Image optimization is the process of creating and delivering high-quality images in the ideal format, size, and resolution to increase user engagement. It also involves accurately labeling images so search engine crawlers can read them and understand page context.
According to HTTP Archive, images made up on average 21% of a total web page’s weight as of November 2018. Because images consume more bytes than any other part of a website, their size and complexity heavily influence site performance.
If you reduce the size of images without compromising quality, page load times improve and, subsequently, the experience of website visitors does too. An Aberdeen Group study shows that a one-second delay in load time equals a 7% drop in conversions, and that around 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.
Improved user experience and interactions with your site have a positive impact on search engine rankings, which further improves customer engagement, conversions, and customer retention.
What’s more, when optimized images take up less storage space on your server, site backups will be completed more quickly.
1. Resize your images
Image size and file size are not the same thing. Images with higher resolution and larger dimensions (often created with a professional camera) slow your page load times considerably. While they work well for print reproduction, you need to scale down the file size without losing too much quality for them to work well on the web.
2. Optimize image file names
Choosing the right file name is important for your page SEO and for ranking in image search results. Before uploading any image, name the file with relevant, descriptive keywords to get the most SEO power.
3. Use alt tags
Viewers may understand what a picture is about, but search engine spiders still need clues. Without alternative text, it’s impossible for search engines to accurately index your image content. A good alt tag provides context and helps visually impaired users too. Even when images aren’t loading because of a glitch, search engines can still read the alternative text to help rank a page. Brand-relevant words can be included here to boost visibility. Just avoid keyword stuffing.
4. Optimize the image title
If you use WordPress, the image title is usually taken from the name of the file so you can sometimes leave it as it is. If you don’t use WordPress or the title doesn’t explain the image, rename it with the appropriate keywords in the same way as file names.
5. Include captions
Image captions – the words directly beneath images – may not have a direct impact on SEO, but, unlike file names and alt text, captions are visible on a website page. For this reason, they can add to the user experience.
6. Use unique images
Using stock photos is fine, but they won’t necessarily help your search rankings, as other websites often use the same images. In the same way that unique written content is better for SEO, it’s a good idea to upload unique images whenever possible.
7. Ensure that your text complements the images
The copy on the page can help search engines determine the relevancy of your images. If it doesn’t include enough information to explain an image, add more relevant text, and describe the image if possible.
8. Add image structured data
Adding structured data to your pages helps search engines display your images as rich results. Google Images supports structured data for product images, videos, and recipes. For example, if you have recipes on your site and you add structured data to your images, Google can add a badge to your image showing that it belongs to a recipe.
9. Use site maps
Site maps are an important part of SEO because they tell search engines about all the pages of your site. To ensure that search engine crawlers notice every image – an infographic, meme, photo, video thumbnail, etc. – include them in your site map.
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