Optimizing Your Photos for Image and Universal Search

I read a great article today over at StateOfSearch.com on optimizing images for search engine rankings.  It was put together nicely and a great resource for “how to” tips on making your images rank in Image and Universal search.

The tips aren’t all that different from what we’ve been saying for awhile now, validation is always nice, but putting all the tips together makes the underlying theme of image search apparent: ALWAYS use keywords where you can.

As with most things ranking – keywords are king – and should be chosen for images with as much thought as they are for the content on your page.  Start your image optimization with fresh keyword research.  I’d take this a step further and see if anyone is searching for your keyword AND image keywords appended together, such as later that day...{Keyword} + photo, photos, pictures, pic, pics, image, images, etc.

Once you’ve found your keywords, assign them to the images you have on your website.  You don’t want to overdo it – so maybe one or two keywords per image.  After you’ve assigned them – you can do this by listing the URLs and the photo descriptions in Excel – start optimizing the photos.

Here are the steps according to the comprehensive article cited above:

  • Filename – Image filename is a strong indicator of the content of your images.  Make sure your filenames contain keywords relevant to what the image actually shows.
  • Alt-Text – Although there is some conflict as to whether this is a ranking factor – it’s recommended you err on the side of “maybe” and use alt text that is keyword rich but describes the image.
  • Caption – Captions are a strong indicator of what the image is showing – but in an on-page element (vs. alt text and filename, which don’t show to the user.)
  • Alignment of filename, alt text and caption in the code -  All of the above elements should be optimized to support each other with the same or similar keywords.
  • Page Content - Content helps search engines determine what the image on a page is about.  I think this is a huge factor as how many times have you done an image search and found photos that are irrelevant simply because the text on the page IS relevant?
  • File Format – It’s recommended to always use PNG, JPEG (JPG) or GIF – JPG is recommended as it has additional reach for various other verticals attached to Google or even outside of Google search.
  • Image Dimensions – You see a lot of sizes available when you do an image search – no one size is dominant, BUT, if you want to bust into universal search with your images, its recommended that the image be at LEAST 250×300 pixels.
  • File Size – Don’t make the files for your images too big – 1) for load speed; 2) for Google to cache and display. Huge image files don’t cut the mustard.
  • Anchor Text links TO photos or as photo captions – These should be optimized for the keyword phrases you chose when you started the process.
  • Title Text – The text you see when you roll your mouse over an image is the Title Text – make sure this is descriptive of the actual image, but also contains your keyword phrase.
  • DO NOT STUFF KEYWORDS – It’s tempting, but a bad idea to cram 10 or 20 keywords into these elements.  Be deliberate, descriptive and most of all – ask yourself what a user of the page would like to see there.  You’re doing these to be found by PEOPLE, to sell them things – not to rank in a search engine for irrelevant garbage.

Photo by paul (dex) found by using image search in Flickr