To see the importance of visual search in 2021, let’s start with an example.
The other day I googled “how to do a search in Excel”. I scanned a few articles but still felt unsatisfied – I didn’t want to read about lookups, I wanted to see it.
Enter: The power of images.
After clicking on “Pictures” I quickly found what I needed:
I know that I am not alone In fact, half of all Google searches these days end up on the search results page without the user clicking through to the results.
Beginning in 2021, critical marketers will be paying attention to the importance of visual images as a powerful opportunity to reach new audiences on the SERPs.
Kristen Baker, Marketing Manager at HubSpot, also told me, “After doing an image experiment on the HubSpot blog, I found that ranking in Google’s image packages increases the impressions and clicks of our content.”
But … easier said than done, right?
Here, let’s examine what image SEO is and what best practices you should follow to make your web pages more recognizable in image search results.
What is image SEO?
Image SEO refers to the practice of optimizing your images for search engines through thoughtful alt text, appropriate captions, good file dimensions, and more. Image SEO can make it easier for search engine crawlers to interpret your content. This can provide an SEO boost on both search results pages and image results pages and make your website more discoverable.
Image SEO best practices
1. Use relevant, accurate alt text for user access and SEO.
For a quick refresher: Alt-Text is a written copy that describes an image. For example, if you click on Pipcorn’s popcorn product and review the page, you’ll see alternate text describing the product image exactly as “Popcorn Family Pack Popcorn Pipsnacks LLC”:
Alt text plays two important roles in search engine optimization.
First, alt text – also known as alt tags or alt descriptions – helps search engine crawlers index your website more effectively, which has a positive impact on search results.
The Google developer page even states, “You can help the discovery process by making sure your images and website are optimized for Google Images. [and] Make your content more likely to show up in Google Images search results. “
Second, alt text improves the user experience. Alternate text can describe a picture to a visually impaired reader and also helps if a reader cannot properly load or see the picture on their device.
For a complete look at how to write high quality alt text, take a look at Image Alt Text: What It Is, How It Is Written, and Why It Matters to SEO.
2. You may use captions to describe an image.
Captions are usually not required if the context of the page can help readers understand the presentation of the image. For example, I didn’t use captions on this blog post as I used text to introduce each image I showed.
However, if you have a visually demanding website, consider using subtitles to help readers understand an image in context. For example, he labels his pictures in Tom Hull’s photo portfolio so that the viewer can contextualize where or what the picture represents:
Use good judgment when adding subtitles. However, if you think this can help readers (and bots) better understand an image, it might be a useful addition to a page.
3. Compress images for faster loading time.
Compressing images is an essential part of any good website optimization strategy.
Simply put, it helps your web pages load faster which provides a better user experience and also helps to improve your website’s search engine rankings.
Try a tool like JPEG Compress or Squoosh to effectively compress your images.
Typically, less than 100 KB is ideal for a good file size.
It’s important to note, however, that Google doesn’t look at every single image size. Instead, the total page size is displayed.
So if you have a small picture where the differences in quality are less great, you can try compressing that picture to 30-50KB. This gives you extra space to keep another image 30 KB larger, especially if that image loses quality after being compressed.
If you still have image quality concerns after compressing, check out how to make sure your images are of high resolution.
4. Publish original images – not just photos.
Ultimately, Google (and readers) prioritize the original content. So if you are hoping your images will rank on the image results pages, it is important that you use original, unique images.
This is especially important if you work for an ecommerce website and publish pictures of your product. Many shoppers use images to purchase consumer goods. Actually, 50% of online shoppers say pictures helped them make a purchase decision.
If your image doesn’t accurately represent your product, it will be buried under better, higher quality, competitor images.
Consider using products like Canva You can design internal infographics, graphics, or animated images to highlight your brand on search results pages and make your images shareable.
5. Name your file images before uploading them.
Your filename can affect how easy it is for search engine crawlers to interpret your image. So it is helpful to rename your file before uploading it to your website.
Instead of keeping the name as a generic “IMG_0883”, use relevant keywords to describe what is in the image, similar to your alt text. This can also help your image show up on the image search results page, which will increase traffic to your website.
6. Use responsive images.
Responsive images are critical to ensuring that your readers can see your images on any type of device. Nowadays it is important that your pages are optimized for mobile devices in order to influence the ranking of search engines as well as the user experience.
If your images aren’t responding, the page won’t look as clean on mobile devices as it does on desktop. This has a negative impact on search engine optimization and the perception of your brand by your readers.
Fortunately, some website hosting services, including HubSpot, automatically make sure your images are responsive.
However, if you need to, you can make your images responsive using quick code. For example, you can add this code to your HTML code:
Or this code for your CSS:
7. Use images as an opportunity to link.
Creating high quality, unique original images is not only great for your own website, but it is also a fantastic opportunity to earn backlinks when other websites are using your image on their own pages.
For example, consider the following diagram produced by Broadband Search:
The picture is currently at the top of the results page of the picture search for the keywords “How many people use the mobile phone to search”.
According to Ahrefs, this blog post also has over 3,000 backlinks. I’m willing to bet these backlinks are in part due to other companies wanting to use Broadband Search’s unique graphics for their own content.
If you are creating high quality images, other companies may want to display those images on their own websites – with links to your company. Ultimately, this means that images can have a direct impact on the amount of traffic, leads, and customers you get for your business through your marketing efforts.
8. Add images to an existing sitemap.
Here is an example sitemap with two images:
If you don’t want to manually add images to a sitemap, you’re in luck – there are tools like Angeldigital.Marketing (one of the few free ones available!) That automatically generate an image sitemap once you enter a URL.
Hopefully, you can use these best practices to get new traffic and drive new traffic from search image search results pages. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. So imagine the value of an SEO optimized image.