Editing / Et Al / SEO / Technical Writing

Optimize Your Images | SEO for True Beginners

Screen capture of Google search results page with a label that says 'SEO for True Beginners'

Last week, I started a post series entitled “SEO for True Beginners,” and so far, we’ve covered writing content for human beings, identifying your keywords, and placing your keywords strategically. This week, we’re going to pick up where we left off, and today we’ll be optimizing your images.

Images are perhaps the most under-valued and under-utilized “trick” of search engine optimization. After all, the search engine spiders can’t actually “look” at your images and identify what information the image holds. But it’s not all about the spiders, remember? It’s also about the human beings who are reading your web pages. And human beings — at least this one — like pictures. I could rattle off numbers that show you how much more likely someone will read a web page with interesting images than one without any images whatsoever, but I’m not. Just pay attention to your own reading — online and offline — habits today, and take note of what reading material catches your eye.

In the same breath, let me remind you of a little thing called Google Image Search. Search engine spiders index image information separately and are able to present search results for images. So if you’re having a hard time landing on the first search engine results page for the keyword “asiago cheese bagel recipe,” you can post an enticing picture of your bagel on your web page, optimize it with those keywords, and likely have a better chance appearing on the first search engine image results page. Make sense?

Even though search engine spiders can’t “see” your images, XHMTL allows you to “tell” the spiders what the images “say.” [I am done with the quotation marks. I think you get it now.] Just like I iterated last week, editing the code of your web pages — in this case, your image code — requires you to have some administrative editing rights on your web site. If you’re using WordPress as I recommend, you’ll be able to edit the XHTML from within the WordPress framework. There are three places — file name, image title, and alternate text — to incorporate keywords into your image information. Here’s what the XHTML for an image looks like:

<img title=”Place Keywords Strategically” src=”http://austincreative.co/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/seo-for-true-beginners.png” alt=”Screen capture of Google search results page with a label that says ‘SEO for True Beginners'” width=”700″ height=”200″ />

File Name

We put keywords in the file name of our web pages last week, and the same principle applies to your images. Fortunately, it’s a bit easier to name and rename your image files than it is to do the same to your web page files. Spiders will read this bit of information, file it away, and use it when someone begins a search for your keywords. In the example above, look at the src attribute, which provides the URL of the image’s location. The image is named “seo-for-true-beginners.png.”

Title

We also put keywords in the title of our web pages last week, and we’re going to do the same for your images. For a web page, we use a dedicated XHTML title tag to provide this information, but for an image, we use the title attribute instead. In the example above, the title of the image is “Place Keywords Strategically.” I like my image title attributes to closely mimic the title tag of the web page to ensure that I’m using  the same set of keywords for the whole web page.

Alternate Text

Alternate text appears on your web pages as the “hover text” that appears when you hold your mouse over the image. The primary purpose of this text is to describe what the image is about. Know why? Because it is alternate text used when a user has turned off images in their web browser. This text should be able to take the place of the image, if necessary, and is an excellent place to describe your image while incorporating your web page’s keywords.

And that’s that. As I said before, using images in your SEO efforts is often an under-valued and under-utilized tactic. It’s dead simple, so I’m not sure why we don’t use it more often than we do — other than sheer laziness. (I can call it that because when I neglect to optimize my images — heck, when I skip adding an image period — I know that it’s because I’m being lazy.) And speaking of dead simple tasks, the rest of the SEO strategies I’ll be discussing this week are easy peasy, too. Stay tuned!

Read the entire “SEO for True Beginners” series:

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3 thoughts on “Optimize Your Images | SEO for True Beginners

  1. Thank you!!!

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t been titling photos (or, in many cases, using photos at all). Thanks for the very helpful tip! I’m going to get this corrected right now.

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