A picture can say a thousand words…and it gets clicked on too. With Google showing images and videos in high ranking positions through its universal search it’s time to look at how you can make sure your content appears in these positions.
Without a doubt, making your images pop up in image search results can be a very powerful tactic for generating traffic as, for example, people attempting to find a product picture can discover it on your website. For image-rich websites such as ecommerce websites especially image optimisation is must-to-do if they want to create a successful online business.
So following on from Harry’s blog post which explained why it’s important to use pictures, my blog post will show you how to optimise your images to increase the traffic coming to your website.
If there is something that Google can’t do (yet) it is reading images. They can pattern match colours and find similar images but are not totally accurate at determining the content of an image. So if you want to be a friend with Google then offer him help and create descriptions for every image on your website.
Alt tag – Image Description
An Alt tag is the key element when it comes to image optimisation as it provides a description to help the search engines establish the content or subject of your image. If this doesn’t convince you enough to create an Alt tag for every image then this might: remember that image descriptions are vital for users too. Alt tags help your visitors understand the content of the image if they can’t view the image.
Here’s an example of a well-optimised Alt tag (taken from Asos):
The Alt Tag for the above picture:
Make sure that every image on your website has a unique Alt tag that contains the target keyword and a short description of the image.
Here is how your full image source code should look like:
<img src=”where your image is saved” alt=”Target keyword (product name) and a short description”/>
Alt Tag Guidelines
- Be descriptive and use plain English
- Include your key term but avoid keyword stuffing (e.g. “Buy blue shoes now cheap best price on sale”)
- If your products have serial/model numbers do use them
If you think that file name of your image has no power you’re wrong. Using descriptive file names you can help search engines identify the content of your image. So forget about giving your images pointless names such as ‘DSC0058.jpg’ or picture1.jpg. Instead you should use a descriptive name that is not generic.
For example, ‘blue shoes’ wouldn’t be a good file name for the above shoes from Asos as there are many images with such generic names.
File Name Guidelines:
Think of what your customers would type into the search box. The power of Google Analytics comes into play here; check what phrases bought visitors to your website. Google Keyword Tool or your own search box analytics can help here too.
- Be descriptive and use plain English
- Include keyword in your file name but don’t overdo it
- Use hyphens to split the words; avoid using other separators such as underscores or other signs (e.g. + ; /; etc)
- Go for a shorter name rather than a longer one (4-5 words at max)
As you may already know page load time is now considered an important ranking factor and Google in particular are very keen on ensuring that the user experience is not affected by a slow loading website.
In addition, a slow page load can actually cost you; for example Amazon reported that if their page loaded just one second slower they could easily lose $1.6 billion in sales every year.
In this case, size really does matter when it comes to images and optimising the size of your images can have a positive impact on site speed.
Rule of thumb – Avoid using high resolution images and don’t upload images and then scale them by setting the width and height in HTML source code as it will waste your bandwidth. Always optimise first and then upload only images which are good in quality and low in size.
To check whether the images make your website slower; you can use free tools such as Pingdom or Google PageSpeed Insight. If you see any images over 20Kb have a look if you could decrease the size without sacrificing the image quality.
XML and Image Sitemaps
In order to make your images appear in Google Image Search they need to be first indexed. You can easily find out whether your images have been indexed by doing a site search for your domain name (site: yourdomain) in www.images.google.com
If, for some reason you can’t see your key product images you should perform the following checks:
- Check every image has its size dimension (width and height) defined in the HTML
- Do the same for the ‘Alt tag’
- Check your robots file to see if the image sub directory as well as the relevant page isn’t blocked from crawling
Another useful option to ‘let Google know’ about your images is via XML Sitemap.
Having an XML Sitemap for your website is a no-brainer as it shows Google and other search engines all of your important pages. It helps improve the efficiency of the crawl process and ensures all of the important pages are indexed.
Therefore, to make sure that your images show up in Google Image Search you can add the image information within a Sitemap, which in turn can improve your traffic volumes.
There are two ways to provide image information to Google:
Current XML Sitemap
You can provide image information to Google in your existing XML sitemap where you can include up to 1,000 images for each page.
The tag that tells Google everything about your image <image:image> as well as the image ULR tag <image:loc> are both required. In addition, you can add more tags such as geo or caption tags and more. For the full list see Google’s page on Image Sitemaps.
Separate Image Sitemap
The second option is to create a specialised sitemap for images. Here’s a list of tools which will generate a sitemap for you. If you run a WordPress site you can install a plugin (e.g. Google XML Sitemap for Images) which will create the specialised Image sitemap for you.
Here’s an example how simple Image Sitemap can look like:
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
How to check Image Search Traffic in Google Analytics
So you’ve done the hard work and all of your images are fully optimised. Now it’s time to check the traffic images bring to your website. You can find image search traffic under referral sites.
Here’s a quick way to do this with the help of an advance segment created by John Doherty.
This segment will show you the traffic your website is getting through Google Image search results, separated from organic traffic so you can easily monitor image traffic trends.
Off Site Optimisation – Photo Sharing Site
Flickr is one of the best photo sharing sites and you should therefore create an account and add your images. However uploading images is not enough; every image should be optimised for SEO and traffic generation.
When uploading images to your Flickr account ensure that every image/photo:
- Has an optimised title
- Keyword-rich tags
- A unique description that includes your targeted term and a link back to your site. Although these links are automatically nofollowed they are still valuable
Link Building With Flickr
Flickr can also be used in your link building strategy. If you own your images (you created them) you can upload them with Creative Common rights. This will allow your images to be shared in return for having your business mentioned with a link back to your site.
Here’s how this tactic works:
Upload your image with Creative Common rights and follow all of the above optimisation tips for Flickr images. After your image description include a short note telling users to give you a credit back when using it.
This note can look something like this:
Feel free to use this image for your page or blog post as long as you include an image credit with a clickable (hyperlinked) and followed link to <a href=”https://yourdomain.com/”>yourdomain</a>
This is a very useful tactic to showcase your images and make them easy for bloggers to use them in the process.
There are other photo sharing platform you can use once you’ve optimised your Flickr profile; these include:
Having an active account on Pinterest is another must-do in order to get your images noticed. As with Flickr, the optimisation process of your every image/pin is crucial; here’re some useful tips for your pinning strategy:
- Image/Pin Description – Dan Zarrella’s research showed that the length of your pin description matters. So although you have 500 characters to use; the 200-characters descriptions are most successful when it comes to a number of repins your image can receive.
- Image name and title – As I mentioned earlier in the post, file names and image titles need to be optimised so if you want your images to be found by users; don’t be lazy and instead give your images/pins a proper name and title, keyword-rich of course.
- The same goes for image size, however in this case the chance of your image getting repined depends on the height. Dan’s analysis discovered that taller images will get you more repins than shorter ones.
- When pinning you can either choose to upload an image from your PC or from a website. If you choose to upload it make sure you hit the edit button and add a link. Again, these links are nofollow but, repins and likes of your pins are further chances for you to get more traffic.
Don’t forget about your Google+ profile; upload and share images of your product pictures but always remember to include compelling descriptions which will encourage your followers to share it or +1-it.
Using both a mixture of on-site and off-site activities gives you the highest chance of getting your images seen and people being drawn back to your website. Remember that links are not always the goal, traffic and conversions are.
Collage Solar from Bigstock