Image SEO

What is image SEO, and how can it benefit my business?

Whether you’re an online publisher writing articles every day or are running an ecommerce business selling electronic components, the chances are you will make use of images on almost all of your pages.

Aside from bringing an article to life and bringing in rich media to your website, images also contribute to your overall SEO efforts. Google uses images as a way for users to visually discover content on the web, and if your images are optimised in terms of quality, contextual information and user experience, they can bring additional valuable traffic to your website.

Done well, the right image can draw a user to your site in ways that traditional content results can’t. If for example a user is wanting to make a purchase on say an item of clothing, they will likely jump over to image search results to help inform their decision. This is where a high-quality image that ranks well can make a huge amount of difference.

How do search engines rank images, and what factors influence image ranking in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)?

There are a number of factors to consider when your content and developer teams are adding images to content with a view to capturing a share of the image SEO sphere. A key aspect to consider is the impact that images (and indeed other rich media) resources aren’t too big in terms of file size, as this can impact your site speed. This will not only impact your image SEO efforts but also may have an impact on overall user experience on your site. Poor load times due to heavy resources may see a drop off in conversion rates.

Additional factors include optimised and relevant image file names, title texts as well as alt attributes, a line of HTML code that describes to search engines what the image is depicting. Alt attributes also contribute to your web accessibility credentials and allow users with screen readers to interpret what the image depicts, so make sure your team are making these punchy yet descriptive.    

It’s also worth your team investing in original photography or graphic design to assist your image SEO efforts. Avoid stock photography and spend time in creating high-quality standout imagery 

What are some best practices for optimising images, and how can businesses create high-quality, visually appealing images that are also optimised for search engines?

One of the main problems that goes hand in hand with high quality, original imagery can be the file size of these images, which can slow down your site. Make sure your web or developer teams are taking steps to ensure these images are served in modern image formats such as AVIF and WebP, and are compressed in size before they’re uploaded. 

You’ll also want to consider where the imagery is placed on a given page. To increase its chances of being picked up in relevant image searches, make sure it’s near the top of the page in question, and that relevant title, captions and descriptions are inserted. 

Have your team investigate the use of Schema enhancements too, as this will increase the chance of your high-quality images appearing in rich results. This is particularly important for businesses with product pages, as rich result image packs and carousels are a great way to elevate your content over traditional search results with stand-out imagery.   

How can businesses use image SEO to improve their website’s traffic and engagement, and what metrics should they track?

While not strictly an attribution channel in its own right, image SEO should perhaps be viewed as a new channel of opportunity alongside traditional search engine results, particularly because so much user behaviour leads towards the visual. 

Plenty of third party SEO tools will allow your team to track image rankings around certain keywords and pages, and you can subsequently attribute traffic brought in by these images by their subsequent clicks and conversions using your analytics and reporting frameworks. 

Further user engagement tools can also identify how customers are interacting on your page and what part of the journey images play on this. Heat maps shown by these tools can show you how much time users are spending assessing product images (for example) and if this leads directly or indirectly to purchasing decisions.   

What are some common mistakes to avoid when optimising images for search engines, and how can they impact SEO?

Aside from not ignoring the need to ensure your images are optimised in line with site speed and performance in mind as well as the key aforementioned technical mark-up, the overarching thing to remember is the user and how images may impact their experience on your site.

Do the images look as good and work as well on mobile as they do on desktop? Keep in mind your core conversion areas of any given page – if a large image that suits desktop content is taking up a large chunk of the fold on mobile and users are having to scroll past to make a purchasing decision, this can impact your sales.

Also, and while it may be an obvious one, if you don’t have image making resources, don’t simply extract and copy images from existing websites or search results. This may result in copyright trouble (if the images aren’t attributed to their owner) and won’t do your image SEO ventures any favours. At the very least, consider using images from free creative commons websites such as Unsplash. 

How does image SEO fit into a broader content marketing strategy, and what other tactics should businesses consider to improve their online presence?

Image SEO, with all its best practices, needs to be factored into all content marketing efforts as a general ongoing rule of thumb. Alongside your marketing team’s keyword research and subsequent content strategies, make sure your social media and graphic design specialists are feeding into any new content that is being produced. Good imagery will make content more shareable and stand out across all digital mediums, so it’s not just SEO. 

Retrospectively, it may also be worth your team taking some time to run through a series of your top performing (or mediocre performing) content to see if there’s any improvements to be made to assist your image SEO performance. Are there any old blogs or product pages with low quality or out of date images that could be brought back to life with a simple sprucing up in terms of image optimisation? It may be worth a look, as this type of low investment low-hanging fruit work can often bring good returns. 

What are some strategies for optimising images for local search, and how can businesses reach a local audience through image SEO?

If you’re a business that operates locally and are looking to get an edge on local search over your competition, then a good image enhancement strategy can really set you apart from the rest.

Operating a bar or a restaurant in a busy urban area? Invest in some high-quality, professional photography of your premises interior, events, food and drink offerings and even your menus. If visitors are searching locally for “Italian food near me” a high-quality image of a freshly-made pasta dish will draw them in over a grainy exterior shot taken by Google Maps every time.  

Outside of your own assets, get your PR or social media teams to reach out to local directory or listings websites and extend your image assets to these properties. A well optimised and maintained profile on Yell or TripAdvisor can make you stand out among the crowd too.

How can businesses use alt tags and other image attributes to improve their website’s accessibility and user experience?

We’ve touched on alt tags briefly, though they do play a major role in image SEO. Missing alt tags on certain images will impact their liability of getting ranked well on Google image search, and you will be underperforming in your web accessibility credentials too, which matters in modern day digital. 

Image SEO rankings aside, you will risk ostracising a demographic of potential users on your site with accessibility needs, and this is where good alt attribute markup can come in.

Google have a detailed guide on various image SEO best practices (including the use of alt attributes and how they impact accessibility). Take care to ensure that alt attributes aren’t simple replicants of keywords you’re targeting to page – a good alt attribute is descriptive of the contents of the image at hand and provides context in a clean and succinct manner. 

What tools and resources are available for optimising images for search engines, and how can businesses stay up-to-date on best practices and industry trends?

Plenty of third-party SEO tools will give your teams guidance on what to do with your existing image assets, whether it’s from a file size or alt attribute perspective. They will also report back on your image rankings in the context of rich snippets too.

Get your team to monitor Google’s webmaster guides on a regular basis, and familiarise yourself with the Web Accessibility Initiative too.

Image SEO Case Study

Wellness ecommerce company sees huge uplift in organic revenue from image optimisation programme.  

Problem: A company specialising in high-end yet sustainable moisturiser was competing with a large number of rival ecommerce brands vying for a stake in this popular contemporary niche.

Solution: The brand hired a product photographer for a day, taking high-quality close-ups of the products and eye-catching packaging, as well as demo shots of the creams being used on models. The pictures were then uploaded to their respective product landing pages, with all the necessary image optimising steps taken. The results saw a spike in image carousel rankings, and the high-quality pictures generated a large increase in clicks and sales directly attributed to the image results. 

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