Odds are, you’re already aware of the importance of having great imagery on your website and within your content. However, are you also savvy to all the image SEO best practices, SEO tools and key things to know about images and SEO?
Chances are, you could learn a couple things.
Website images and SEO are actually very closely tied. Just like how great imagery can increase things like share rate and readability of your content, it can also improve some of your SEO metrics.
Here are five essential things you should be aware of regarding image SEO. Once you’re familiar with the basics of image SEO, get familiar with on-page SEO to really boost your SEO know-how.
1. Google updated its image search in February 2018
This update caused a stir amongst publishers and website owners. Google removed the “View Image” button from their image results, meaning you can no longer just open a window with the full-sized image straight from Google’s search results.
Instead, you have to visit the website where the image appears and find it on the web page where it’s published.
The announcement was made on Twitter:
If you create your own content, you’ll likely welcome this change. It encourages image searchers to actually click through to your website, rather than just click that “View Image” button and leave without visiting your site at all.
Of course, if someone’s goal is to take the image for their own use (pirate it), they can still right click and save the image to their device. However, this update should increase the number of clicks to your website if you have the kind of awesome, useful images that people are searching for.
Removal of the “View Image” button means that more people will be clicking on the “Visit” button instead, visiting your website from search instead of just viewing the image and not registering a hit on your page.
2. You should monitor your image search traffic
If you’re publishing great graphics and imagery with your content, aren’t you curious as to whether or not people are finding your content via those images? Luckily, it’s actually pretty easy to figure that out.
First of all, you need to have Google Search Console set up and verified. If you don’t have this, don’t be intimidated! It’s not too difficult and will provide you with such a valuable set of tools once you have it set up.
You’ll find a lot of how-to resources on the web if you need help.
Ready to discover how your images are performing in search? Let’s do this:
First, upon logging in, you’ll see a performance graph. Click on the “Open Report” link at the top to access the full report.
Awesome, now you’ll be looking at a super interesting graph with your web search impressions and clicks. What we want to see, though, is your image data, so let’s click to change our search type above the graph:
In the box that pops up, choose “Image” and click Apply.
Now, you’re looking at the same graph of your impressions and clicks, but it’s for your images, not your web results:
A couple things you’ll probably notice about this data:
- Your number of clicks is MUCH lower than your web search clicks. This is natural, since most people aren’t using image search to look for web results.
- Your number of impressions might seem bigger than you thought it would be. Remember, Google serves a couple images sometimes within the web search results pages.
To get some useful data and SEO insight out of this report, scroll down underneath the graph to find a table. It’ll be automatically showing you the Queries (keywords) report, which tells you what people are typing into Google when they’re seeing your images pop up in results.
While the Queries report is useful, I prefer the Pages table. At the top of the table, toggle over to Pages to see which of your pages are getting image impressions and clicks:
Useful ways to use this image data:
- Which pages are getting the most clicks via image search? Maybe some more promotion and/or optimization of that content could further increase click-throughs.
- Which images are bringing in a huge number of impressions but not any clicks? Is there any way you can drive clicks on those images?
- Are there images that you’re not seeing at all in this report that you think should be there because they’re really fantastic? Work on optimizing them more.
3. Optimizing your images for search is essential
Now that you understand how image search works and how to monitor it, it’s time to talk more about optimizing those images for search. Optimizing the right attributes of your images will set them (and your website) up for success.
The first attribute of your image you should think about optimizing is the file name. When you upload an image to your website from your computer, you should name it something descriptive.
For instance, let’s say you’ve written an amazing Instagram article as part of your content strategy on your website.
Within that article, you’ve got a super informative, well-designed infographic about how the different parts of Instagram work (feed vs. stories, profile, etc.) that you’re excited to share with your followers.
You also want that infographic to show up in image search for terms like “Instagram guide” and “Instagram tips infographic”.
When your infographic is complete, you need to pay attention to what it’s called when you upload it to your site.
When you upload it, your CMS will create a URL for it, such as: “www.yoursite.com/files/file-name.png”. So, you don’t want to name it something like “Infographic3”, because that won’t be doing your image SEO any favors. Instead, name it something that includes your desired keywords for your guide to rank for, so your URL is something more like: “www.yoursite.com/files/instagram-guide-infographic.png”.
