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How to Optimize Images for Search

Guest post submitted by Leah Fink of Charlotte Works the Web

Nothing sets off a really great piece of writing like a couple of eye-catching and appropriate images. They grab the attention of your reader and flesh out the details of your carefully written posts. But when it comes to adding adding tags and titles, consternation can arise quickly. The key to optimizing images for search is to add descriptive, accurate information that helps readers AND search spiders understand what the image is about. Are you optimizing correctly? Below are a few tips that will help you learn how to optimize images for search.

As an example, let’s take a blog post written to celebrate the life and times of Bob Marley, which displays his likeness holding a guitar.

First, make sure the image is a reasonable size. Massive images clog up your load time – keeping the image under 100KB is generally a safe bet. The most search-engine friendly format for an image is a jpeg, so save your file accordingly. When you do, give it an accurate and descriptive filename, separating keywords by dashes (NOT underscores.) A good choice might be Bob-Marley-playing-Guitar.jpg.

Bob Marley playing guitar and singing

Bob Marley on stage in 1976 playing his guitar.

Once your image is uploaded and placed in your post, you want to be sure your keywords are near the image in the body of your content. This should be easy: it only makes sense to include an image of Bob playing his guitar if your post is already about that.

Next consider the technical aspects of the image. There is much misunderstanding about the difference between the alt attribute of an image and the title attribute. The alt attribute, or alt text, is intended to provide information to visitors who are otherwise unable to view the image. The title attribute provides additional information. Keep these two bits of information short, accurately descriptive, and different — they should not match exactly. Use the key phrase you are shooting for in the alt text of your image, and include a synonym or slight variation for the title of the image, perhaps “Bob Marley playing guitar and singing”. If you include a caption, this is another great opportunity to mention your key phrase or a variation of it: “Bob Marley on stage in 1976 playing his guitar.” Title tag, alt text, and caption should all be separated by spaces.

Now take a look at your robots.txt file. Are search engine spiders allowed to access your images folder? If not, remove the line that says “Disallow: /images/” from your robots.txt file. Finish by stepping back and reviewing your work to be sure you have not been inadvertently guilty of keyword stuffing. Don’t use keywords where they aren’t critical (“Bob Marley reggae performer playing guitar while singing reggae song Buffalo Soldier reggae legend” might be overdoing it just a dab.)

And there you have it! What issues trip you up the most when optimizing your images?


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Author Bio:

Leah Fink is a small business SEO consultant, web strategist, and owner of Charlotte Works the Web. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and 3 small daughters. You can find her on Google+, Facebook…and frequently near the espresso maker.

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6 Responses to “How to Optimize Images for Search”

  1. Shara says:

    Leah – I once read on an SEO site that if you don’t LINK photos, they get no SEO at all. I know this is not true because I often search for something & a pic comes up from a blog with NO LINK on the image. Just alt text, title, etc. Perhaps Google did not read un-linked images a while back and now they do? Maybe it just changed? Or the SEO dude didn’t know a dern thing :-)

  2. Wow, everytime I read your blog, I am reminded of how much I need to learn! Geat post, Leah! Thank you.

    I was lost at robots.txt, though! I wouldn’t even know where to look for that! All the rest is helpful and new to me.

    Shara, I rarely link to images in my blog, but my images seem to be the way that many people find my blog. Who knows? It’s generally Greek to me, but I’m thankful for you always shedding light on something new for me!



  3. Leah Fink says:

    I’m not sure what you mean by “they get no SEO at all.” Google has always read images, linked and unlinked. I do remember some disagreement among webmasters over whether a linked image passed the same amount of “link juice” as a text link.

  4. Shara says:

    Leah – okay. I was confused when I read his post, too. Oh, well. Good info from you – thanks.

  5. Shara says:

    Wendy – sounds like your images are being well read so that’s great! I’ll ask Rick or Leah to check on your site to be sure your robots.txt is doing what it needs to. Hold on.

  6. Leah Fink says:

    Thanks Wendy! I know that changing the robots.txt file is probably something most site owners would need to consult with someone else to fix – but I hated not to mention it. I have come across plenty of sites where their images were completely blocked from the search engine spiders…that can be a real disadvantage especially for an ecommerce site.

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