“A picture is worth a thousand words” is an English language adage.
If you’re a blogger or an SEO expert, you might already know how important images are both for SEO and user experience.
It doesn’t matter what niche you are in, by using images properly within your blog posts or pages, you’re making your content look appealing. Not just that, you also have an opportunity to optimize them for search engines like Google to bring more traffic.
So don’t ignore images especially when you’re trying to get more organic traffic.
In this detailed guide, you’ll discover how to easily optimize your images for better SEO so that you get better search results. Let’s get started without much ado.
Table of Contents
What Is Image Optimization In SEO [And How to Do It Right]
Let’s first talk about what is image optimization in SEO.
Optimizing your images for search engines like Google is what image SEO optimization all about. That means, you’re optimizing images for several Google factors such as ALT tags, image title, caption and so on to bring visitors for several keywords from Google image search.
Important factors of images
Did you know that the websites with well optimized images generate organic traffic from Google image search can translate into 20% to 60% of all Google traffic? That’s a lot of search traffic, right?
That’s the reason why you can’t optimizing your images for SEO. There are a ton of things included in an image especially when you want to optimize it for SEO. Here’s a list of some of the most important factors of optimizing images for SEO.
- Image Name
- Image Alt text SEO
- Image Relevance
- Image Caption
- Image Title
- Image Size
- Image Hosting
- Image linking
Let’s talk about each one of the above mentioned factors of images so you will know how to easily optimize an image for SEO.
Naming your images is important. Don’t use random image names and save it to your local computer or laptop and again upload them to your WordPress dashboard with the same image file name.
As most of the image names look unnatural. For instance, if you’re using images from your DSLR, they’ll mostly end up with names something like “DSC02512.JPG”.
As you can see, these type of image file names is not going to help either readers or search crawlers to understand what they are all about. That’s why to use proper and relevant names for each image before you upload them to your WordPress dashboard.
Another important thing to remember is, use hyphens while naming your images instead of using underscores.
Did you know that Google treats hyphens and underscores differently when reading text or image ALT text? Yes, that’s true.
For example, Google would read “SEO-images” as “SEO images” whereas it would read “SEO_images” as “SEOimages”
So name your images properly by using relevant keyword terms instead of using random numbers or underscores.
Image Alt text
Image alt text is extremely important and you must optimize your images by using proper alt texts for your images if you want better organic results.
Basically image alt text provides information to search crawlers about context of an image. So if you’re using appropriate keywords within your alt tags, you’ve better chances to show up for those keywords in Google image search.
Here’s how it looks like from WordPress dashboard.
While using image alt text SEO, make sure to use 4 to 5 words for better results from search engines like Google.
For instance, if you’re targeting a keyword like “image SEO”, you can use alt texts in one of the images on your blog posts with a 5 word alt text like “best image SEO tips” instead of just using “SEO tips” or something else which has just 1 or 2 words. Are you getting it?
It’s so important to know where to add your images within your blog posts or pages. As a rule of thumb, make sure to include at least one image for every 500 to 1000 words. That means, you can have 5 to 10 images for a 5000 word article.
We already discussed that images make your content more visually appealing. So by placing an image every now and then within your posts can break up your text to make it more readable for your audience.
It’s also important to choose relevant images for your blog posts. You simply can’t insert random images just for the sake of adding images. Make sure every image you add is highly relevant to the content you’re publishing.
Image captions are displayed right below the image. Whether you know it or not, image captions sometimes have more weight than the actual ALT tag of images.
The good thing about using image captions is that they can be read by your website visitors (unlike alt tags which can only read by search engine crawlers). Image captions describe an image, add context and more importantly, they give an idea of what your images are all about.
If you’re using WordPress, you can easily create or add caption to your images. Once the image is uploaded to your WordPress media library, you can enter all the images details such as title, alt text, and a caption of your image.
Here’s how it looks like;
Once you add the caption and alt text, simply click on the ‘Insert into post’ button to add the image to your posts.
Your image title plays a vital role. Not only it gets read by your audience when they hover on your image but it also adds more weight if you’re using proper keywords within your title.
We recommend you to create an image title that’s easy to read and also include a keyword phrase if you want to better optimize images for search engines like Google. Don’t use random titles or default file names for your images.
