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How to optimise your images for SEO

by John Milton
How to optimise your images for SEO

Images aren’t just good at making your content appealing, accessible and engaging for your user; it’s also an essential part of SEO on your website.

As any SEO agency in London would know, to give your image SEO the best opportunity for success, you need to understand the basic elements of optimization.

What is image optimisation?

Optimising your images includes creating and providing high-quality pictures in the best possible format, resolution and size to help improve your customer engagement. It also means labelling your images correctly using metadata. Metadata for images is used so that search engine crawlers can understand what the image is about, as crawlers don’t have eyes to see the images the same way we do. Metadata for images is also used to help crawlers understand what the page content is about alongside your page metadata and heading.

A study in 2018 said that the average web page’s content was made up of 21% of images and said that this was set to increase over time. As images consume more bytes than other elements of a website’s page, they play a significant role in site performance.

Reducing the size of an image whilst retaining its quality will decrease the loading speed of the page, which will improve your overall user experience. Loading speed is also something that is considered by search engines when they load your content in a search. Having a faster page speed time can improve your search engine ranking, resulting in higher customer satisfaction, conversion rate and customer retention.

Here are our top optimisation tips for your images.

Resize your images

The size of your image and the size of your file are two separate things. Your image size refers to the dimensions of your image, for example, 1000 pixels wide by 700 pixels tall. The file size refers to the storage space, for example, 620 kilobytes.

When the images have a high resolution and large dimensions, it will slow your page loading speed down a lot. Whilst these image types work great for posters, billboards and flyers, but this should be reduced and downsized for a website page.

Save appropriate format

Most sites will use PNG, JPEG and GIF as their file types, but we recommend WEBP for your images and GIF for your video types.

Choose the right compression rate

Image compression affects the file size and the quality of the image – the smaller the files’ size, the worse off the image quality is.

We would recommend experimenting with file types and compressions to discover what works before for your images across your site, as each image will be different depending on their placement on your website. There are a wide range of image editing tools that you can use to help, such as Adobe Photoshop, which has a save-for-web feature that will automatically optimise your file size whilst retaining its quality.

Optimise image file names

Naming your file correctly is an essential part of optimising your images, and we recommend using some of your keywords and phrases in your image file names to make the most of your SEO power. When typing your file names, ensure that your use hyphens rather than underscores, as search engines are unable to recognise them and won’t read the word separately.

Your image file name should make sense to search engines but also for humans as file names are also used for the visually impaired. If you have an image of a man kicking a football and the original file name is kickingfootball_7523.jpg, then rename this to something that is more descriptive and clear, like man-kicking-a-football-into-a-goal.jpg.

Use alt tags

Viewers on your site will be able to understand your image at a single glance, but search engine spiders have no idea and need help to understand what the image is portraying. Withing alt text, search engines would not know where to index your images.

A beneficial alt tag will also provide context to someone who is visually impaired. Another reason why you should include clear and descriptive alt text is that it will come in handy if a glitch prevents your image from displaying on the site. If this occurs, search engines can read the text to inform the page rankings. You should aim for 10 to 15 words to convey something about the image and provide detail.

Make images mobile-friendly

Due to Google’s mobile-first indexing algorithm, crawlers tend to look at your site in its mobile format first. Henceforth, all of your images should be optimised for mobile devices. The easiest way to do this is to ensure your website layout is responsive to the device being used.

A lot of website templates and online builders will automatically resize your images depending on the device, but it is possible to specify your image sizes based on a device’s width. You’ll need to add a bit of CSS code to your website in order for this to be automatic.

Optimise the image title

For a CMS like WordPress, it will pull the image title from the file name you have pre-written, but this isn’t true for every CMS type. If you don’t use WordPress or your current titles don’t explain your image properly, you will need to update this with your appropriate keywords, as we have with the file names.

From an SEO standpoint, image titles are less important, but they do still provide extra context to the alt text.

Use original images

Using stock photos on your website is okay, but they won’t benefit your search rankings, as other sites that offer similar products or services to you will also use the same images. Using your own unique written content is better for your website’s SEO, and it’s the same for your images.

Make the most of your images

If you are looking to improve your image SEO, then keep these top tips in mind when you are building out or updating your website. These optimisation tactics will improve the likability of the content on your website for search engine crawlers and your customers.

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