How to Optimize Website Images for SEO

We live in an increasingly visual world. Yet, we often see clients overlook or misunderstand how to optimize website images as part of their overall SEO efforts.

If you have a website, more likely than not, there’s an image on every page. Without the proper image optimization, you’re wasting a valuable SEO asset, plain and simple. The thing is, the search engine bots that crawl your website are unable to identify the content of an image—they rely on the text associated with the images to fully understand what the image is and how it relates to your content or the topic of your page.

If you optimize website images properly, you create many advantages for your image assets, including attracting visitors through Google images, better user experience, faster page load times, and additional ranking opportunities, both within the traditional and image search results. As you can see, image optimization is an important component of building a successful, high-performing website.

Here are 5 of the most common mistakes we see clients make and how to remedy them.

1. Remove Unused Images

As is often the case with templated websites (think WordPress or Squarespace), there can be countless images that were added as part of the template’s “theme” but that are not currently used on your site. They don’t hurt anything by being there (except for taking up some server space), but to make it easier on yourself and your future efforts, you probably want to delete them rather than keep them stored on the backend.

To delete them:

  1. Log into the WordPress backend
  2. Click on “Media” in the left-navigation
  3. Find the image you want to delete and click on it
  4. In the “Attachment Details” dialog that opens, click “Delete Permanently”
  5. In the warning/confirmation pop-up, click “OK”

2. Use JPEG Images

A JPEG image provides the best options for maintaining a quality image when compressed or resized. They work with many colors, shadows, and patterns to display a high-resolution image, and is the most popular photo type in the digital space. Due to its ability to be compressed considerably, the JPEG forms quality images in small file sizes. Using this format is beneficial because it keeps file sizes small and it is supported universally.

3. Properly Name the Image 

Ideally, the file name of the image includes focus keywords and is “readable.” For example, “pharmacy-major.png” is better than something like “12590rxioje.png”.

When going back and optimizing an existing site, changing the file name is a bit tedious. You need to download the image, rename it, and then upload the new file. Then, you need to find every page where that image was used and replace it with the new file.

If you have ScreamingFrog (a tool that allows you to crawl websites), you can find the original image in the crawl results and see which pages it was used on.

4. Pay Attention to Image Size/Compression

Page speed is an important SEO factor. If really big images are uploaded that have to be scaled in the browser when the page is rendered, this slows the load time. So, images should be uploaded at the largest size they are used (obviously, they’ll need to scale down for mobile devices, but they shouldn’t have to scale down much for a regular browser).

The process of downloading the image, figuring out the correct size, resizing, and then reuploading is a huge pain. You don’t do this for your website unless page speed is a big issue (but definitely do it with images as you move forward). Instead, just focus on compression. The simplest thing to do is install an image compression plugin like Tiny PNG. If you do the free version, you may not be able to compress all existing images at once, so you’ll need to come back a few times and run the compression.

5. Write Alt Tags

The minimum level of optimization needed is an alt tag for each image. Alt tags should first and foremost describe the image. If possible, they should also include the focus keyword of the page where they are placed. Use the focus keyword only if it actually makes sense for the image. For example, if it’s a stock image of a group of students around a table, you wouldn’t want to simply label it “pharmacy jobs,” even if that’s the focus keyword of the page. You could write something like “group of students interested in pharmacy jobs.”

For simplicity in WordPress, the “Yoast SEO” plugin can be a pig help. Use the panel on each page and/or blog post to see what the focus keyword for the page is. However, Visual Composer doesn’t allow you to set the alt tag right on the page, so you’ll need to look at the page, then go back to the Media Library to set the alt tag. If an image is used on multiple pages, try to use simple keywords like “pharmacy” or “career” somewhere in the tag (where it makes sense), since those words are part of the most important phrases.

Remember, alt tags should be less than 100 characters (give or take). Also, they do not need to be complete sentences.

To set alt tags from the Media Editor in WordPress:

  1. Log into the WordPress backend
  2. Click on “Media” in the left-navigation
  3. Click on an image
  4. Enter the tag in the “Alt Text” field
  5. Click the “X” button to close the dialog box

How can District Marketers help?

Looking to optimize website images as part of your overall SEO strategy? Contact us today!

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