Did you know that larger images size leads to higher bounce rate on your website? Let us explain about it. The larger the size of an image, the longer it takes your page to load and it ultimately results in higher website bounce rates.
That’s the reason why you should always make sure to optimize your images size so they will take less space in your hosting and also don’t affect your page load times much. You can either use online tools to resize your images and upload them on to your WordPress dashboard after shrinking their sizes.
Or if you’re on WordPress, there are a few plugins that help you with resizing your images which include;
- WP Smush It
Let’s briefly talk about each one of the above mentioned image optimization SEO plugins so you can understand better about them.
WP Smush It: This is the most popular image optimization plugin for all the WordPress users as it helps you easily resize, optimize, optimise and compress all of your images from your dashboard.
There’s also a feature called lossless compression where you can shrink the size of your images without much sacrificing the overall quality. All in all, it’s a great plugin for all kinds of bloggers who want to shrink their image sizes from WordPress dashboard.
TinyPNG: This is an excellent WordPress plugin used by a lot of bloggers to compress their image sizes and with their free account, you can easily compress up to 500 images every single month. They also have a premium plan where you can compress up to 10K images.
Optimus: This is another popular image optimization SEO plugin that lets you compress all images <100Kb for free and it’s also a great alternative to WP Smush it plugin. The best thing about this plugin is that it reduces the image file size automatically and depending on the image and format, you can reduce the image size of up to 70%.
Our first recommendation is to reduce your image sizes before you upload them on your blogs. But if you’re looking to host your images elsewhere to lessen the burden on your hosting databases and provide faster experience to your website visitors, here are few recommendations for image hosting.
Use a CDN to host your images
One of the best ways to improve the overall page loading times of your website is to host your images on a CDN. A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a system of distributed servers that deliver pages and other stuff such as videos, images etc to the users based on their geographic location.
There are several CDN options including CloudFlare CDN (which is free), MaxCDN (which is a premium CDN but offers much more features). If you’re using hosting platforms like Bluehost, they offer CloudFlare integration by default so you can easily integrate your websites with CloudFlare CDN from the control panel.
Here’s how it works basically.
If you’re wondering about why you should use a CDN to host your images, here are few of the biggest benefits.
- Faster loading times (the #1 reason to use image CDN is your images are hosted elsewhere, not on your own hosting servers, which means, you’re not affecting your page loading times)
- Reduces the burden on your hosting (you’re not affecting your website hosting server performance at all by hosting your images on a CDN)
- Better security (it’s almost impossible to perform security attacks such as DDoS attacks through a CDN network!)
- Saves time (most of the times, you don’t even need to shrink and optimize your image sizes, which ultimately saves your time without compromising on your image quality)
Did you know that you can easily make your images clickable? If you’re using WordPress, simply click on the image and choose the link option to insert a link that you want your website visitors to open when they click on your image.
Image linking is especially useful if you’re writing affiliate product reviews as you can make your images clickable by inserting affiliate links.
For example, you can easily include clickable links with banners of your affiliate products. That way, when your readers click on those banners or images, they will be directly taken to the product page which helps you get more sales.
How to find relevant and appealing images for blog posts?
Now, let’s talk about the most important thing. How to find highly relevant and visually appealing images to use within your blog posts?
You simply Google an image with a relevant keyword of your choice and then use them again within your blog posts, right?
Wrong. Don’t do that. Why?
Don’t download images from Google and use them again within your blog. Otherwise, you might be facing copyright issues which can cause great damage to your branding or website sooner or later.
So in this section, we’ll talk about the easiest and effective ways to find and create copyright free images so you can use them within your blog posts however you want.
What do you need?
Here are few things you need.
- A website to find free stock photos
- An image editing tool
That’s it, you just need the above 2 things to start using beautiful images with your site.
Let’s talk about them briefly now.
3 websites to find and use free stock photos
To create appealing images for your blog posts, you first need a platform where you can download stock free images, so you can edit them, add any text you want without any issues.
There are literally a ton of free stock photo platforms out there. Out of them, the following are great platforms which provide you literally thousands of stock free images.
Let’s briefly talk about the above mentioned platforms so you can understand how they work when you’re downloading images from them.
1. Unsplash: This is by far the best stock free photos platform which has access to over 110,000 contributing photographers and the website gets more than 9 billion photo impressions per month. It also has a huge library of over 810,000 photos which you can use them for commercial and non-commercial purposes without asking anyone’s permission.
