Having pictures and videos on your page is crucial. Readers are more likely to remember information that is presented to them in picture format and photos increase dwell time on your page. Dwell time, as you can probably guess, is the amount of time that people spend on your page. This is important for Search Engine Optimization because the longer the dwell time, the higher the page is ranked on the results page of a search engine. Images themselves can also be optimized for search engines. Yoast’s article on image SEO, is a bit dense for beginners so we will simplify some of the most important tips here.
The Perfect Picture
Unlike the picture for this article, your image should be relevant to your post. Although pictures of kittens are cute, readers may feel cheated if you can’t deliver the “aww” factor they were looking for. Any diagrams, photos, or videos should serve to enhance your point, not distract from it. You may be tempted just to slap a stock photo in your article, just for the sake of having a picture, but this is not the greatest idea. Stock photos are boring and impersonal. Try to use your own high-quality photos, if you can. If not, try and use stock photos that are engaging rather than boring.
Use Your Words
Search engine crawlers have access to a behind-the-scenes layer of information that goes unseen to readers. Search engines use this information to rank results. Computers can’t see pictures the way we do (yet), so we have to describe them. The first way to do this is, admittedly, a bit of a drag, but will help you and the crawlers. When you transfer images from your smartphone or computer, the filename is usually a number. “1286.jpg” doesn’t help you, or the search engine, know what’s inside the file. File names should be brief and descriptive such as, “cupofkittens.jpg”.
ALT Text Is Your Friend
ALT text is another way to tell search engines, and people, what your picture is about. When people who are visually impaired use the internet, the text on the page is read to them via computer. Unfortunately, the computer doesn’t have the imagination to describe the picture in the same way a human would. In order to make sure that the visually impaired can enjoy your website, use ALT text to describe the image. Good ALT text also helps crawlers know what the image depicts, which can help you get to the top of the search engine results page. The alt text for the picture above is “Two adorably tiny precious kittens sitting in coffee mugs.” In an SEJ.com article about optimizing photos, Jean Dion stated,
“Verbosity might be your friend here, if it helps your readers to understand what the image is about.”
Descriptions AKA The Title Tag
According to Yoast’s article on images, the title tag is a good place for “nonessential information.” While it might not be vital for Search Engine Optimization, the proper use of the title tag is vital for your successful integration with social media platforms. Jean Dion notes in her article that the title tag contains the words which are displayed when Pinterest users pin your image. Title text is also the little box of information you see when you hold your mouse over a picture. Unlike ALT text, these descriptions should be succinct i.e. “kittens in mugs.” Be sure to check out Yoast’s ALT text and title tag article for more in-depth information.
The use of captions isn’t just for witty Instagrammers. The combination of useful images with helpful captions arguably makes or breaks an article. Crawlers move through a page similar to a college student. They quickly skim for titles, headers, hyperlinks, images, etc. in order to get a general understanding of what the page is about. It’s important that the items that make up this summary are an accurate depiction of the content. Students and crawlers aren’t the only ones guilty of skimming. In 2012 KissMetric wrote that
“Captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself, not using them, or not using them correctly, means missing out on an opportunity to engage a huge number of potential readers.”
Until computers catch up with us, we’ll have to continue to do some of the hard labor ourselves. Luckily, there are hosting services, such as WordPress which simplify optimizing your images. For those of you brave souls who do the coding themselves, there are plenty of tutorials like this one from w3schools to help you along the way. Please feel free to leave a comment, we’d be happy to answer any questions!