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How to Optimize Images for SEO

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Does your organization’s website contain images - your company's products and services, samples of your work, and so on? Probably. Almost certainly. However, in our SEO experience, it’s far less likely that those images are properly optimized for the major search engine(s).

While image optimization has always been important, it is much more consequential now than ever before. Why? It’s a combination of a couple of simple things:

The necessity of optimizing your site's visual content is apparent. The need to do it correctly will only increase in the future; what are you waiting for? Call Stephen at 615.668.1580 to discuss affordable optimization of the images on your website.

(Incidentally, Google Suggest is now enabled by default in Google Image Search as well as two other Google search engines: web search and Google Video.

Optimizing your images is a notable way to increase targeted traffic to your website. First, ensure your images folder is not blocked by your robots.txt file. Before image search became so popular, storing images in a blocked folder was fairly common; this setting could be lingering in your robots.txt file. Get rid of it.

For some quick and simple assistance creating or updating your robots.txt file, see:

Image search should certainly be a consideration, if it isn't already. Keep your navigational and structural graphics in a blocked folder if you wish, but keep pictures of your products or other offerings in a folder open to search engine indexing.

Consider the names of your image file as well as the ALT attribute of the

IMG tag. Of course, you want your image names to accurately reflect what they depict; adding keywords where they are relevant is also a good idea. In addition to helping visitors find your website, appropriate ALT tags improves usability: users who cannot or do not view the images can still be able to determine what the images represent.

Appropriate IMG ALT Tags

Always use dashes rather than underscores between words. By all means, do not add obvious keyword information as your ALT tag; write text that has a natural flow. Adding keyword data to your IMG ALT tags could be seen as keyword stuffing -- a definite no-no.

Some of the best advice I have ever heard regarding the contents of appropriate image ALT tags is this: the ALT text should contain a brief description of the item, as if you were explaining it to a blind person. After all, the original intention of this property was to assist the vision-impaired.

Use Captions

Captioning your images is a great idea for numerous reasons. Captioning the images is a good practice to follow since people enjoy them; plus, captioning helps the search engines associate words with the images. Again, write your captions in a natural style and do not cram the captions with keywords! If your site includes many images, photos, or galleries, be sure to title the pages accordingly so the search engines will know that these particular web pages are image-rich.

Offsite Image Optimization Techniques

Flickr and Other Photo Sharing Tools

In addition to techniques employed on your sebsite, there are also offsite image optimization techniques that should be part of your SEO repertiore or online marketing plan. For instance, the structure and design of Flickr has many advantages for search engine optimization (SEO). Flickr includes titles, H1 tags, captions, tagging, cross grouping, comments, sharing, ALT text, date taken, the number of page views, and more.

Flickr profiles that are fully built out -- using most or all of the available descriptive fields -- tend to rank well. You can also share your images under a Creative Commons license in order to build more backlinks.

Offsite Articles, Blog Posts, Comments

Do not underestimate the importance of properly tagging and describing your offsite articles, blog posts & comments, press releases, and other offsite content when optimizing your images for search engine optimization. Always include relevant images (or URLs that link to relevant images); this encourages news outlets and other websites to link directly to your images. Remember, eye-catching visuals always make the related content more appealing to visitors!