To put it simply, Unsplash grants you worldwide copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute and use photos from Unsplash for free however you want including for commercial purposes that too without taking anyone’s permission (either from photographer or Unsplash).
2. Pexels: This is another great platform where you can find stock free images and videos from professional photographers all over the world. This platform has thousands of really appealing images on various categories including travel, technology, news and so on.
Just like Unsplash, all photos on Pexels are also free to use and image attribution is not required. Giving credit to the photographer or Pexels website is not at all necessary and you can modify the images downloaded from Pexels however you want.
3. StockSnap: Most bloggers use StockSnap as it’s considered as the #1 source for beautiful free stock photos where you can find really high resolution stock images for free. And all of the images are free from all copyright restrictions (CC0), so there’s no attribution required while using images downloaded from their site.
From business to nature to people to travel, you can find thousands of high resolution stock free images on this website. The good thing is 100s of new stock free images are uploaded to the site every single day, so you’ll find new images every day!
Top 3 image editing tools
If you’ve access to Adobe Photoshop and you know how to create and edit great images, you don’t have to search anywhere else.
But if you’re not a tech savvy who is looking for a free yet easy way to edit and create beautiful images, here are few sites just for you.
- Pablo from Buffer
Let’s briefly talk about the above mentioned image editing tools which can be mostly used for free.
1. Canva: Canva is the #1 choice for most bloggers as it’s one of the easiest image editing tools online to create featured images to YouTube thumbnails to logos to social media banners, infographics and what not?
It gives you access to over a million photographs, graphics, and fonts along with an easy to use drag and drop image editor which you can use to edit and create your images however you want.
With their free plan, you’ll get these features;
- 2 folders to organize designs
- 1GB storage for photos and assets
- Access to over 8,000 templates
- Upload your own images
- Access millions of photos starting at $1 each
2. Pablo from Buffer: If you’re looking for readymade templates to quickly create images for your blog posts, Pablo is for you. You can search over 600,000 images and replace the existing text with any other text you want.
It also gives over 25 font styles to create stunning images really quickly. You can also share your created and edited images to popular social networks directly from Pablo or download to use anywhere.
3. Snappa: Snappa is a great alternative to Canva, where you can do similar kind of image editing including creating infographics, featured images for blog posts, logo design and so on. With Snappa, you’ll get access to 1,000,000+ free and high-resolution stock photos.
With their starter plan (which is absolutely free to use), you’ll get these features;
- 1 user can access the site
- Gets access to 5,000+ templates
- Limited no. of HD photos & graphics
- 5 downloads per month
- 10 favourites
So there you go. The above tools are absolutely useful for all kinds of bloggers who are looking to easily and quickly edit beautifully crafted images for their blog posts, YouTube channels, social media campaigns and so on.
XML Image Sitemaps
Did you know that you can increase the chances of getting more traffic from your images by creating a sitemap for your images? By creating an XML sitemap for images, you’re allowing search engines like Google to easily discover the images on your site, which ultimately increases the visibility of your images.
As we all know WordPress offers a ton of benefits and one of them includes image sitemaps.
For all WordPress sites, the creation and implementation of image sitemaps are extremely using a WordPress plugin called Udinra All Image Sitemap.
This plugin automatically creates the sitemap for images uploaded to your WordPress dashboard. Once you generate image sitemap using this plugin, submit it to Google Search Console (under Sitemaps).
This plugin also supports XML Sitemap and Image Sitemap, so there’s no need to use two sitemap plugins and it also generates ALT text for images with no alt tag, which is an exceptional feature.
Not everyone uses a laptop or desktop for browsing information online. Mobile internet usage has increased exponentially. That’s the reason why you need to make sure all your images are loading properly across all the devices.
Responsive images make sure that you are serving the right images to your website visitors depending on their device.
If you want to make your images responsive and adapt images to all kinds of devices including smartphones, laptops, tablets and so on, you need to either use responsive web design or use a simple coding in your theme file to make responsive images.
Here’s how you can do it.
Here’s the tag to use whenever you’re adding an image within your posts or pages to make them responsive.
<img src=”nature.jpg” alt=”Nature” class=”responsive”>
As you can see above, we’ve mentioned class=”responsive”, so we first need to insert a CSS code with the class called “responsive”.
