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Use SEO for Images to Boost Results Even More

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Using SEO for images is both simple and effective, although it isn’t the most important step in growing search engine optimization.

Document titles, meta descriptions, article headlines and text within the article all help search engines understand the topic of the page and article. Images in an article have their own important signals to a somewhat lesser extent.

The majority of traffic from a search engine to a website comes from keyword searches in a text-driven database. The major search engines also have image databases. They also can send traffic to a site; just not as much as the text indexes.

Still, it pays to pay attention to images both for sending the right signals and for attracting visits from image databases.

4 Image SEO Signals

An image has three potential options to use a naming convention of some kind — the image file name, the image alternative text (also known as the alt tag) and the image title.

A fourth but somewhat separate opportunity exists with the caption. It is the text description of the image that usually appears below it.

The wise way of using SEO for images is by having a set of keywords already identified for the article’s title, headline, meta description and body.

Those keywords and variations on them will be used in the four opportunities identified above.

Image SEO Benefits

Again, optimizing images for SEO attracts visitors to a site in two major ways: article subject and clicks from image databases.

The tags tell a search engine more about a page’s topic and allow the spiders to provide more relevant rankings based on keyword searches.

But the image tag shouldn’t be a generic description of the article. It should be a highly specific description of the image and its relevence to the article.

An article about “red widgets” won’t get extra love from search engines if that keyword phrase appears in just the image file name and nowhere else.  The image creates another opportunity to emphasize specific aspects of the topic that may draw searchers targeting that longer tail keyword phrase.

Be Specific

If the image file name is “German red widgets” and a paragraph next to it talks about “German red widgets”, the search engines now have two highly specific signals rather than one.

Search engines may now index the image and make it more easily searchable using the three-word search phrase rather than the more generic two-word phrase. Instead of competing with what may be thousands of images via the two-word phrase, it may now compete with only hundreds or even dozens.

Just like documents, the images are indexed based on what the spiders can detect about them: file name, alt tag, title and caption.

Visitors to the image databases usually just want to view or borrow (ahem) the images. But they also can click on the images to see them on their landing pages.

Image traffic is small compared to search engine traffic and depends in part on how many images the search engines have indexed and other factors. But in an intensely competitive online environment, sites usually appreciate the extra traffic. Photo intensive sites will get the greatest benefit.

Image File Name

The image file name is the simple first step in having an impact on how the page is indexed by search engines.

The file name should use words that have some keyword relationship with the rest of the article. Two words in the file name are better than one, and three are better than two.

Like everything else in SEO, the more specific the keyword, the more narrow the audience, but also the higher the chances of getting a response.

Trying to name an image file with more than two or three words is often impractical.

Alt Tag SEO

Next is the alt tag, which appears as “alt=’keywords’ ” in the code for the image that appears on the page. Most content management systems have an option to add the alt tag.

The alt tag space allows more room to play with keywords. It presents an opportunity to use synonyms that complement the file name. It also allows more room for extra words beyond the two or three in the file name.

Keyword stuffing from too many keywords will trigger a penalty. So make sure to use variations on the keyword rather than repeating the same one, especially if it appears elsewhere in the article.

Image Title

Now for one that probably has little to no impact on SEO at all — the image title, which appears in the image path as “title=’title of image'”.

The title’s purpose is less for search engines than for users. Although it offers another chance at optimizing the image for SEO, the file name and alt tag should give them plenty to use.

When a site visitor runs the cursor over an image that has a title, a small yellow box is displayed that contains the title. It may be a repeat of the alt tag or some other text such as a navigation tip.

An example of title text that is something other than a simple description is found on Google itself. Wave a cursor over the Google logo inside the site. The yellow title box will say “Go to Google Home.” The logo is linked back to the home page.

Image Caption

The fourth opportunity for impacting the image SEO is with the caption if one exists. Captions usually appear under the image and offer extra information about the image.

The reason for using a caption is the Google Images directory. Go to Google and click on Images at the top. Do a search on a keyword to bring up related images.

Google Images indexes graphics based on the image name, alt tag and relevant contextual keywords in any text near the image. The closest text is the caption.

When the images have been processes, check the total number of keywords repeated from the images, title, meta description, headline and article body. Make sure the same keywords don’t appear too often.

One Response to “Use SEO for Images to Boost Results Even More”

  1. Photo Kitch Says:

    Image optimization is something I’ve been pretty lazy with, but I’m definitely going to make more of any effort to go thru my site and optimize images as much as possible. WIll be interesting to see the results

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