Google Image Search Ranking & Optimization –
John Mueller of Google came out with a video in January 2020 of Google Hangout Series, where he detailed how search rankings worked for images. In the video, he also provided some great information on the topic. There are a few things that need to be kept in mind.
First of all, you should provide images that are unique and of high quality as well. You should be placing them on your page in a relevant way. At the same time, you also need to make sure that these images are placed in such a way that they are visible. For this, there are a couple of things that have to be done.
First of all, you need to put the images in the first fold of your product or content page. You should also add images in the middle of your content or product page. However, you need to make sure that the images are contextual. You would also have to use great titles on these images.
The alt attributes for the images should be useful as well. If you can, you should add captions to these images as well. The filenames of these images should be good and descriptive too. You need to host your images in such a way that users can access them quickly.
Naming The Images, The Right Way –
Google says that the filename of your image should be such that it gets a better idea of the subject matter of the image. Therefore, proper filenames are so better than a mere image code or number, which is an auto-generated. This is, in fact, the very basic step of SEO. This is also something that Google has been asking people to do for so many years now.
However, you may think that in the light of the recent advances made by Google in the domain of machine learning such attention to the filename is not that important. After all, these days, Google can understand images a lot better as well
There are always areas where Google can go wrong. For example, there is always a big chance that it can mistake butter for cheese if a proper filename is not specified. This is because both look pretty similar. The fact of the matter is that even something as great as Google is not always perfect. This is why you need to do everything that can help Google to understand the content of your images.
However, please keep in mind that this does not mean stuffing your image with keywords.
Using Captions And Alt Text That Are Descriptive –
The term alt text stands for alternative text. It describes an image. This is what the browser shows to the users who are using screen readers. Browsers can also show alt text when there are issues in rendering the images. The best thing to do in this regard is to follow the latest guidelines provided by Google in this regard. They are supposed to tell you how a properly written alt tag would look like.
Google uses alt text along with other tools such as page contents and computer vision algorithms to understand what the subject matter of an image is. When you are selecting alt text you need to make sure that you are using content that is rich in information, and, thus, useful.
It asks you to refrain from keyword stuffing. This is because such a practice creates a negative experience for the users. It can also contribute to your site being regarded as spam. You have to be specific in most cases when you are writing alt texts for your images.
Selecting The Best Kind Of Image Format –
Most of the images that you see on the internet can be classed under three heads – JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group), GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), and PNG (Portable Network Graphics). All these differ from each other in the methods of compression that they use.
This means that file sizes vary, and dramatically so! This is very important because the size of your images goes a long way in determining how long it takes for a page to load. They are the single biggest contributors in this regard.
As far as SEO (search engine optimization) is concerned the time it takes for a page to be loaded is crucial. Google has said that this is a major ranking factor for both mobile and desktop pages. You have to select the aptest kind of file type for your images.
You need to make sure that you do not compromise quality just for the sake of compression. Normally, JPEG images are the best. This is because they offer the smallest file size and there is no noticeable difference in quality as well. However, this does not mean that JPEG is the undisputed leader.
Resizing The Images As Per The Site Dimensions –
When you are uploading images on your website you need to resize them as per the maximum width that you need in such cases. The best way to do so would be to take a look at your CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). There are tools available these days that let you resize lots of images at the same time. It is only the width that is important in this regard.
Therefore, you can upload your images by dozens, on these tools and then adjust to the maximum width. If you are using different kinds of files you should upload them separately.
Otherwise, the tools would change them all into one format. These tools let you choose the file format as well. This is a major reason why you should easily be able to choose the right file format when you are uploading the images. There are two major reasons why these tools are so good.
First of all, they let you resize your images to the maximum width. This makes sure that only the wider images are resized, and the quality of your images is not affected. Secondly, they help you keep the file name the same as well.
Decreasing The File Size Of Your Images –
When it comes to decreasing the file size of your images Google has extensive rules and regulations. However, there are a few things that you can take away from the same. It advises you to experiment with different quality settings so that you can get the best results in this regard.
