A guide to Image SEO
Images are frequently an afterthought in search engine optimisation. Nonetheless, they make up a sizeable portion of our pages. And I mean it literally: pictures are frequently the largest element in the viewport, as well as the largest resource to be loaded on the page. But also figuratively – unique, high-quality photos are a valuable commodity in search, and they will help you rank higher than competitors who utilise images from other sources.
In this post, we will go over everything you should consider when optimising pictures for search.
1. If feasible, find photos that are one-of-a-kind.
The most obvious risk of utilising someone else’s photos is that you may infringe on their copyright. In that scenario, you face a variety of penalties, ranging from being requested to remove the image to being penalised. So, if you’re not utilising original photos, double-check that the licensing enables them to be used on your website.
Google’s need for one-of-a-kind pictures is equally essential. When we search for a product or anything else, Google strives to provide as many distinct photos of that object as possible. As a result, if you have an e-commerce website and use the same product pictures as everyone else, your chances of appearing in SERPs are quite small.
2. Select appropriate picture formats
If you’re anything like me, you may have missed the moment when JPEG and PNG were no longer the default picture formats. The most popular formats now are AVIF, JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP. These formats are better at managing compression and may thus be made lighter, resulting in faster load times and an overall improved user experience. Better user experience equals higher search rankings.
Let’s start with WebP, the last of the four picture formats described above. It is widely regarded as the most universal image format for the web. It allows for both lossy and lossless compression, as well as transparency and animation. It’s essentially a mash-up of PNG, JPEG, and GIF. Furthermore, WebP files are typically 25% to 35% lighter than comparable quality PNGs and JPEGs.
The only issue is that WebP has not been supported by all browsers in the past. Although, following Safari’s adoption, the format is now supported in more than 90% of browsers. Still, if you want to be extra cautious, you may configure your sites to deliver WebP when the browser supports it and an alternative format when it does not.
3. Image compression
Even while next-generation formats are already lightweight, you can save even more by editing your photos via compression tools.
Depending on the platform of your website, you have many alternatives here. Some e-commerce systems automatically compress photos, while others have a variety of plugins that will compress your images as you submit them or even compress images that are already on your website.
If you don’t want to rely on plugins, ostensibly because plugins slow down website load times, you can compress your pictures beforehand. There are several free internet programmes available that will perform the compression for you. You may then save compressed photos to your computer and post them to your website.
Finally, you may ask your designer to compress the pictures using graphics editors.
4. Clarify image dimensions
Another factor that may have a detrimental influence on your rankings. When you skip image dimensions, the browser will spend some time attempting to figure out what size your photos should be on the screen. From the perspective of the user, the components on the page will appear to be dancing around, rendering the website useless until they settle down. This is known as layout shift, and it is assessed by Google as part of the user experience review process. To overcome this problem, always set the width and height attributes for your pictures.
With this information, any browser will determine the size of your image and reserve adequate space on the page. As a result, even if your picture does not load instantly, the other page components will not compete for space, which should address the majority of your layout shift concerns.
5. Lazy load offscreen images
Deferring offscreen pictures is another image-related lifehack that can improve user experience. It essentially implies that you do not load the pictures until they are required. The photos at the top of the page load immediately, but the ones at the bottom of the page load only when scrolled to.
This method frees up more resources for loading the top portion of the page, which the user sees first. It also provides a quantifiable sense of seeing a quicker website.
6. Include picture alt text
Alt text is an image property that includes the image’s description. Its initial intent was to be displayed when an image could not be loaded or to be read out to visually challenged visitors.
However, in terms of SEO, alt text’s function is to explain the picture to the search engine. Granted, it was more essential in the past, when search engines hadn’t the ability to analyse photos with artificial intelligence. However, the technology is far from perfect, and search engines have more confidence in presenting your photos in search results when you include meaningful alt text. A decent alt text is one that accurately describes the picture — with enough information but without keyword cramming.
7. Include Schema markup
Schema markup is a set of HTML tags that inform Google what’s on your website. If you own a local business, for example, you may use tags to inform Google which content on your page is an address, which is a phone number, and so on. This gives Google more confidence in presenting your information in search.
In terms of pictures, there are two sorts of pages where structured data makes sense: product pages and recipe pages. Both the product and recipe Schemas include picture tags.
You may manually tag the pictures on your sites, use a specialised plugin to automatically tag the images, or utilise Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
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