress”, for instance.

6. Lazy loading

Laziness is not always bad and this phenomenon has been developed primarily for saving resources. The same works for the technique mentioned above – it is good to implement if you want to speed up the loading of pages containing many images. And as you know, load speed cannot be overrated.

Google says that “Lazy loading can significantly speed up loading on long pages that include many images below the fold by loading them either as needed or when the primary content has finished loading and rendering.If you have a WordPress blog, there is a possibility to install a plugin, which will do all the work – try Lazy Load by WP Rocket or a3 Lazy Load.

7. Choosing the right file type and making your images lose some weight

The chances are high that you have checked your website’s speed and got recommendations on optimizing your images. They are often “responsible” for a slow page loading issue. To resolve it, consider changing your images’ file type and size.

Google gives a comprehensive tutorial about selecting the right image format.

There are already better alternatives for GIF, JPEG, and PNG – WebP and JPEG XR – which deliver better results in decreasing file size. However, they are not yet supported by all browsers (only by Chrome and Opera). Still, you can add these options as well.

Then, experiment with optimizing your image files’ size without making them lose in quality – there are free tools for that. Again, by doing this, you speed up your website, which is especially important for high rankings in mobile search results

Is image SEO worth your time?

Some people intentionally do not optimize images for the search to avoid making them easily “googleable”, thus, attractive for image thieves. Besides, people often do not visit your website, as an image is sometimes enough for them.

However, image SEO efforts are still justified. There are several reasons for that. Sometimes people get tired of searching and not finding the information they would be satisfied with and switch to Image search – to choose the website, which provides the most relevant images based on their query.

Then, images can get you backlinks – especially if they are original. And most importantly – they bring you traffic. By replacing the view image button with the visit button in Image search, Google discreetly motivates Internet users to open a website that hosts an image they click on. If it is an interesting one and ranks for the right keywords, it will be a good invitation for your target audience.

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