Using images on your website enhances user experience, and if done correctly, can also be a great way to increase search traffic to your site. Image optimization is an important SEO practice that can help search engines find and correctly index your site, producing listings of your site in search results relevant to your material. Some of the best practices for optimizing images include:
- Give your images descriptive, informative names – The name of the image should describe the topic of the image. For example, rather than: river.png, let the file name more accurately describe the image: frozen-delaware-river-winter-2014.png. Use dashes to separate words in the file name.
- Use the alt tag – The alt tag should be used to clearly describe the image, keeping in mind the context on the page it is used. Think of how you would describe the image to someone who could not see it and use this description in the alt tag. The tag should not be written as a narrative story, but just a brief description. Also take care not to overload the alt tag with keywords as this can result in the search engine interpreting your site as spam.
- Define the height or width for your image in your <img> tag – Layout permitting, defining the height or width of your image allows the page to load faster. The browser will know the size of your image and can continue to place content on the page while the image loads. Without the height or width defined the page has to wait for the image to load before it can continue to put other content on the page.
- Page Content – The content on the web page around the image should be relevant to the image, enhancing the topic. Image captions and descriptive titles also help.
Once your images are optimized, create an image sitemap. You can create a sitemap by hand with XML or use a third party tool. An image sitemap provides metadata using image specific tags and gives additional information about the important images on your site to search engines, helping the search engine discover and index the images. Google provides an example and description of these image specific tags.
Optimizing your images and following these best practices will improve your website and help with search engine ranking, bringing more traffic to your business.