Content Optimization
July 30th 2020

How to Drive Traffic by Optimizing Images for SEO (Guest Post)

SEO is a broad concept that involves so many practices- from website optimization, quality content, link building, social media, and more. This makes it easy for website owners to overlook some seemingly small steps to strengthen your SEO and make a difference to your website traffic. 

Image optimization is one such SEO practice that is often overlooked, yet it has great potential to improve your visibility on the web.

According to Jumpshot, 22.6% of all searches on the web happen on Google images. Additionally, 63% of users who click on an image when performing a search end up visiting the website. 

This shows that investing in high-quality visual content and ensuring it appears in searches can drive a significant amount of traffic. More importantly, image optimization improves user experience, enhances page load times, and provides greater value to your website visitors.

In this article, we will go through actionable steps that every website owner can use to improve their image SEO and stay ahead of the competition.

Ten Proven Ways for Driving Traffic With Image SEO

As search engines improve their visual search capabilities, website owners and SEO specialists should focus on making images more discoverable. Here are ten tips to optimize your images and drive traffic. 

1. Choose Appropriate Images

Relevance is critical when it comes to SEO. Like other traffic generation strategies, the starting point for image optimization is choosing relevant and highly compelling images. 

As a rule of thumb, always ensure your images align with the user’s search intent. Every image used should reflect your article’s topic or have illustrative purposes that provide more value to the reader. This is because most readers pay attention to pictures and other visual content as opposed to text. 

Adding topic-relevant images is not enough. Their placement also matters. Ideally, place images beside or close to the related part of the text. They will be more powerful when placed close to the associated text or headline.

A study revealed that 80 percent of readers only skim through web pages and other online content. If you can capture the visitor’s attention with engaging and compelling visuals, they will be more likely to interact with your brand for longer. 

Apart from increasing people’s desire to read by around 80%, high-quality images strongly influence click-through rates. They achieve this by connecting with your page content in a novel way that impresses readers and inspires them to read and share your content.

Another optimization hack that works great for brick and mortar businesses is using local image SEO. By including beautiful pictures of your business location, high-quality photos showcasing your products, and staff photos that show your business culture, your brand will be more appealing to customers searching for local services online. Remember to include these pictures in your Google My Business listing.

2. Use Unique Images

Copyright is a critical aspect. Even though Google will not penalize you directly for duplicating images, using images that are not legally sourced could have huge repercussions. You may also receive a notice to pull down the image, or even worse, a lawsuit for copyright infringement as per the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

From an SEO perspective, using images that are often overused or too generic means readers are less likely to stick around your website. The best approach would be using unique photos that appeal to your visitors and are a clear reflection of your brand. 

So if you do not own an image, or cannot create custom graphics, consider sourcing royalty-free pictures from websites like Pexels, Shutterstock, Pixabay, and StockUnlimited.

3. Choose the Right Image Format

Search engines love high-quality content as well as high-resolution images. Using the right image file type ensures your images are more precise and your pages load faster. Remember, page load time is a crucial ranking factor on both mobile and desktop. So, when you decide to add an image, choose the best format for the intended use. There are four image types used on the web:

  • JPGs – They have the smallest file size and best quality. JPG is the best format for photographs with a lot of color and shading, such as people, places, and product images.
  •  PNG – PNG files also have a small image size and work well for custom graphics, logos, and screenshots. If you need a transparent background, use images in PNG format
  • SVG – SVG files can scale to different sizes without losing their quality. They are, therefore, great for logos and custom graphics that are viewed in multiple formats.
  • GIFs – GIFs are large in size but are best for decorative images and moving graphics.

4. Use Appropriate Image File Size

One of the search ranking factors that Google uses is the page load speed. Images with large file sizes can slow down the load time. Slow load times, in turn, lead to poor user experience and harm your long-term SEO. 

Why? That’s because the search engine ranking algorithm strives to provide better experiences, so pages that load slowly are penalized.

A good image SEO practice would be compressing the images into a smaller file size without compromising its quality or resolution. For image compression, you can use tools like JPEG optimizer, Kraken, ImageOptim, Trimage, or Compressnow.

Apart from reducing your image size, it is essential to scale the images to the optimum proportion. This involves resizing images to the width of your website’s display before uploading them. By doing this, you can minimize file weight and enhance load times significantly. A tool like ImageKit.io can help you with resizing and other image optimization processes.

5. Optimize Image File Names and URLs

Imagine using a file name like DW06081996.JPG. From an SEO viewpoint, it would be pretty difficult for Google to figure out what the image entails. In fact, the search engine wouldn’t have a clue about the image.

