In this guide we will explain how image search works and how to optimize your images so they rank higher in Google image search results, hence allowing you to get more traffic. We will share tips and tricks on image SEO and include practical examples to help you implement them.
What is image SEO?
Image SEO is a set of rules and best practices to help you optimize your images and get more traffic from image search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Pinterest and others.
It can become an important source of organic visits and leads to your photography website, and a significant contributor to your business growth. Your photos are your main business resource, so you have to make sure that users can find them online and get to your website.
Where can users find my images?
Your images could be found in image search engines like Google. It works like this: you post images on your website, Google crawls your site and indexes your images. Users search for images with certain keywords in image search, click on your images and land on your website.
Your goal is to make your images appealing, light-weight and SEO friendly. Visual information is very important for photographers, so you should make the most of it.
How to make sure my images are SEO friendly?
Here are 10 handy tips on how to make your images SEO friendly:
1. Compress your images
You should always save your images for best performance on web. Your main goal is to reduce the file size of your images while keeping the quality. You can use various dedicated tools to achieve that (Lightroom, Photoshop, Jpegmini, TinyPNG, Shortpixel, etc.). We have created a helpful resource that will guide you through image optimization for WordPress.
2. Use the right image size
This is one of the most frequent questions we get: what image sizes should I use on my website? Depending on the area of you site, there are diverse recommended sizing options. You can find them here.
But in short, you should use the following image sizes:
- Blog posts: Width – 1500px / Height – Auto
- Gallery posts: Width – Auto / Height – 1500px
- Slideshows and full width blocks: Width – 2880px / Height – 1500px
Serve scaled images – this is a common issue that happens when you upload large images on your page and they are resized in HTML or CSS. This issue might negatively affect your site performance.
At Flothemes we have implemented the srcset attribute to images in order to tackle this issue. It serves an appropriate image size based on the device you are browsing from.
Note: there might be cases when your images are still too large, so you will need to resize them manually. Use tools like GTmetrix to find out what performance issues you might have.
3. Always add alt tags
Alt tags define an alternate text for an image. They’re used for the visually impaired and for website readers. It’s one of the most important attributes of your image and has a high impact on your image SEO. Alt tags have multiple functions:
- Alt tags will be displayed in case your image can’t be loaded
- Search engines use alt tags to better understand what are your images about
- Alt tags act as an anchor text when you link to your site using an image
- They are used for accessibility purposes. Screen readers use alt tags to serve images for users with visual impairment
Remember to always add alt tags to your images. Here how it looks like
<img src=”wedding-in-colorado.jpeg” alt=”Our wedding in Colorado”>
And here is how to add an alt tag in WordPress admin:
Consider including a keyword in your alt tag, but don’t keyword stuff. This will help your page rank higher in organic search results.
Bonus tip: if you forgot to add alt text and have multiple images in your media library, feel free to use this great plugin that will help you add alt tags in bulk.
4. Use a descriptive file name
Most of the times you would simply export or save images from your photo camera which uses the default naming convention. You will end up with file names like IMG_7596.JPG or something like this.
Always name your image files accordingly and make them descriptive. Keep them short and relevant and use sequences if you have lots of similar images (for example: you have a gallery with multiple images that are the same). In this case you can name your files like this:
5. Describe your images using text
Alghouth Google can identify an image by looking at its pixels, text is still an important factor in image SEO.
Google looks at the text that surrounds an image to better understand what is that image about. This is why it’s important to add textual content to your posts, pages or galleries. There is no need to describe every image on a page, but it’s useful if you describe the event and include as much useful info about the wedding, location, the story behind it and more.
Also, your page authority and relevance matters. The higher your domain or page rating is, the better are the chances to rank higher in image search results. Visual and textual content are both important for your SEO, so try to post fresh and useful content.
Important: make sure your page has a relevant title tag and meta description, as Google might use them to generate a snippet for your image in image search results.
6. Place your most important images on top
Consider placing your most important images close to the top of your page. Also if you have lots of images with the same alt tag and they look similar, there is a big chance Google isn’t going to rank them all. That’s why we recommend adding the most important images on top of a page and limit the total number of images per page.
7. Don’t use too many images
This is important for both performance and user experience. Too many images can slow down your site dramatically and provide a bad UX, especially on mobile devices. Here are a few tips for reference:
- Aim to have maximum 10-15 images on a page. If you really need more than that, consider using a lazy loading solution
- Your images should be less than 500KB
- Your page shouldn’t be larger than 5MB
Note: We know that as photographers you want to include the full story of each client in a blog post/gallery. But noone apart from your client and their family & friends will be scanning through all 150-300 images. Hence, you can have full set displayed for them via a proofing gallery, while keeping only top best posts on your website for potential clients to see.
8. Use an image sitemap
An image sitemap is the fastest way to notify search engines about new content on your website. If you are using WordPress and Yoast SEO plugin, you can easily enable an XML sitemap on your site. Yoast will automatically generate a sitemap with image information, so search engines could easily find your textual content and visuals.
9. Add Open Graph tags
Open Graph protocol is not necessarily an SEO ranking factor, but it’s useful for social media sites. Enable Open Graph tags on your pages and they will look nice when you share them on social media sites.
You can check if a website has Open Graph tags by inspecting the source code of a web page (right click in your browser and click on View Page Source). Look for og:image and other similar tags. Here is an example
<meta property=”og:image” content=”https://flothemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/optimize-images-featured.png” />
10. Serve images on mobile devices
Having a responsive website these days is a must. Moreover, your website should be ready for mobile-first indexing, where mobile content is used for indexing and ranking purposes.
With Flothemes you are covered, as all our templates are fully responsive and look great on all kind of devices. You can test if your site is mobile friendly and check if there are any blocked resources that prevent Google from properly rendering your website.
You can also see all mobile usability issues in Google Search Console.
11. Implement structured data
If you implement Product or Video structured data on your site, you might get some rich results in Google image search. Learn how to implement structured data on your WordPress site.
12. Track your results
You can track your results in Google Search Console. Keep an eye on your top performing images and keywords that generated the most of organic traffic. Here is how to track your results:
- Login to your Search Console account
- Go to Performance report
- Adjust the Search Type filter by selecting Image
- Click on desired tabs to see more data: Queries, Tabs, Countries, Devices, etc.
Note: If you’re interested to learn more on why & how to use Google Search Console, we offer a comprehensive course for photographers.
Image SEO is not an easy task, but it’s definitely a good long term investment in your business growth. Focus on posting high quality images that are loading fast and are SEO friendly and you’ll most likely start getting more organic traffic from image search engines.