*Author’s note: In this article, I often refer to Google – however, please note that ‘Google’ in this case refers to search engines as a whole. Because Google has become the most popular and well-known engine, most South Florida SEO and digital marketing experts use Google when discussing SEO and search-engines. This is because nearly all search engines use similar methods when determining search engine ranking.
So you may be asking: what makes me such a South Florida SEO pro?
I have worked as a professional photographer for over thirty years. Since the age of thirteen, I have loved taking pictures. Just a few years after the start of the internet boom, I launched my first website.
Starting out, I knew nothing about search engines, SEO or digital marketing, and my first website was little more than an online brochure. The site featured a Flash Animation which did nothing to drive search traffic, but it looked cool. At the time, I felt that it made me look quite cutting-edge and hip.
Several years later as SEO rose to prominence, I decided that I needed my own blog. Even in the early days, blogs served as great platforms for online portfolios. It was the perfect way to showcase my latest photography. Without a blog, I was forced to reach out to my website creator, paying him to add or remove pictures. It was a time consuming and expensive procedure, which left me with little control over my own site. Eventually, I realized that by having an image gallery and blog, I could change images on the fly and create SEO-friendly content.
I have found that including a visual element makes reading the article more pleasurable.
Most online marketing experts know that the written word gets Google’s attention. However, most are not interested in reading content that contains nothing but walls of text. If done correctly, adding imagery in the form of pictures, videos and info-graphics can increase your website ranking in a variety of ways.
As a South Florida SEO student I remember my teacher telling us: “Sometimes, you may have clients with products or services that are not very exciting or even interesting. It is your job to make them exciting, or at least interesting.”
In marketing school, we were given many exercises which required us to transform the dull and boring into the fun and intriguing. Time and time again, the sure-fire method to achieve this was through the use of images, videos and graphics. Visual aids grab the reader’s attention and can be very thought-provoking as well. When done effectively, they can elicit an emotional response from your readers. Sales expert and author Tom Hopkins once said: “People buy emotionally, then defend the sale with logic.” In the case of a webpage, it is imagery that provides that emotional element.
It’s not just enough to add imagery, though—you must know how to incorporate it effectively. For all the emotion that images can provide, computers themselves are quite technical. The process must be completed in a way search engines can understand. Knowledge of file types and keywords is crucial.
Search engines do not understand what (dji_0238.jpg) or (img_0054.jpg) means. When a photo is taken, the camera decides how the image file should be named. This process is often predetermined by the camera’s manufacturer. For instance, a photo taken with a Nikon could be named, img.1234.jpg by default. Photos shot via my Canon 5D Mark 4 are named 5D4_1234.jpg or JSK_1234 because I programmed the device specifically to create this file name.
The point is, a series of letters and numbers may be the language spoken by your camera, but Google will not understand it. By manually changing the file name on an image, you can give meaning to the file.
Also, if you own your images, consider adding a © copyright symbol to your file name. This alerts viewers that you own the rights to the image. As a South Florida SEO expert and photographer, I copyright all of my image files. Additionally, you should never pull images of another companies website and use them on your site unless you have permission. The copyright laws are strict and when enforced the penalties could be costly. If you need a marketing image your best options are to purchase the usage rights from the image supplier, or hire a photographer and make sure the photographer gives you full usage rights.
When renaming your image files, I have found that SEO results are best when short, relevant file names are used. According to many other experts, Google relies on your image or picture file name to index and rank the images on your website.
How to Change Your File Names
On an Apple device, changing your file name is easy. Simply click on the file name until it is highlighted, then enter return. On a PC, the easiest method is to right-click the file and select the ‘rename’ option.
So now that you know the file name should be changed, the question remains: to what?
Image filenames should be short, unique and relevant to your webpage’s content. In the case of my website, I use an SEO program to scan my content and check all file names. If a duplicate file name is added by mistake, the program issues a warning.
Some website software will warn you if you add a image with a duplicate file name. Duplicate file names are a problem for search engines. →
Relevant file names are quite useful for digital marketing beyond the bounds of Google’s algorithm. Many other search engines also read file names and rank them accordingly. Most search engines cannot determine the content of a photo, but by including alt text or alt tags, search engines can read your photograph or graphics description.
