Images are a fundamental part of web pages, often making up the largest portion of content. They even have their own tab on Google search results, governed by a distinct algorithm. Thus, ensuring your images appear in these results is vital for a comprehensive SEO strategy, especially for users searching specifically for images. Your content should already include high-quality images, so why not optimise them as well? Think of it like dunking biscuits in tea – both are better together.

In this post, we’ll delve into the nuances of image SEO and provide detailed guidance on optimising your images for better visibility in search engines.

How Search Engines Index and Understand Images

Search engines crawl web pages to discover images and extract data such as metadata and file names. Google considers factors like surrounding text, image file name, alt text, captions, and page content to understand the context of images. Additionally, Google uses image recognition technologies to comprehend the content of images.

What Is Image SEO?

Image optimisation is a set of techniques designed to increase visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) based on how search engines crawl, understand, and rank images. This involves compressing images to reduce load times, using responsive images for different screen sizes, implementing lazy loading, adding relevant alt text, using descriptive file names, and incorporating structured data for images.

With this background, let’s dig into each optimisation tip used by digital marketing agencys below.

1. Choose the Right Image Format

Google search supports several image formats, each with its own strengths and weaknesses:

PNG: Uses lossless compression, producing better-quality images and supporting transparency, but with larger file sizes. Ideal for printing.

JPEG: Uses lossy compression, which can degrade image quality, but you can adjust the quality level to balance quality and file size.

WebP: Developed by Google, it uses both lossless and lossy compression, providing smaller file sizes at comparable quality levels. Supported by all major browsers.

GIF: Uses lossless compression but is limited to 256 colours, making it suitable for simple graphics and animations.

SVG: A vector-based format used for logos, icons, and designs, which can be scaled without increasing file size, making it ideal for responsive web design.

BMP: Large, uncompressed image files that maintain high quality but are typically not used for websites due to their size.

2. Compression and Its Effects

Compression affects both image quality and load times. Converting a BMP image to different formats can significantly reduce file size and improve load times without drastically compromising quality. Tools like ShortPixel and TinyJPG can further compress images by removing unnecessary metadata and using advanced compression techniques.

3. AVIF Format

AVIF is a new format offering higher compression levels than WebP. However, Google does not yet support it. If you choose to use AVIF, include it in the <picture> tag, ensuring browsers that support it will render it first.

4. Create Unique Images

Using unique images rather than generic stock photos enhances user experience and SEO. Google understands image content, and duplicated stock photos across different websites are treated as duplicate content. Original, high-quality images can improve your odds of ranking well on relevant searches.

5. Optimise Image File Names

Descriptive, keyword-rich file names are crucial for SEO. Rename default file names to something meaningful to help Google better understand the image content.

6. Write SEO-Friendly Alt Text

Alt text serves as a text alternative for images when browsers can’t render them. It should be descriptive and relevant, helping Google understand the image and improving your page’s SEO. Additionally, alt text is important for accessibility, allowing visually impaired users to understand image content.

7. Optimise Your Page Title and Description

Page titles and descriptions are part of Google’s image search algorithm. Ensure your on-page SEO elements, like metadata, header tags, and structured data, are optimised to improve image rankings.

8. Define Your Dimensions

Including width and height attributes for images prevents Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), improving your Core Web Vitals score. This helps allocate space for images and prevents content from jumping during loading.

9. Make Your Images Mobile-Friendly

Use the srcset and sizes attributes to enable responsive images, allowing them to scale according to the user’s device. This ensures optimal loading sizes and saves bandwidth on slow connections.

11. Add Images to Your Sitemap

Including images in your sitemap increases the chances of search engines crawling and indexing them. This can be done by adding images to your existing sitemap or creating a separate image sitemap.

12. Add Structured Data

Structured data enhances your web pages by providing search engines with detailed information about images. For example, adding product images with price, availability, and ratings in the product schema can make your products stand out in search results.

13. Use a CDN for Faster Image Delivery

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) hosts your content on servers worldwide, delivering it from the nearest location to the user. CDNs also offer transformation and optimisation capabilities, such as converting images to more efficient formats like WebP.

14. Beware of Copyright

Ensure you have the right to use images on your website to avoid copyright issues. Using unlicensed images from providers like Getty or Shutterstock can result in expensive lawsuits.

Key Takeaways

Before uploading images to your site, follow these optimisation tips:

Choose the right file format.

Serve the right file size for faster load speeds.

Ensure on-page SEO elements complement your images.

Create an image sitemap or ensure images are in your sitemap for better crawlability.

Optimising images is crucial for improving your website’s overall SEO. With Google prioritising visuals in search results, these steps will enhance your site’s performance and user experience. Happy optimising!

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