Although there aren’t exactly official numbers, but Google stated that every day hundreds of millions of people use Google Images to discover and explore content on the web visually. Besides supporting content and improving user experience, images are an important source of traffic and should not be ignored. Google, or any other search engine, like marketers, understands image search’s potential as an inspirational and visual discovery tool that can be further monetized and leveraged for traffic. Here’s what matters:
Why Image Search Matters
We’re living in an increasingly visual world. And in this world, the value of image optimization can’t be overlooked. Images make your web pages more appealing. More likely than not, there’s an image on every page of your website. And without the properly done optimization, you’re wasting a valuable SEO asset.
When it comes to images, there is likely more than meets the eye. Often overlooked and underestimated, images on the web have been getting more attention lately and their importance is growing for a variety of reasons ranging from purely supporting user experience and content to enabling users to visually find more products directly from image search itself.
Optimization and implementation can vary greatly depending on your business type and goals. Therefore, it is advised to start with the end in mind and to communicate the best strategy to your team to capture as much traffic as possible! The benefits of hosting images on your domain or subdomain include cache control, branding, and control of redirects.
One of the easiest and often overlooked optimization opportunities is the actual image file name. Image file names should have a few carefully chosen keywords – ideally, keywords the image could rank for – while omitting stop words (a, the, in, of, etc.) and separating keywords by hyphens. This is an example of a badly named image file: IMG-458752.jpg.
Image alt and title attributes (of the HTML tag) are the next simplest settings that not only help images rank higher in search, but also build the page’s relevancy and improve user experience, eventually all ranking factors. Alt attributes are played out loud by accessibility software and screen readers and title attributes appear when visitors hover over images, so do not stuff keywords there and vary it up!
Image file size can dis-proportionally affect page load time so it’s important to get it right. JPEGs are usually more SEO-friendly than PNGs, especially if you do not need transparent backgrounds, as they offer better compression levels. What matters most is the actual file size (in Kb) of the images themselves. So it is recommended that you always strive to save them under 100Kb or less whenever possible.
Scale your images to their actual display size: ensuring that you are not serving larger images than necessary to display in the browser window properly is another area of optimization often overlooked. Pages often load images that are then scaled down by browsers to fit users screen configurations: it is important not to serve images that are wider than the user’s window can display to save on unnecessary bytes.
Depending on the visual needs of your website, this might mean saving different versions of the same image in various dimensions to only dynamically serve the most optimized image based on the user’s screen (mobile, tablet, expanded or resized desktop window, etc.). This can be done automatically through the use of plugins or by using the <picture> and/or <srcset> elements.
Image sitemaps help as well with indexing if discovery and crawling are problematic. Including images as part of your page structured data also increases the likelihood of a carousel or rich result (images badges).
Host page’s HTML title tags are also now displayed in image search results, so as a technician, you should ensure that those are somewhat relevant to the image as well if possible.