There is nothing worse than waiting for a page to load. As a user, you probably get impatient waiting any length of time. And if it’s your site that is taking long to download, understand that for every additional second of download time, you lose 7% of your conversions!
Naturally, you would want to strip anything from your website that isn’t necessary…such as images, right?
But here’s the issue: images are very important these days, especially for blog posts. Images explain complex information; they are easier to consume; and they generate more social media shares than posts without images.
In addition to that, images can drive a lot of traffic to your site from search engines. And, according to this Poynter eyetracking study, when people are at your site, they will look at the images before the text.
The question is…are your images optimized for search, speed and social media? In other words, are they helping your site or hurting it?
The following 6 tactics will help you optimize your images so they can bring more traffic to your site…and keep that traffic there.
Tactic #1 – Optimize your images for people
First things first. You should always optimize images for people because they are the ones who really matter.
Let’s look at a few rules:
Keep them relevant
The first rule of thumb when it comes to putting images on your site is to keep them relevant. The content of the image should match the content of the article.
Use super-sized images
And then look at how The Verge uses them:
It’s a really great way to combine lots of text with great images. This is also one of the reasons that Google updated Google+ to host super-sized photos.
Optimize for the RSS feed
People who use RSS feed readers will be blazing through these to scan all the content you have. Use a relevant, great image to attract their attention and get them to click through to your site!
When you use faces that are looking at the reader, mimicking an eye contact, you will get more views.
Let’s now get a little specific and talk about the difference between how men and women process images. I’ll even tell you why this is important.
According to a recent eye mapping study, women process images differently than guys do. Here are some of those differences:
- What women focus on depends on their hormone level.
- Women are attracted to images that have more than one person…in particular, a guy and a girl embracing each other.
- Women are also better at responding to emotional images than men are.
- Men will look at faces before a nude body.
Why is this distinction important? Well, it goes back to knowing your audience…and giving them what they want.
Tactic #2 – Optimize your images for search engines
Okay, now that we have our images optimized for people…let’s optimize them for search engines. Follow these rules:
- Compress images – Although you want to use larger images than smaller ones, file sizes should be as small as possible. Make sure you compress your image file size. If you are unsure how to do it, don’t worry as I cover that later in the post.
- Limit the number of images per page – You don’t want to clog the page with unnecessary images. So, just select a few very relevant images.
- Use keywords – There are a number of strategic places where you need to use keywords when it comes to images. Use them in the alt text, in the image name, the page title and in the text around the image.
- Long descriptions – One of the most common elements most people miss when using images on their sites is long descriptions. Long descriptions are like alt tags, but more detailed. Here is an example of both:
- Alt tag – Black 1998 Honda Civic.
- Long description – Black 1998 2-door Honda Civic speeding through a red light.
Implement these strategies, and you will help search engines correctly index your images so that they are served up for highly-qualified searches.
Tactic #3 – Optimize your images for social media
Photos and images are one of the most shared pieces of content on the social web (with video being a close second).
But just because you have a few images doesn’t mean they will get shared. Here’s how to optimize your images so they spread quickly over the social web and drive a ton of traffic to your site:
- Use gorgeous photos – This probably seems obvious, but what most people don’t understand is what makes something gorgeous and inspiring. Check out the 45 most powerful images from 2011 for some inspiration!
- Use standard image formats – As you can see, there are dozens of ways you can format an image…
You should use the most common image types: .jpg, .gif and .png. These formats are easily displayed on any device…thus lowering the barrier of viewing and sharing.
- Publish your photos on social media sharing sites – If you use a really great image in a blog post, go ahead and share that image in Google+ and Facebook. Plus, host the photo on sites like Flickr, Photobucket, Pinterest, Picassa, Instagram and TwitPic. This will make it easy for people to share.
- Optimize for Digg submission – If you use Digg, use the .jpg format and make sure your image is 160×120 or 160×160 pixels. Otherwise, no image will be presented, and you will lose clicks.
Tactic #4 – Optimize alt tag and title text of images
I mentioned above that you need to add keywords to your alt text and image title. Now, I want to go into more detail about the topic and introduce you to a wonderful WordPress plugin.
The plugin is called SEO-Friendly Images, and it can do a number of very powerful things for you:
- Add alt tag and title texts – You’ll be able to optimize all your images since this plugin automatically adds a title text and alt tag for every image you have.
- Changes title text and alt tag– This plugin will create different title and alt tag by blending these four variables:
- %title – replaces post title
- %name – replaces image file name (without extension)
- %category – replaces post category
- %tags – replaces post tags
By the way, if you are confused about the difference between the alt attribute and the title attribute, here’s a handy little chart to help you out:
Tactic #5 – Optimize image file names
The file name of an image matters when it comes to SEO. So, it’s essential that you optimize the file name of your images too.
The tool to help you do this is a plugin called Media File Renamer. It’s pretty straightforward:
Or you can change the image name manually. Either way, keep these elements in mind when naming an image:
- The file name should be short.
- The file name should describe the image and include keywords.
- Make sure there are no spaces in your image names. If you want, you can use dashes, but avoid underscores.
Tactic #6 – Optimize for image load speed
As you probably know by now, page speed is essential for success on Google. So, the final tactic I want to teach you is how to optimize your images for load speed.
It doesn’t help if you start using huge, killer images to get attention that take forever to load. So, what should you do?
Well, that’s the name of a WordPress plugin that will do three things for your images:
- Compress the images.
- Strip unnecessary colors from indexed images.
- Convert certain .gifs to PNGs for better performance.
WP Smush.it is really easy to use, and it will optimize images when you upload them. In addition, you can optimize all of your old images in the “Media Library”:
How many images you have and how big they are will determine how long it takes for the plugin to finish its job. I ran Smush.it on a new site that had only 43 images in the library, and it took less than 30 seconds to complete the task.
With the web becoming faster and the technology to view it getting so much better, images are playing an increasingly important role in SEO strategies. They get the attention of search engines and keep the attention of users when they arrive at your site. You have to do everything in your power to keep that edge.
When you invest some time in implementing these tactics to optimize your images, you should start seeing more traffic to your site… you just have to give a few months for the changes to kick in.
What other techniques do you use to get more traffic out of your images?