In these cases, you can also reduce the quality if you want to. This way you would be able to save a lot in terms of file size and the results can be pretty good as well.
Google suggests a couple of open-source tools that you can use in this regard such as Guetzli, pngquant, and MozJPEG, which is brought to you by Mozilla. These sites have some guidelines that you need to be aware of. These tools have command-line tools.
If you are not good at using them, Google recommends that you use ImageOptim. This is a free tool that you get with Mac. This platform has alternatives for Windows and Linux as well. On these tools, you can change the level of compression and get the kind of results that you want.
Creating Image Sitemaps –
Google gives a lot of importance to image sitemaps. This is because images provide critical information regarding the content you have on the site. You can always make things better in this regard by offering URLs (uniform resource locators) of images that people may not otherwise be able to find.
You can provide some additional details in this regard as well. In case you are using platforms such as Yoast SEO or WordPress these images would be automatically added to your sitemap. This is, in fact, applicable to all sites that have media pages that are supposed to be noindexed.
In these cases, Google also allows you to provide URLs that are from other domains. This is not a luxury that you have in a normal sitemap. In the case of image sitemaps, the cross-domain restrictions are not enforced. This means that webmasters can use CDN (content delivery network) for hosting images.
Google, however, asks you to verify the domain name of the CDN in the Search Console. Doing so would help you know if the name has any crawl errors or not.
Using Vector Graphics At The Right Places
Google says that vector graphics such as logos, icons, and texts are great. This is because they can provide sharp results irrespective of factors such as zoom setting and resolution. Therefore, they are ideal for screens that have a high resolution.
This is also applicable for assets that have to be shown at various sizes. There are plenty of sites out there that are using them for simple onsite elements such as logos. The most popular among them is the SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic). They were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium.
Serving Responsive Images
If your users are wasting bandwidth to load a large image on their devices it means that they are having a bad experience. This is bad as far as SEO is concerned. Therefore, you need to use tools such as srcset. This is an HTML (HyperText Markup Language) that directs a browser to load various versions of images for different screen resolutions.
When you can do so you improve the load time of your website and this means a better experience for your user. You can always use platforms such as WordPress because it makes different versions of the same image by default.
Using Schema Markup
This is useful in case of content such as recipes, videos, and products. This markup is common as far as Google web search is concerned. It plays an important role in the context of image SEO as well. This is because when you search for images on mobile devices Google shows badges of thumbnail images that are relevant to your search.
Google says that you can use the right kind of structured data on the pages and this can help the users find out more about the content related to each image.
Try Using Lazy Loading
Lazy loading is a process where the browser loads images when and as they need to be loaded. This means that they load even as you scroll down the page. Google supports this process as well. It says that such loading can increase the speed at which the long pages load.
In such pages, you always have a lot of images that are located underneath the primary fold. With lazy loading, they are loaded after the primary content has been loaded and rendered. In the past, Google has provided mixed messages on how effective such lazy loading can be for SEO. But now it supports it fully.
Making The Most Of Browser Caching
Browser caching is a process where files such as images are stored in the browsers of your visitors. This means that when they visit your site in the future the website loads a lot faster than earlier.
This means that if such a process is not being used for a website, it would take an equally long time to load the next time someone visits it as well. Google supports this process as well for the simple reason it speeds up the loading of the page it is visited from the second time onwards.
When you use CDN you make sure that the images are loaded faster because they are being sourced from a server that is closest to the location from where a user is searching. This happens because a CDN caches your images throughout a network of servers that are spread all across the world.
Normally websites keep all their files at a single server that is located in one country. Now, this poses problems for people who may be searching up that website from another country.
There is nothing to deny that image SEO is rather complex as a topic. Google has plenty of documentation when it comes to the same. It has a page on automating the optimization of images and it is around 15,000 words long! You can always read up the documents of Google if you wish to know all the information that you want to in this regard. However, the points that have been mentioned over here are ones that you should keep in mind.