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How do images optimise your website? I thought SEO was all about keywords and stuff?

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Stay with me. Keywords ARE very important, and are a part of how you can use images to optimise your website for search engine rankings. But first, let’s chat images for a while.

Why images are important on your website

As the old adage goes:

“a picture is worth a thousand words…”

and relevant, high quality images are invaluable for representing your brand, helping to attract, engage and communicate quickly with your website visitors.

A large body of research supports the belief that visual cues help us to better retrieve and remember information. According to Psychology Today: “…our brain is mainly an image processor (much of our sensory cortex is devoted to vision), not a word processor. In fact, the part of the brain used to process words is quite small in comparison to the part that processes visual images.”

And according to researched complied by 3M – the corporation behind Post-it Notes – visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text.

As well as supporting text on a screen, visuals are also helpful for breaking up the text, providing our eyes and brains with visual changes that help keep us engaged.

Think of a time you were confronted with a big slab of text on the screen, versus one that was inter spliced with interesting, relevant images. Which would you rather spend the time on?

We tend to skim read online.

And “writing for the web” best practices encourage using lots of white space, and breaking up your text to make it easier for readers to scan and read.

 

If you would like to learn more about how to optimise your website for search engines, check out our Introduction to SEO Best Practices training workshop in Adelaide.

 

How to get images for your website and online marketing

It is essential to remember that you must have permission to use images on your website or online marketing! Just because something is on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s freely available for you to use (despite what Google’s “usage” might say).

The main options for sourcing images for your website are:

Create your own

We are pretty spoiled by technology these days, and regularly hold very powerful cameras in our hands (clue: it’s your mobile). If you have the confidence and skills, you may be able to take some of your own images for your website and social media marketing, but make sure they are still good quality images.

If you can’t, hire someone to take photos for you!

While this might seem like an expensive exercise, I’ve found the best approach is to invest in a 2 hour to full day shoot with a photographer who suits your style, needs and budget.

Think of ALL the possible images you might need for your website and digital marketing, and get your own suite of photos taken.

These might include:

  • Exterior of your building
  • Interior of your building
  • Individual team member photos
  • Group photos
  • Photos of your products
  • Photos of your services
  • General images related to your products and services

Put together a shot list and make sure you have everything and everyone ready to make the most of the photographer’s time.

Also make sure you are very clear about how you want to use the images, and confirm with the photographer that you have permission to use them, and whether you are required to credit them.

Stock images – paid or free

There are a number of stock image sites where you can either pay per image, or sign up for a subscription to download regular images.

While stock photos can often look quite “stocky”, paid photos are often better quality, and used less than free stock images, making them seem more unique (though it’s important to understand that they are not, and could appear in other organisation’s marketing).

Reputable paid stock image sites include:

There are also a number of free stock image sites, where you can download images for free. Though I have heard stories of some images appearing on here without permission and the end user being held accountable for copyright, so be wary.

Free stock image sites are also very popular, and can be a little limited, so it’s important to know that you may see “your” image in many other places…

Free stock image sites include:

Creative Commons

Some lovely photographers make their images available through Creative Commons, with various parameters regarding use, for example commercial use may be allowed providing attribution is provided (crediting the photographer).

User generated photography website Flickr uses Creative Commons.

 

So, there are a few ways you can source images for your website and digital marketing, now let’s look at how you can use them to optimise your website!

How to use images to optimise your website for search engines

There are three main aspects to consider when using images to optimise your website for search engines:

1. Resize your images to the size they need to be for your website

This is a personal bugbear of mine. Seeing images uploaded to a website that are FAR LARGER than they need to be!

There are a number of reasons why large images are BAD:

  1. They take a long time to load on your website, creating a bad user experience
  2. They take up more of your hosting space; and if you have a limited space on your hosting plan, this could become an issue, or cost you more.
  3. They use up more of your hosting bandwidth; you may not be aware, but most hosting plans also come with a monthly “bandwidth” limit, which is how much data it will “load” during the month. Large images use up more bandwidth and may find you reaching or exceeding your limit, which can result in issues with site performance, or cost you more.

All good reasons to keep your images the size they need to be, right!?

The most important one to keep in mind is SPEED.

Website visitors don’t like slow loading websites, and search engines don’t like slow loading websites.

