How does Google know that a picture of a grilled cheese sandwich is, in fact, a grilled cheese sandwich? How does it know that there’s cheese in between both bread slices (and not peanut butter)… therefore labeling it as “grilled cheese sandwich”? I can’t. Google and other search engines (like Yahoo & Bing) are just computers so you basically have to tell them what is what.
Image-based search engines, like Google Images for example, generate HUGE amounts of traffic. Ranking on image searches requires that you optimize your website images to promote their ranking on search results. This is especially useful to know for wedding photographers, like myself, who showcase hundreds of photos on their websites. Here are the things that matter most when trying to maximize search engine ranking benefits for your images.
Filename (or title tags).
Before uploading your image to your website, you need to make sure that the image’s file name is descriptive, thus making it searchable. Doing this will set the title tag of the image as well since title tags are usually generated automatically from an image’s filename. Finalize the keywords that describe the photo (or what you’d like it to rank for) and include them in the filename using dashes in between each word. It might look something like this: grilled-cheese-sandwich-picture.jpg
If you leave spaces within your filenames, and because html code doesn’t allow spaces, it will automatically fill in the blank for you with special characters like “!@#%” that are considered unfriendly to SEO. Also, always try to incorporate the word “photo” or “picture” in the filename. This will tell search engines that this is a photo file. Essentially, you want to help search engines understand what the content of the image is in any way possible.
ALT tag is short for “alternative text”. It’s the text that Google uses to understand images. This is the next thing you should implement after you’ve add the photo to your site. Unlike filenames, you can have spaces within your ALT tags.
If you use a CMS (content management system) like WordPress or Blogger, you can easily access the ALT tag option of an image by navigating to your Media Library and selecting the image you wish to optimize:
If you are not using a CMS like the ones mentioned above, then you would need to manually enter the tag into your website’s source code by hand entering this chunk of code inside your image tag: alt=”grilled cheese sandwich photo”
The entire image tag should look something like this:
<img src=”http://www.example.com/images/grilled-cheese-sandwich-picture.jpg” alt=”grilled cheese sandwich photo” />
Notice that the keyword “picture” is located within the filename and the keyword “photo” is located within the ALT tag. Using words like picture, photo, image, etc throughout filenames and ALT tags dummy-proofs your searchability (is that even a word? lol) by making it as easy for search engines to rank your images as high as possible.
Your page load time matters for SEO. Although I haven’t seen a direct relation between large file-sized images and image ranking per se, I do know that not optimizing the size and quality of your images can lower your overall page speed which does effect your website’s viewer usability. If you have your site mounted on a CMS like WordPress, you can download plugins like WP Smush.it or Imsanity that will automatically reduce the size of your images without losing quality which is extremely important for photography sites. Plugins like these help your site run faster and improve your page speed. You can check your page speed by using the Google PageSpeed Insights tool.
If you don’t use a CMS to run your site, then you would need to manually optimize your images’ file size prior to uploading them to your server. There are many services out there that will allow you to do this but one of them that has gotten good reviews is Yahoo! SmushIt.
The bottom line. If you spend a lot of time brainstorming and writing good content for your website/blog, don’t miss the opportunity to maximize your search engine gains by optimizing your images for awesome SEO as well. It can really be the “cherry on top” of an amazing post with nicely content.
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