Image Metadata 101: What Website Publishers Need to Know

When a picture goes online, it’s more than just a visual. Encoded within each image file is text-based “metadata” that shares the image creator’s identity, any copyrights, its creation date and location, and descriptive information about the image itself.

While most viewers will never see, or even think about, the data contained within the image file, this information has a huge impact on the performance of any blog posts or websites where the images appear. As a WordPress.com publisher, it’s important to understand why this image metadata exists and how you can use it to improve your website’s SEO ranking.

If the concept of image metadata is foreign to you, here’s a quick primer to get you up to speed.

What does image metadata include?

In general, the purpose of metadata is to make sure important ownership information, context, and other key data remain attached to images and other types of content, even as they move around the internet. When you download an image from a stock library or the Creative Commons, for example, you’re not just grabbing that image— you’re also downloading the metadata that comes with it.

According to the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC), image metadata typically falls into one of three categories:

  • Administrative: This is basic image information such as the creation date and location, file type, etc.
  • Descriptive: This metadata tends to refer to the image itself, including visual descriptions of the content. For SEO purposes, descriptive metadata is the most important type of metadata you’ll be working with.
  • Rights: This includes the original creator of the image, any relevant copyright information, and information regarding the license to use the image on other sites, including your own.

Why image SEO and metadata are important to your website

While web traffic won’t see this metadata when they view the image on your website, Google and other search engines use this information to understand the content of images.

For example, if you’re a sports apparel company writing a blog post about the latest Air Jordans to hit the market, you want consumers searching about “Air Jordans” online to find your website. You’ve written a blog post that targets this keyword in the body content, meta description, and headline.

For a picture, let’s say you use a Creative Commons picture of kids playing basketball in basketball shoes. For SEO purposes, you should make sure “Air Jordans” is included in the image alt text, even if the athletes pictured aren’t wearing that brand. If you don’t, you’re throwing away another opportunity to optimize your page to attract more visitors.

Tips to optimize image SEO

Here are some easy tips to improve your image SEO:

  • Use image compression software to minimize the size of image files before publishing them. Large image files will slow down page load speeds, which directly affect SEO.
  • Use appropriate keywords in image alt text, captions, and headlines.
  • Give images descriptive file names. Instead of IMG_033, use file names like air-jordan-basketball-shoes.jpg.
  • Use original and non-stock photos whenever possible. Original image content will earn you a better SEO score.
  • Install a plugin to help you edit image metadata with ease. Popular ones on WordPress.com include Instant Images and ShortPixel Image Optimizer.

Importance of image metadata

Image metadata may go unseen, but it’s a great asset to enhance SEO and improve website performance. Download an easy-to-use editing tool and reap the benefits that come with a little extra attention to the details on your WordPress.com site.

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Jonathan Rhoades

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