According to Google53% of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.

And let’s face it, you probably hate slow loading websites too!

So:

Figure out how large your images need to be for your website

You website should have an overall template or design, that uses standard image sizes for different types of images, e.g.

  • header images
  • images within your page’s content
  • product images
  • profile images

etc

Figure out what these image sizes are, document them, and use them as standard for your images.

Web image dimensions are measured in pixels, and the standard format is width x height, for example: 880 pixels wide x 328 pixels high (or 880 x 328).

You can find out your images dimensions by:

  • Review previous images uploaded to your website (if possible)
  • Using the Google Chrome browser, right clicking on an image, choosing “Inspect” and scanning the code for the image dimensions
  • Ask your website designer or developer to let you know what the main image types and dimensions are

Option 1: Resize your images before uploading them to your website

Like I mentioned earlier, we carry very powerful cameras in our pockets that take high resolution photos, much larger than what we need for our websites in some instances.

So to make sure your website is fast-loading, and you’re not using up more of your hosting space than you need to, resize your images to the dimensions they need to be (as you figured out in the previous step).

One thing to keep in mind with this resizing though is retina display.

Retina display is a marketing term developed by Apple to refer to devices and monitors that have a higher than “normal” resolution and pixel density.

Typically “screen resolution” is 72dpi (dots per inch), however many devices now show images and twice that, or even more.

To keep your images looking good quality across devices, without making them TOO large, I tend to use 150dpi.

As a rule of thumb, you should also try and keep your web image file sizes at less than 200-300KB (though this will depend on the overall size of the image).

If you don’t have access to image editing software like Adobe Photoshop, there are some other tools you can use such as the nifty online tool webresizer.com which resizes images specifically for online use.

Option 2: Or resize your images after you have uploaded them to your website (if possible with your website)

If you have already uploaded large images to your website, you may be able to resize them.

Some website content management systems – such as WordPress – include some basic image editing, including cropping and resizing.

Once you know your image sizes, you can go through your media library and resize images to their required dimensions.

2. Use keywords in the filename

While machine learning is allowing software to start recognising the visual content of images, search engine spiders still rely on the text content related to an image to determine what it is about.

So rather than uploading images to your website with the default filename, such as IMG12345.jpg – take a little time to re-name your image files to describe the image itself, while also featuring keywords relevant to their topic, your website and/or products/services.

For example, if it’s a product photo of a green cat collar, call the file: green-cat-collar.jpg

This way, it describes what it is, and search engines have more context for the image and the page it appears on.

And yes, separate words with hyphens, so they can be crawled and indexed individually, rather than greencatcollar.jpg as one word.

An added bonus, is that if you use this method to name your files, it is MUCH easier to search for images in the future in your website’s media library (if your website saves uploaded images for future use).

How to optimise your website using images
An example of optimised filenames and Alt Text for images in WordPress websites.

3. Use keywords in the alt text

In addition to using keywords in the filename, you can also use keywords in the Alt Text.

Alt Text stands for alternative text and traditionally has two main purposes:

  1. Back in the day (we’re talking dial up internet), when we used to turn images off in our browsers to load pages faster, the Alt Text would describe the image, and we could decide whether to “turn on” that image.
  2. Nowadays, it is more commonly used for accessibility, for example people with vision impairment may use a screen reader to “read” the web page to the, and it reads this description of the image.

Accessibility is a great reason itself to use Alt Text, but an added bonus is that it provides more context to search engine spiders about your content, and can assist with rankings for your keywords.

 

I know it takes a little more time, but those three little tips can have a BIG impact on providing your website visitors with a positive experience, AND may assist with your search engine rankings.

Let’s get optimising!

 

If you would like to learn more about how to optimise your website for search engines, check out our Introduction to SEO Best Practices training workshop in Adelaide.

Erica Stacey

Erica is a Google Analytics and Google Ads certified professional, so you’re in qualified hands. Erica has had over a decade of experience – working for agencies and a wide range of clients – in digital and social media marketing strategy, website development, search engine optimisation (SEO) and marketing (SEM), content marketing, inbound marketing, online advertising and so much more. A professional in the field of design, branding and marketing, she is a trusted name in the South Australian and online community to help an array of businesses sort out and achieve their marketing objectives.

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