Images give readers a break from the text. They also help shape important mental connections to the products and services you offer in the minds of your customers. But that doesn’t mean you should pick the first image that pops up in a web search. Just like keywords, content, and other site data, images need to be optimized. But before you jump over into Photoshop and start trying to refine the quality of your images, let me explain what I mean.
Use simple English to name every one of your images
Google doesn’t just search for keywords in your site, it’ll actually go as far as the file name. Look at the keywords you’ve identified as relevant to your business; why name images as “Photo-1” when you can use keywords that will boost your traffic?
As an example, I’ll be using this picture that I took in Los Angeles:
Use effective Alt Tags
What are Alt Tags? They’re the text that the browser displays when it can’t display the image. This text is also visible when you hover over an image. These tags are absolutely crucial in leading search engines to your image, because they associate keywords with images. Consumers will look at not only organic results but also images, making them a helpful asset.
This is what the image alt tag looks like:
Every image on your website should have an alt tag. There’s no reason it wouldn’t have on. It’s like throwing money out the door!
Follow these rules for alt tags:
- Use simple English, same as for your image names.
- Don’t omit model numbers of products
- Alt tags are not keywords, and should only describe the image.
- Alt tags should only be made for relevant images, and not things like decorative banners or images.
Work with small file sizes
People are impatient. They won’t wait for your site longer than they find convenient regardless of how high quality your content is, and as someone trying to appeal to consumers, recognize this. That means your website needs to be as streamlined and quick as possible. In fact, Google factors in load time when calculating a site’s ranking.
If you’re filling up a site page with large image files, it’s going to take well over a few seconds to load it. Those few seconds of time could make a difference of millions of dollars!
If you’re using Photoshop, head over to this useful link to see how to downsize your images.
If you haven’t dished out for a Photoshop license, there’s plenty of places to find similar tools for free, such as Photoshop.com, GIMP, or PicResize.
Ideally, your photos shouldn’t be exceeding 70kb for optimum loading time.
Use the correct image types
Perhaps as important as the size of the image, is the file type of the image. The three main ones that you’ll find online are JPEG, PNG, and GIF. JPEGS are the standard image file of the Internet, and can provide impressive quality at a rather low file size. GIFs are useful for animations, but for more complex images they lose their quality. In the example below, the differences aren’t noticeable, but don’t be fooled; for large images you can see serious drops in quality. GIFs can provide outstanding quality, but they’ll require a much greater file size. The same goes for GIFs. When file size is not an issue, either of these formats can be effective. For our purposes, however, JPEG is the clear winner.
Try experimenting with different file types and seeing how your image quality transfers over. The bigger your image, the more of a difference you’ll see.
Don’t freak out about thumbnails
Thumbnails play a tiny role in the big picture of your website. They’re meant only to attract the customer into following a link, and are certainly not the focus. Keep the image sizes of your thumbnails as small as possible, compensating for quality if necessary. If your thumbnails are taking too long to load, you’ve botched all the other hard work you’ve done.
Also, focus your alt text on the primary image, not the thumbnail. If you decide to have an alt text for the thumbnail, make it different from the primary image. You want search engines to lead customers to the primary image, not the thumbnail version.
Set up Image Site Maps
If Google doesn’t know that your site has images, then it can’t effectively index them. Why not help the techs at Google out? By using this handy tool from Google itself, your images can be found more easily on the web. You can also refer to their Image Publishing guidelines, and don’t forget that this will increase the optimization of your site, for which Google has another guide.
Don’t over-do the decorations
Minimalism is in right now, and that applies tenfold when online. Decorative banners, buttons, borders, unnecessary images, and other such things will not only make your site look bulky and unappealing, but they can also significantly slow down loading times.
If you have used decorative images, make sure the file sizes are as low as possible. These images are not what’s attracting potential customers, and they shouldn’t be given priority with file size. A good idea for these images is the PNG or GIF file type. These file types can be engineered to look good and take up little space. Avoid large background images. These are rarely visible behind all the content, yet they can eat away at massive amounts of space.
Don’t rely on Content Delivery Networks
As defined by Wikipedia, a CDN is a “globally distributed network of proxy servers deployed in multiple data centers. The goal of a CDN is to serve content to end-users with high availability and high performance”. Essentially, CDNs are hosting sites that can help you free up your servers by dumping all your images on them. By doing so, you’re also removing the image from your domain, which can be dangerous when creating backlinks. After all, you want to increase traffic on your own domain, not that of a content delivery network website.
Always test your images!
Experiment with having more or fewer images on your site, playing with either faster loading times, or more clicks per page. Doing so will increase your sales, click-through rates, and the user experience.
You can also try running surveys to know exactly what your customers like to see, such as image sizes, different photo views, and so on.
Finally, using the same criteria, check to see what the ideal amount of products is for your web page.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That leaves you with quite a powerful tool. Use it wisely!