Bonus tip: Using descriptive file names keeps your website’s CMS organized and easy to find files in.
According to Christian Carere, CEO of Digital Ducats Inc.:
Although Google is becoming more accurate at determining the meaning of images, much can be left to interpretation. Google therefore relies on the information given in the alt tags, filename, total and captions for the most accurate placement and categorization of the image in the search results.
Adding alt text to each image on your site not only tells Google what your image is about, but it has the added benefit of providing enhanced accessibility on your site for those who blind. Unable to see your images, their computer will read the alt text to them, letting them know what’s there.
Be descriptive, use keywords, and make your alt tags unique.
For instance, for the infographic we used as an example above, your alt text might be “Instagram Guide: Learn all the basics of Instagram in this infographic.”
This optimized text will also show up in Google Image Search:
Since Google places much importance on alt texts, it’s a good idea to write one for every image you have on your site. Use an SEO analysis tool to find images with missing alt texts.
Adding a caption to your image can have the same benefit as adding alt text. It tells Google and other search engines what your image is about.
However, in some places on your website, captions probably don’t make sense and might look funny, so don’t overdo these.
For instance, having a caption underneath your hero image (or main image) in your blog post would detract from your design.
4. Image size matters
One of the SEO ranking factors that affects how well your website ranks in organic search for your targeted keywords is site speed. Something that can slow your website way down is having huge image files.
So, like in the gif above, small is mighty!
In general, every time you upload an image, it should only be as big as it needs to be to fit on your website. No bigger.
5. Compelling, effective imagery leads to awesome SEO benefits
Many marketers tout link building as the only real way to impact SEO. But awesome imagery benefits SEO in multiple ways, too. In general, the better your images, the more effective they are at improving your SEO.
Here are a few of the ways great imagery impacts SEO:
Decreased bounce rate
Bounce rate is a measure of how many of your website visitors land on your site, then bounce away without visiting any other pages. In general, the more compelling your page is and the more the visitor gets out of it, the more likely he or she is to visit more pages on your site, decreasing your bounce rate.
Although how much of an affect your site’s bounce rate has on your organic rankings is contested amongst SEOs, a recent study by SEMRush showed a correlation between bounce rate and keyword rankings:
Bounce rate also is just a great indicator of the usability of your site and the effectiveness of your SEO content, so it’s something to keep an eye on.
Increased social sharing
While social sharing is another one of those factors that Google says doesn’t influence their rankings, SEOs agree that it’s definitely an indirect ranking factor.
What I mean by that is, the more shares you’re getting on social media, the more popular your content is getting and the more likely people are to visit it, visit more of your website, and link to you. Links are most definitely a ranking factor, so social sharing leads to good things.
Bonus: Optimized Social Media Image Examples
When designing social media images, keep a couple main points in mind: readability on smaller devices, color selection, shareability, and adherence to your brand. According to a New York Times Customer Insight Group, these are the reasons a person might be compelled to share something on social media:
- To bring valuable, enlightening and entertaining content into the lives of people they care about.
- To define themselves.
- To grow and nourish their relationships.
- To get the word out about causes they believe in.
So, keep those in mind as you’re creating your content. Here are a couple great examples:
Bonus tip: other sites want to share great imagery
If you create awesome, informative, relevant, shareable imagery, it’s natural that other sites will want to share it.
According to a ClearVoice study, here are the content types that are most likely to receive shares by industry:
Notice all the mentions of infographics! Can you really see any of these article types getting shares without having great images? Probably not. As we already went over above, more shares lead to better SEO. It’s all connected!
In conclusion, not only is imagery an important part of any marketing strategy, but it can have really positive effects on your SEO when done correctly.
- Google’s recent image search update was a step forward for anyone publishing images in the internet.
- Monitoring your image search traffic can help you determine what content of yours people are looking for on the web, so that you can work on optimizing and sharing those content pieces.
- Optimize your images for search for your best chance of getting found online organically. Update your alt text, caption, and file name to match your image and the content on your page.
- Keep your images small enough so they don’t slow down your site!
- Create compelling, sharable imagery to drive up the SEO benefits of images.
You can also use our sitemap generator to create visual sitemaps when planning SEO-friendly website structures.