Here’s how you can do it.
The above changes help you if you want the image to scale both up and down on responsiveness because you’re setting the CSS width property to 100% and height to auto.
For each and every image you upload to WordPress media library, WordPress makes the following changes by default.
- Thumbnail: A square crop which has a size of 150px by 150px
- Medium: The longest side is 300 pixels wide or high
- Medium Large: It’s resized to 768 pixels wide
- Large: The longest side is 1024 pixels wide or high
- Full: Original image (whatever the pixels the image has, it will be shown fully without cropping anything)
Quick note: If you’re not good at coding or not a tech savvy, skip the above steps and don’t play with your HTML or CSS code on your themes because any unwanted changes can damage your whole theme and website appearance.
For non tech-savvy people, we highly recommend you to get access to mobile responsive themes so that any image that you add within your blog posts or pages can be displayed nicely across all the devices including laptops, tables, smartphones etc.
If you’re looking for a budget friendly theme, make sure to check out Elegant themes as you’ll get access to over 80 themes (most of them are mobile responsive) for just $80.
Setting up Open Graph and Twitter Cards
With Open Graph you can control the appearance of your blog post or page title, image, description and so on whenever you share it on Facebook. It’s the best way to give a custom look to your posts while sharing on Facebook. Twitter also uses twitter cards to give a custom appearance to your posts.
So how can you set up Open Graph and twitter cards?
There’s an incredible plugin called WordPress SEO by Yoast which helps you with setting up open graph cards for Facebook and twitter cards.
Once you install and activate the plugin, click on social to find open graph and twitter cards settings. Here’s how it looks like;
As you can see above, Yoast provides you with an option to set custom Open Graph cards for Facebook where you can include a custom title, description and image to show while sharing your post on Facebook. The same thing applies to Twitter cards too.
Quick note: Just make sure to open “Social” settings in Yoast SEO plugin and add links to your Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles.
Image file formats
There are multiple types of image file formats available including JPEGS, PNGs, GIFs and so on. Each image type has its own pros and cons, so it’s better when to use them for better user experience.
- For most blogging purposes, JPEGs are great as they provide the best quality and the smallest file size and JPEG is a commonly used method of lossy compression for digital images.
- You can use GIFs for thumbnails and animations. For instance, if you want to show automated version of multiple images, you can create a GIF format, to make it appealing but the file size will be very large for GIFs, so use it only when it’s absolutely necessary.
- PNGs can be a good alternative to both JPEGs and GIFS. They give you ultimate image quality but also consume more in image size. So if you’re using a CDN along with a faster web host and looking to showcase highest resolution images for your audience, go for PNG type of images.
Here are few important questions around image SEO you should know for better understanding in 2020 and beyond.
1. What are the benefits of using images within blog posts?
There are a ton of benefits of using images within your blog posts or website which include the following.
- They break your content to make it easily readable
- Images help you increase your organic traffic (especially when they are optimized well using the right alt text tags)
- They make your content visually appealing
2. Do images help with SEO?
Yes, certainly. By properly optimizing your images for SEO, you’re not only going to attract more visitors from Google image search but you’re pleasing your website visitors by using appealing images. All in all, images improve your website bottom line, just make sure they are relevant and appealing.
3. Should we consider lazy loading while using images?
Lazy loading is a great way to speed up your page loading times especially when you’re using too many images within a post or page. In lazy loading, the images are loaded only as they enter the viewport and reduces the number of HTTP requests.
4. Where to find free images with no copyright?
There are a couple of websites where you can download stock free images without giving any attributions or credits to the photographers or the website which include;
5. Are ALT tags in images important for SEO?
Alt tags in images are extremely important. An alt tag, also known as “alt attribute” provides a text alternative for search engines like Google. Whether you know it or not, search bots read alt tags and by using relevant alt tags in your images, you can significantly improve your organic rankings from Google image search.
Image SEO is a great traffic source but the majority of the bloggers and photographers often neglect the importance of optimizing their images for SEO. If you’re also one among them, stop doing it and start optimizing your images for better search results.
To bring the best possible results with SEO, you need to do everything you can to help your website rank higher in Google search results and image SEO is one of the best practices to increase your organic rankings.
So what are your thoughts on image optimization for SEO? Do you’ve any questions? Share your thoughts in the comments.