I say ‘most’ because currently, Google cannot recognize image content. However, rumor has it that Google is working on image-recognition technology. In the future, Google and other search platforms may evolve and develop the ability to determine the meaning of an image.
Alt tags and alt text are also known as title attributes and were first incorporated into online imagery to help the blind determine what was being shown in the image. For the blind, computer screen readers or text-reading software could be used to translate text into speech. When vision-impaired readers would come upon an image, the words in title attributes would describe the image.
At some point, Google decided to incorporate all title attributes into their search algorithm. Only Google knows the extent to which title attributes influence search results. However, from my own experience, I know that images containing title attributes tend to find placement ahead of images with no such tags or text.
Incorporating Alt Tags and Text Into Your Website
In a fashion similar to file names, alt tags and text should be relevant to the image, and also contain necessary keywords. One easy rule is to write your alt text as if you are describing the image to someone who cannot see it. Relevant keywords aids in the SEO aspect as well. In addition, when Google reads alt text, it compares the text to the text on the webpage, so the content must match up.
If you are adding an image about headshot photography, the alt text should include words related to both the surrounding text and the image itself. As a headshot photographer, you would not want your alt text to read: ‘Best headshot photographer in Miami’. You should also avoid using the same alt text for every image. For example, every image should not include the same alt text that reads ‘Palm Beach Headshot Photographer’. This would be considered keyword stuffing and could earn a penalty against your site. A prime example of alt text could be
“‘Headshot of Susan Smith, Accountant at Miami Tax Company”, or “Picture of Susan Smith Article for Tax Law.”
Below are some images with examples of good and bad alt texts.
Google also uses alt text to determine how images appear in Google Image search results. This means that in a search, your article images could also appear in Google Images. I am always amazed to see how many of my images appear on Google Images.
SEO in Relation to Image Size. Don’t slow down your website by using images that use too much memory.
When your website appears in a search result, your website must open the very second your search result link is clicked. Most who click on search results have very little patience. If someone clicks on the website and is left waiting more than two or three seconds, chances are high they will simply move on to another search result. In addition to losing the viewer, Google will record this as a ‘bounce’. Each bounce gets added to your overall bounce rate: a metric used by Google to dictate whether or not a viewer liked your content. The reality may be that the viewer never saw your webpage, but Google doesn’t care. The algorithm only knows that visitors went to your page, and then left right away.
So, what causes these delays? One of the main reasons why a webpage does not open quickly is the size of an image file. The larger the file, the more time it takes for a website to open. Images on a website should be sized to use the least amount of memory possible. On my website, images are sized below 900kb. In Photoshop, a full-sized image is only 1,000 pixels or less.
There are other reasons why a website may load too slowly. These include the speed of the hosting company or the speed of the viewer’s internet service. Such issues are out of your control, but I have found that image size is all-too-often the culprit.
- Adding imagery to your website or blog page is a great way to make your content more engaging. Imagery will also increase your website’s search ranking. However, the practice works best when images are correctly formatted and include all necessary information.
- It is almost a given that image file names will not be correctly formatted by default. Even images purchased from a stock agency usually use the agency’s name as the file name. Because of this, image files should always be re-named.
- All images on a blog or website should include alt tags and alt texts, otherwise known as title attributes. Title attributes allow search engines and image readers to know what is being shown in the image.
- The image file size is critical to website loading speed. If a site loads too slowly, it may be the result of your images using too much memory. This will reduce the effectiveness of your SEO performance.
I hope you found this article on website imagery helpful. As both a photographer and a South Florida SEO expert, I have found that using the correct alt tags and file names Is critical to SEO success. I have found that my success in SEO and Digital marketing has led to additional photography assignments. For my South Florida SEO clients helping their websites appear on page one is my priority. To learn more about my SEO journey check out my about Jeff page here. If you found this blog post helpful, leave a comment. If you need help with your websites digital marketing, call me at (561) 737-5561. Jeff