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How to Optimize Images for SEO

If the numbers are any indication, we are an increasingly visual culture these days. Engagement and click-through rates are consistently much higher for images (including infographics and other informational images, not just pictures of Miley Cyrus), and anecdotally it feels like an overarching trend: we want to see it in pictures. Text is hard to read on a small mobile screen. Show us a nice, organized graphic that we can scroll through, and we’re hooked.

With this in mind, what better time to take a closer look at how to get your high-quality, informational images to the top of the search engine rankings? Yes, SEO applies to images, as well, and you can take an active role in improving the performance and exposure your own images get with a few best practices.

Alt Tags

If you use images but are unfamiliar with alt tags, it is time to change that. Alt tags are the alternate text that will come up if an image has trouble loading – something that may seem like a relic of dial-up modem days until you realize that the text of the alt tag is fully indexable by search engines. Any savvy web designer or SEO strategist will stuff alt tags with relevant keywords (not literally “keyword stuffing,” of course, just relevant image descriptions) to improve rankings and make the site work for any text-only browsers the cavemen are still using.

Use File Names

Search engine algorithms not only search through alt tags and any text associated with the HTML markup for the image, but they scan the image filename itself. Taking advantage of this is as simple as naming the image file something relevant instead of IMG000001.jpg. It may seem like a hassle if you’re dealing with, say, an entire retail site full of product images, but the benefits are going to far outweigh the time spent renaming a few hundred image files.

Use Smaller Image Files

Google search rankings factor in page load times – a trend that is all but guaranteed to be the future, as impatient mobile users simply will not sit and stare at a slow-loading screen for more than a few seconds, at most. Using the full-resolution .jpg files and shrinking them to fit via HTML is inefficient and will clutter up the load times for your site – the full-size image will have to be loaded before it can be manipulated by the markup to fit the screen. By then, your average person has navigated away from your site in frustration. Use compressed or smaller image files and streamline.