Most SEOs will tell you that it’s important to optimize your images. It has long been considered an essential part of on-site optimization, especially if images are a central part of your content strategy.
But in recent years, website builders like Wordpress have been able to offer more out-of-the-box on-site optimization, with automatically formatted images in many cases.
So just how important is it to optimize your images in 2017?
What Image Optimization Is For
First, let’s explore why you would want to “optimize” your images in the first place. This includes all images on your website, from header and “featured” images to embedded images in your blog posts. There are three main reasons why you’d want to optimize these:
· Image searches. When you properly format your images and title them with phrasing relevant to the content of each respective image, they’ll have a chance at showing up for a related image search in search engines. Basically, your goal here would be to increase visibility of your brand and traffic to your site by having your site’s images listed more frequently in Google image searches. In my experience, unless you’ve created some stellar original content, you won’t have much to gain here — but the few minutes it takes to optimize an image could make a significant difference in your monthly traffic, especially when applied to your entire stock of images.
· Site speed. Images are much bigger files than written content or basic design elements — or at least, they can be. All the space they take up can interfere with your site speed; when someone tries to access your website, if their browser is bogged down with downloading massive images, it could take several seconds before they get to the main content of your site, compromising their user experience.
· Loading issues. Finally, imagine that someone is having trouble loading the images of your site (hopefully it’s nothing wrong with your server). If that’s the case, they may be able to read your article, but instead of images, they’ll just see blank spots where images are supposed to go. If you include alt text on your images, that will show up instead, giving them the ability to read what the image represents, rather than missing out on the experience entirely.
How to Optimize Your Site’s Images
So how hard is it to optimize your site’s images?
· Condense. If you want your site to load at a reasonable speed, you’ll need to condense your images. High-resolution photos can take up several megabytes all by themselves, and because most of your visitors will be viewing your site on mobile devices or laptop screens, that resolution simply isn’t necessary. Scale down your images to maintain a decent quality, but shave megabytes off the total size of the file. While you’re at it, make sure your image is formatted properly for the web (GIF, JPG, and PNG are popular file types), and if you want to reduce their size even further, consider stripping them of meta data.
· Title. If you’re using stock photography or are finding free photos on the web to use, most of the images you capture will have a technical title attached to them, such as a long string of letters and numbers. Because these titles will represent how these images are indexed, you’ll want to change them. Offer a brief, accurate description of what’s going on in the picture, such as “man eating apple,” or “horse riding in Texas.” You may be tempted to include keywords relevant to your business here, but that’s only wise if it also relates to what’s going on in the image.
· Tag. Next, you’ll want to include the alt tags that describe some of the things that are in the picture. For example, you might include words like “apple,” “man,” and “eating” for the image of the man eating an apple.
· Caption. The caption, sometimes called the alt description, is what appears if the image is unable to load. It’s also used to describe the photo for Google’s search index. You’ll have more room here, so be as descriptive as possible in a single sentence.
· Align. Though not the most important element of optimization, you’ll also want your images to be strategically aligned with the rest of your content, rather than sandwiched between two paragraphs.
There aren’t many components to image optimization, so if you optimize them as you upload them, it’s only an extra minute or two per image. You may need to take some extra time initially, however, if you want to batch-update all the images currently on your site.
The Bottom Line
In the big picture of SEO, image optimization shouldn’t be at the top of your list of priorities — but it should be on the list somewhere. Even if you aren’t concerned with getting more traffic from image search results, you should at least make alt text available in the case of a failed loading scenario, and improve your image size so your site runs faster.
Image optimization isn’t going to make or break your campaign (unless your content strategy is especially image-heavy), but the fact that it only takes a few minutes to accomplish should encourage you to pursue it even more.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!