How to Optimize Your Image SEO — and Why It Matters

A great website involves much more than what people see when they visit your page. Of course the content, pages, and navigation are important, but there’s also an entire back end to your site that you shouldn’t ignore if you want to increase its visibility.

If you’ve decided to focus on creating great content, and launching your site before worrying about search engine optimization (SEO), it would be a good next step to do an audit of the media in your library. And, at the very least, think about image SEO.

What is image SEO? It involves including relevant keywords or metadata for each image — as well as documents and videos — uploaded to your site. Metadata, which is a description of a piece of content on your site, is a valuable tool that search engines like Google use to rank your content in search results.

It only takes a few minutes to optimize image SEO, but it can generate ongoing site traffic. We have outlined the basics here to help you understand how you can use this tool to increase visibility for your website.

Think big picture — and little picture

Before accessing your media library, do some legwork regarding the size of your images. Image size is important because it affects your site’s performance, according to Google. Larger images use more data, which leads to slower page load times — the more data a browser has to process, the longer it takes to download a particular page or website. This could potentially cause users to leave your site and look elsewhere for the information they need.

Search engines take note of websites that load slowly or have bad user experiences, so being strategic about the size of your photos can boost your site’s SEO — and improve its ranking in search results. So, how do you know if an image is too large? There’s no straightforward answer, but in your media library you’ll notice that sets a maximum image size. Luckily, you have the option to adjust the size of your image within a post or on a page.

You can also use photo-editing strategies, and programs like iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop, to optimize the images on your website. The standard width for a web page is between 960 and 980 pixels, according to Iteracy, so make sure your image is no wider than this. The dimensions of the content area in should also be your guide. If you upload your image and it takes up the entire page, it’s best to resize it to avoid slow page load times.

Put your media to work

Once you’ve properly sized your image, go to your website’s media library to upload it. When you log in to your website, you’ll see a list of options located on the left-hand side of the page. Click on Media to see your media library. This is where you’ll find all of the images, videos, audio files, and documents you’ve uploaded to your site.

If you’ve already uploaded content to your website, click on the image in the media library and click Edit to access its description fields. This is where you’ll add the metadata. Here you will see the following fields: Title, Caption, Alt Text, and Description. Let’s say that you have launched a website for your bed and breakfast, and have written a blog post about popular local attractions in your town — complete with photos. You will want to include the full name of each attraction in the Title field (“Golden Gate Bridge Bike Tours,” for example), and should then add more details about the actual image in the Caption field (“Tourists bike across the Golden Gate Bridge,” for instance). Remember that while the image title will remain invisible to your visitors, the caption will be displayed next or under the image.

The information in the Alt Text field can be similar to the Caption field, as it gives search engines more details about the image — the text in this field is used by screen readers and is visible when an image doesn’t load. In the Description field, you can add much more detail about the image and related content. For example, here you could add more information about the bike tour company, the cost, and the daily tour schedule. Search engines like Google crawl websites looking for information that will help it decide how to rank search results. If every element of your site — including the photos and file names — has relevant keywords, this will boost your site’s SEO and make it more visible in searches.

Image SEO — like all SEO — is part art and part science. However, these basic tweaks can help improve your site’s performance. When you decide on a new image for your website, take a few moments to resize the image and fill out the metadata fields when uploading it to your media library. Only good things can come from optimizing image SEO, so why not make the effort?

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Satta Sarmah Hightower

Satta Sarmah is a writer, editor and content marketing manager who launched her first personal website a decade ago — on WordPress, of course.

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