5 tips for optimising your images for the search engines

If you’ve ever been driving down the road and decided to take the longer, scenic route instead of the shorter and more obvious way home, you will be able to appreciate the magic of online images.

Images are very much the ‘scenery’ of your website, helping to create important emotions and experiences. However, it is precisely because of this that you should also carefully consider how your site’s images can be optimised from both a search engine crawler and user experience perspective.

Here are just some of the tips that I would suggest as your chosen freelance web designer.

1. Select appropriate images

From the point of view of the human user, it is crucial to only add an image that is relevant to the page on which it is placed. Simply having an image on the page for the sake of having something there is a bad idea.

If the image that you choose doesn’t feel relevant to the given page or feels out of place, your visitors may be confused by the mixed messaging. This, in turn, can drive up your pages’ bounce rates, which is detrimental to your SEO.

2. Reduce the size of your images

In today’s increasingly impatient society, your site’s rankings could suffer if its pages take longer than two seconds to load.

Unfortunately, large image file sizes can be a major contributor to slow page loading times. The good news is that there are many ways you can compress your images before uploading them, including through the use of WordPress plugins such as WP Smush and Kraken Image Optimiser.

3. Incorporate keywords into image names

Search engine spiders can only technically read the text on your page, rather than your images. However, this doesn’t mean images are completely invisible to such crawlers – it simply means they are forced to look for text-based descriptions to make sense of any images.

This is why you should always give each image on your site a name that crawlers can understand. Google has some interesting guidance on image filenames, but at the very least, each of those on your site should contain one or several keywords.

4. Include captions with your images

A caption is the short piece of text that you sometimes see directly below an image, and which quickly explains what that image is about.

Captions can be instrumental in SEO, given that webpage text tends to be scanned rather than read in a conventional manner. Captions therefore enable readers to ‘scan’ images quickly without having to stop to make sense of what they are seeing.

The use of engaging captions for your images helps to convince visitors to stay on your pages – and it’s worth remembering that both time spent on page and bounce rate are considered by Google’s algorithm that is responsible for determining your site’s search engine performance.

5. Host images on your own servers

Dedicated image hosting sites like Imgur and Postimage have enjoyed great popularity in recent years, with some online business owners even deciding to free up space on their own servers by hosting their website’s images on such platforms.

However, doing this also means you are putting your site’s images at the mercy of others. In the event of any vital images of yours being deleted without warning, ‘Photo Not Available’ errors may pop up in their place on your site.

For those who really do want to achieve the best possible rankings for their site, it’s therefore difficult to see a better option than hosting their images on their own servers.

Images are far from merely decorative ‘optional extras’ on your site, so they shouldn’t be treated as such. Optimise your images for both human users and search engine crawlers in close collaboration with the right freelance web designer, and you will be able to enjoy much-improved SEO performance from them.

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