It may not always be easy, but there are many advantages to using images on your website. Aside of the SEO benefits, having pictures and graphics on your website makes it look more interesting and appealing. If visitors find your site from a search engine and come across endless blocks of bland text, they aren’t likely to stay for long. Even technical subjects can benefit from diagrams and illustrations to make them more entertaining and easier to understand. Good color selection, layout and font choice are all important in web page creation, but images can really add the wow factor.
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The SEO Benefits Of Images
Don’t assume that everyone searches the Internet using keywords and phrases. Millions of users go straight to Google Images and other visual search tools to find what they’re looking for. By clicking on an image the searcher is taken to the source website on which it’s published, and this can be a highly effective source of traffic. For example, let’s say I’m interested in searching for a specific hotel for a vacation. I might want to have a look at some pictures initially, and once I like what I see I’ll click through for details. This can apply to very specific products or to more general search terms like ‘landscape photography.
I’ve found that using images can be an easy way to beat the competition to a top spot in searches. Others may be focussing efforts on optimizing sites for keywords, writing articles and using more traditional SEO methods. If you are one of the few using images, or if you can find more creative ways to use them, you can often generate far more traffic. Images are also effective for abstract and long tail searches. For example, you could use a photograph of a stack of dollar bills to generate traffic for searches such as ‘make money online’ and ‘how to win the lottery.’
In technical terms search engines can’t actually ‘see’ images, but you can use HTML descriptions and captions to make their presence known. As with anything in SEO there’s always a balance, so don’t try to create a site based purely on visual content. Pages with evenly spaced paragraphs of text with interesting visual in between are both easy on the eye and effective from an SEO perspective.
Optimizing Images For The Web
Depending on how you build your webpages, there are various ways to insert and optimize images. I use WordPress for my sites, and there are some great tools to make this really easy. As always, I suggest avoiding any ‘blackhat’ methods when optimizing images. It’s actually quite easy if you stick to the basic rules, so there’s no need to take risks to try to win an advantage.
As well as crawling the text on your web pages, search engines also scan the names of your image files. If you upload an image and leave the file name as ‘DSC00444’ it has no value for SEO. Changing the name to include relevant keywords to your site is the easy way to fix this. For example, the ‘DSC00444’ file might become ‘Action Shot Taken With Nikon D7000 Digital Camera.’ A quick word of warning here, don’t try to stuff keywords into an image description or you could get penalized. Use plain English and avoid titles like ‘Cheap digital cameras Nikon D7000 D90 D810 best digital camera best price for Nikon.’
Always consider the user experience when adding images to your web pages. This is even more important when it comes to visitors using smartphones and tablets. I’ve read lots of research about the potential harm it can have if your pages take more than 3 seconds to load. Big companies like Amazon take this very seriously, and calculate that they can lose millions of dollars if a page takes just one or two seconds more to load. I try to keep my images smaller than 75K for this reason. Yes this can impact the quality, but it means I can be pretty confident every visitor gets to see my pages.
Photoshop has a ‘Save for Web’ feature which allows you to save images at a size suitable for adding to your sites without impacting speed of navigation. If you don’t have this software you can use free online image editing tools such as FotoFlexer and Pixlr.
A question I’m often asked is what file format is best for images for the web. Personally I prefer JPEG for photographs, as the range of tones and colors is great for the size of the files. GIF files are fine foe icons and logos, but they are lower quality and don’t capture the detail you need for photographs.
Where Can You Source Images?
As a keen photographer, I often use my own pictures on my webpages. This is fine for most subjects, but of course it isn’t always practical if you need something like a shot of The Eiffel Tower. Never be tempted to copy a photograph from Google Images or use it on your website. This a clear breach of copyright and could land you in serious trouble.
Buying images from stock sites like Shutterstock is a great way to add some attractive photographs and graphics to your website. There are millions of pictures available covering just about every subject you can imagine. There’s a cost involved of course, but the investment is worth it if you want to make your site stand out from the crowd. Always check when you buy an image what rights you’ve purchased and if you can use it on the web.
There are plenty of loyalty and ‘Free License’ images to use if you know where to look. You can filter Google Image searches to look for these, and you’ll find thousands available. Again, always check that you can use these images on commercial websites before downloading them.
How Else Can I Use Images?
One of the buzz phrases in online marketing this year has been ‘repurposing content.’ This means sharing and distributing content across social media and other platforms to get the most use from it. Photographs and images are perfect for this. Any pictures you add to your main site can be repurposed on blogs, added to Facebook pages and uploaded to your Instagram account. Marketing with visual media has become huge recently, and there are lots of great tools and sites to help you to do this. A single image could be used to attract thousands of visitors to your site.