Image Optimization: The How to & the Why to
Using optimized images to accompany an article, such as photos, illustrations, graphs, and charts draw a reader’s attention to the content.
A lot of web readers are not reading as much as they are scanning, and a strategically placed image will catch their attention. Most will read the caption first to find out what it’s all about. It’s kind of like rubbernecking an auto accident, once the incident has grabbed our attention we want more details, as gory as that may seem. That’s exactly why articles with an image get 90 percent more views than those without and why we should include at least one image with every article we produce, including a press release. If it’s a great press release without a photo, they will just stick a stock photo on there. If it’s only a good press release, the photo might just sell the editor on running it.
KissMetric boldly stated in their article The Shocking Truth About How Web Graphics Affect Conversions that “Captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself, so not using them, or not using them correctly, means missing out on an opportunity to engage a huge number of potential readers.” How exactly they could quantify that statement leads one to wonder, but even if it is half that it is worth following their advice.
Rather than going back to the beginning of the article, the reader will normally go to the text surrounding the image. So, it’s important to ensure that neighboring text is compatible with the keyword or phrase the image focuses on from an SEO stand point, as well as to hold the reader’s attention.
The “Why to” of Image Optimization
A critical factor in image optimization is the size of an image. Image heavy websites take much longer to load and in our contemporary grab it and go world, users are not waiting for websites to load. The average wait time allowed by users is two seconds. Using an image minimizer, such as Compressor, JPEGmini or PunyPNG can reduce the size of image files by as much as 80 percent and thereby reduce loading times. Actually, JPEGmini’s advertising slogan is “Your Photos on a Diet: Reduce image size by up to 80%, without compromising quality.” These image optimization tools are free to use without losing viewing quality or loss of “Exchangeable Image File Format” EXIF data.
EXIF data files store all the pertinent information pertaining to the image, such as the date and time it was taken and the camera settings. Whether or not this data should be saved with the image should be up to the user and not the optimizing tool.Another factor in why images should be optimized is the boost to SEO value. While utilizing graphs, charts, and photos can illustrate the point sometimes better than words, adding keywords and phrases to image titles, captions, and surrounding text seems a more natural way to boost SEO considering that search engines cannot read the image or text used within the image.
Of course there are options to make data within charts and graphs readable even to non-sighted users, such as jQuery Visualize, which could be a very valuable tool to make charts and graphs readable for those that use screen readers and those that do not use, or whose browsers do not support HTML5 Canvas or Java Scripts.
The “How to” of Image Optimization
When possible avoid stock images and go with something a little more natural, even a sketch or illustration. The very first thing to consider after choosing an image to use with an article is the file name. Before inserting the image into the article, rename the image file using a keyword or phrase. Just as she states in the video don’t use “P0001.jpg,” but instead use “second hand laptop” as the image file name.
Always ensure that the image used is aligned properly, do not allow text to run alongside the image unless there is a reason for doing so, it just looks unprofessional.
How important is completing alt-text fields? According to Digital Sherpa in their article How to Write SEO-Friendly Alt-Text For Your Images “…completing the alt-text field for your images may be the single most important step that you can take for making them SEO friendly.” It’s as simple as using keywords or phrases as the alt-text and title text.
Another SEO boost is the use of XML Image Sitemaps. Google specifically states in webmaster answers: “To give Google information about images on your site, you’ll need to add image-specific tags to a sitemap. You can use a separate sitemap to list images, or you can add image information to an existing sitemap.” For photographers and other that use massive amounts of photos or galleries a great tool is the WordPress Plugin Udinra Image Sitemap.
Let’s face it, optimizing images is a simple solution to boost SEO.
However, to boost the user’s experience and ramp-up SEO remember to:
- Choose appropriate images, charts, graphs, or illustrations that are related to the subject.
- Choose an appropriate file name for the image using keywords.
- Reduce the file size of images.
- Add an appropriate caption.
- Add keywords and phrases to Alt-text and Title text.
- Surround the image with text pertinent to the image.
- Use Twitter Card and Open Graph tags to enhance social network sharing.
- Use images in XML Site Maps to enhance indexing.
The use of optimized images with articles, blogs, and even press releases help to accentuate the subject matter and provide a boost to SEO.