SEO 101 – Image Optimization



Optimize your images - old flash camera photo example
Just an example of a caption for this old flash camera photo for image optimization. Notice the reference to the URL in the image.

Google’s implementation of Universal Search has changed the whole search landscape and settled the often debated SEO issue of whether the use of ALT text and keywords in image file names have any effect on rankings. In two words – they do.

For those who don’t know what Universal Search is, Google is now blending search results from all of their search properties – web pages, images, books, videos, etc. Where a search in Google used to bring up a page of HTML results, you will now get all of the above. This means everything on your site must be optimized these days, not just your web pages.

So, as a follow-up to my original S E O 101 post, here are some tips to make the most of your site’s images.

1. Context is extremely important. Images can rank based on what surrounds them on the page. Pay attention to keyword text, headings, etc. on the page. Image-only sites generally only work well if it is an extremely well-known brand or product. Otherwise, you need keyword rich text.

2. URL content text is important, too. The text of your URL is looked at as part of the context surrounding the image. The domain name, directory name and filename of the image (name it with keywords) are taken into consideration as far as relevance.

3. Use captions if possible. Take a tip from newspaper photos and place keyword rich captions with your images. Make the text good, quality content, not keyword spam.

4. Proper image type is crucial. Make absolutely sure your photographs are .jpg and not .gif. The .jpg format is standard for photographs whereas the .gif format is normally used for graphic images.

5. Images can effect reputation management. Non-flattering images can really hurt you. Optimizing your images can help push any images you would rather the public not see off the results pages.

6. Create a sitemap feed of images. As with web pages, the search engines can follow a sitemap that you create of images that you want spidered.

7. Use descriptive ALT text. Search optimizers used to debate over whether ALT text had any influence on rankings. That debate is over. Optimize your images using descriptive keyword-rich ALT text. Don’t stuff the ALT attribute. Make it short and to the point. The keyword rich ALT text for your images could be the tie-breaker over who gets the top spot, so always use it.

8. Use the word “picture” or “photo” in your ALT text. Some searchers do use those words when they search for images.

9. Label images with your brand or URL.
This will capture some home page traffic for you. Watermark the images or just add your URL somewhere.

10. Use high quality images. Unique images with good contrast tend to be the best.

11. Add photos to Google Maps. Fluff up your Google Maps listing with photos and images. These can influence visitors who find you through local search, etc.

12. Post images to Flickr. Open a Flickr account and put unique photos in your account. Basically, each photo you put up is its own web page with a title, description and tags. You can include a link back to your site and share the photos with other Flickr users and social sites.

13. Use Feedburner. I know this might sound strange since Feedburner is for RSS feeds, but if you handle your RSS feed through this free Google-owned service, you can also have images you post to your Flickr account included in the e-mail updates that are sent to e-mail subscribers of your RSS feed. This is all set up in your Feedburner account admin.

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As always, these are just a few tips to get you going in your image optimization project. The suggestions on this page are by no means the only ways to optimize your images. Please note that many of these tips also apply to multimedia files like video and audio, too.

This article is intended as a companion piece to S E O 101 and will be updated periodically.

I go into more detail in my S E O 101 workshop, offered to web site owners and small businesses. Check my blog at http://www.weboptimist.com for more information or contact me to set up a custom workshop for your business group of five or more people in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Travel is possible for large groups.

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+Richard Burckhardt


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