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Let’s begin with a fun fact about me: *I LOVE PLANNERS! I am somewhat obsessed with them. My latest obsession is the *bullet journal system. I mentioned in an earlier post that I am a new entrant in the bujo world. So, every other night, after I am done with all my chores, I sit and browse bullet journal inspirations. I type in “What’s in my bullet journal?” or something similar in the Google search bar.
But I don’t search for text posts. I search for images (click the “Images” tab on Google for this). And then for the next 15 minutes or so, I scan the image results page for the prettiest bullet journals (if you think, “Mala, that’s just sad,” or “get a life, girl!”… well, maybe …but this is what brings me joy).
Anyway, coming back to the point. The searches are becoming increasingly visual nowadays (hello, Pinterest!). It is, therefore, pertinent to optimize not only the text on your website but also the images. Maybe your posts don’t rank on the text tab but you can certainly do your bit to help your images rank. Not most people do this, so you can be an early adopter and get a head start.
In today’s post, let’s discuss how to optimize your images for the web (i.e. the big bad world of search engines).
Anatomy of an Awesome Web-optimized Image
Use relevant images
This is really about common sense but you will be surprised how often bloggers mess this up. I have mentioned this example before but I will mention this again because there is just no excuse for this: an image about an online course in today’s time cannot show a typewriter as its featured image.
Please be sure the image you choose is relevant to your content. The purpose of using images is not to decorate your post—use images to complement the content.
Choose only copyright-free images or use your own
The blogging world is full of horror stories about unsuspecting and ignorant bloggers being sued for using copyrighted images. Please be careful when you search for free stock images. I am listing five popular websites that offer royalty-free, copyright-free stock images.
Please be advised the websites are free to change their terms and conditions. Therefore, always exercise caution.
When possible, consider purchasing stock images. This will ensure the image on your post is not as widely circulated as a free stock image.
While there is no denying the ease of using stock photos, the fact remains that copyright claims aside, most stock photos look super staged and fake. For this reason, you may want to shoot your own photos to make your images personal. But be aware that shooting personal photos requires significant investment of time (if you shoot your own) and/or money (if you hire a professional).
Use the correct file format
Images are stored in various formats depending on how it will be used. The three most common formats that bloggers use are JPEG, GIF, and PNG.
GIF images are usually used to include an animation or a meme. A regular image loses quality when saved in a GIF format. So, avoid it as much as you can. If you must use GIF, consider using GIFs created by professionals.
JPEG and PNG are the standards when it comes to blog images. Both give excellent quality but PNG files are heavier than JPEG files. It’s okay to choose JPEG images unless you want a transparent background. For that, always go with the PNG format.
Use high-quality images, not pixelated poor quality ones
This one is related to the previous point. Sometimes in your search for free stock photos, you may select a photo that is not up to the web standard. It may look perfect when seen in smaller dimensions, but as soon as you enlarge the image or try to zoom in for cropping purposes, individual pixels begin to show.
Another example could be if you choose to take your own photos using your phone or camera. Often, in the absence of enough lighting or poor camera quality, photos are of poor quality.
So, ensure the photos you are using as of the best quality.
Compress images to reduce the file size
The loading time and speed of your website is a very important factor in ranking high on search engine results page.
Among other factors, file sizes affect the loading time significantly. So, remember to compress your images so they load faster. But often, compressing images can also result in the loss of image quality.
Another option is to install the WP Smush on your website and the plugin will automatically compress all images on the website. The reason I don’t use the plugin is that I like to keep the number of plugins to the minimum—again, the number of assets on your website affects the website’s load time.
Make your file names descriptive and use keywords
Search engines depend on you to tell them what your image is about. The way you can tell them about it is via the various text fields available in the image properties.
Even before you get to the properties, the first thing you can do to save your image file with a specific name that describes what the image is about. For example, instead of using the default file names, such as DSC006 or IMG05, use a description such as “laptop on a table.”
Also, when writing the file name, try to include the keyword for which you are trying to rank.
Update “Alt Text” using keywords
After you have decided on a file name, it’s time to add even more information about the image. Your next stop is the Alt text (or Alt Tag) field.
Alt text is the rollover text that one sees when they point to an image. This is also essential for cases where an image fails to load, or when a visually impaired person is consuming your content.
The Alt text is nothing but the exact description of the image. Think of Alt text as a label for each image. It tells the user what image they would have seen had it loaded or if they were able to see it. Similarly, it tells the search engines what the content of the image is.
The Alt text may or may not be the same as the file name. For example, “laptop on a table” could be both the file name and the Alt text. However, to take full advantage of the available opportunities, experts recommend writing “similar” text but not the “same.”
Keep the Alt text short—say, 5-7 words—and using a sentence format is appreciated but is not mandatory.
Update “Description” using keywords and use sentence format
The Description box is yet another opportunity to tell the search engines about your images. The “description” that you write in this field is what is typically picked by the social media platforms when you publish your posts. That said, some platforms may have a preference of displaying the Alt text over the Description text. To err on the side of caution, populate both fields with as much descriptive text as allowed.
A word of caution regarding File Name, Alt Text, and Description
While it is important to use keywords in the aforementioned sections, please don’t overdo it. I mean, forget doing so, don’t even think about it! Using too many keywords without any context is considered as “keyword stuffing” by search engines. Keyword stuffing is not an experience for your readers. It’s a strict no-no and such websites are penalized by the search engines by pushing the website way down in the search results, or not showing them at all. This is where using the sentence format helps. Draft the sentence is a manner that offers useful information to your readers while still incorporating the keywords appropriately and in context.
Don’t embed important text inside images
Do not use images as supplementary material for your content; use them as complementary material.
As explained before, search engines do not yet have the ability to “read” your images. Therefore, if you add any key (or new) information as part of the image (that is, text on image), the search engine will not be able to scan and pick it. This will result in loss of data for you.
Create custom images for each social media platform
Your blog posts and image not only show up on search engines but also on social media platforms, which have their own search ecosystem. Therefore, it is important to cater to these platforms.
Each social media platform requires specific dimensions of images on their website. These guidelines are based on how they want their website to appear.
These platforms are your hosts; you are a guest. Respect the hosts’ guidelines.
In most cases, the platforms will reject images that do not match their guidelines. Frustratingly, the platforms also keep updating their guidelines often. Be on the lookout for any changes and update your images accordingly.
Pay attention to the placement of your image within your blog post.
Make sure that you place the relevant images near the relevant and corresponding chunk of text. The search engines may not be able to read your images, but with the help of the text fields (Alt, Description, File Name, Caption, etc.) as well as the body text around the image, the search engines tend to “guess” the context of the image and types of results they should appear for.
Help the search engines help you.
Pin for later.