A proper image optimization technique would be renaming this file by using the focus key phrase. This involves identifying an informative filename that includes a keyword whenever possible. A keyword-rich filename makes it easier for Google to interpret the image, which helps to rank. 

A descriptive naming pattern serves as a trigger that helps the search engine algorithms interpret what an image is communicating. What is more, it helps customers search and find products on a website at ease. However, this does not imply that you should spam a file name with keywords.

Worth a mention is that image file names should not include an underscore. Google does not like underscores so that they can harm your SEO. Instead, use hyphens to separate the names. It is also a good practice to remove words like “a”, “the”, “on” from the filenames.

6. Use Descriptive Alt Text

Although search engines are equipped with robust visual recognition capabilities, they cannot accurately read and determine what an image contains. Instead, they leverage the surrounding text to understand an image and its value in a particular context. This is where the alt tag comes into play. They serve as basic accessibility tags that tell the search engine what an image is.

Here are some simple tips for writing SEO-friendly alt texts for your images

  • Include the main keywords in your alt tag
  • Avoid stuffing your alt text with keywords
  •  Keep your alt texts short
  • Use a different alt attribute for each image
  • Avoid using phrases like “photo of” and “image of” “in your alt text
  • Ensure the alt text describes your image as accurately as possible
  • Create alt texts with the reader in mind, not just for SEO purposes

The text in the image alt tag shows up in cases where an image isn’t being displayed. This often occurs when a browser has a weak internet connection and cannot load all graphics. So other than improving SEO, adding alt texts will also improve user experience.

7. Use Keyword-rich Captions 

Image captions are not only visible to readers but search engines as well. According to KissMetrics, captions placed below images are read 300% more than the actual body copy. They also make your content easier to understand. Thus, leaving out captions would mean a missed opportunity in terms of user experience and website SEO.

Furthermore, using concise and keyword-rich captions provides more search data to the search engine. This can improve your overall ranking significantly.

There’s a caveat, though. You do not need a caption on every image uploaded to your website. Some pictures do not require a caption, so only use them where it makes sense. When optimizing for search, always keep the reader in mind and don’t overuse captions for the sake of SEO.

8. Create an Image Sitemap

An XML sitemap is a file that provides more information about your website structure. Creating and submitting an image XML sitemap to the search engine gives your website a massive SEO boost. It helps the search engine to crawl your pages more intelligently and index them so and rank them higher

Ideally, you can include images in the XML sitemap containing all your website links. Alternatively, you can consolidate all pictures into a single directory and submit it as a separate image sitemap. 

The latter works better since all image files are put together rather than having the data spread out in multiple directories and subdirectories. This not only simplifies the image discovery by search engines but also helps you stay organized.

Creating XML sitemaps is relatively easy. You can do it yourself or use a plugin like the Google XML Sitemap for Images to automatically generate the sitemap.

Use Mobile-friendly Images

Ever since Google rolled out mobile-first indexing, websites optimized for mobile have a significant edge over those that only optimize for desktop. Additionally, more than 50 % of Google searches come from mobile devices.

Website owners should, therefore, cater to their visitors by using a responsive design. Part of responsive website design involves using images that can dynamically adjust their size depending on the device used. You can make your image responsive using the ‘srcset’ image attribute to dynamically optimize images for mobile.

If WordPress powers your website, there’s no need to worry as the CMS has this functionality built-in. However, other sites will have to modify their source code.

Don’t Forget GIFs

We mentioned GIFs earlier in the context of choosing the right image file type. However, despite being a legit means of communication, most people forget using GIFs in their website copy. 

They are a great workaround when you want to illustrate a point in an interesting manner. GIFs are great for analogies as they help your audience remember concepts with ease.

That being said, do not overdo it. Overusing GIFs could be annoying or appear foolish at some point, especially when talking about serious topics. 

Final Word

The opportunity to drive traffic by optimizing images for SEO is often overlooked and underestimated. By using these ten tips, you can strengthen the SEO health of your website.

Sites like Houzz and Pinterest have mastered this essential art of image optimization and use it to drive tons of organic traffic. Proper image optimization might be the extra spark your website needs to outrank the competition. So, follow the above steps to stay on top of the SEO game and build consistent traffic. 

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 This is a guest post by Adela Belin, a content marketer, and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She is passionate about sharing stories with the hope of making a difference in people’s lives and contribute to their personal and professional growth. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn 

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