If you are a blogger or write articles for an online magazine or newspaper, you likely encounter this question on a daily basis: Should I add an image to my article? The answer is “Yes”.
Images make an article more vivid and can actually contribute to improving the SEO for your article. In this post, I’d like to explain the steps that should be taken to fully optimize an image for SEO.
Images, when added with a certain consideration, will help understand your article a lot. “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Yeah, well, probably not for Google, but it can for sure spice up a 1000 dull words, illustrate what you mean in a chart or data flow diagram, or simply make your social media efforts more attractive.
It’s a simple recommendation: use images to every article you write online. It’ll make it more appealing.
Finding The Right Image
If you have the opportunity to add your own image, please do so. Your team page needs pictures of your team, not this dude on the right or one of his stock photo friends. (Off topic: that dude might need a haircut.)
Your article needs an image that has the same subject as your article. If you use an image just to use an image and get a green bullet in our Yoast SEO plugin, you are doing it wrong. The image should reflect the topic of the post, or have illustrative purposes within the article, of course.
There is a simple image SEO reason for that: an image that is surrounded by related text ranks better for the keyword it is optimized for. (More details on image SEO later.)
You might have seen the images we use for our posts (the ones with the titles). We have added these for a number of reasons:
- They emphasize the title or subject of the post
- It’ll trigger a visitor to read the post, as the first view isn’t just text
- These images are used in OpenGraph tags and Twitter Cards, which will add the image to our social shares.
Just another way to go about adding images. By the way, most of the ‘featured images’ we use are stock photos. We have made them our own by adding the title to the picture, making the actual image subservient to the text in the image. That goes against a much-heard recommendation to not add text in images, but as mentioned, we use that specific image for other purposes, not per se for SEO.
If there is no way to use images of your own, there are other ways to find more unique images and refrain from using stock photos. Flickr.com is a nice image source for instance, as explained in this article: How to Use Creative Commons Images from Flickr. I also like the images provided by sites like freeimages.com (formerly known as sxc.hu). You should stay away from the obvious stock photos, and rather pick the ones that look (ok, just a bit) more genuine. It almost seems like images with people always look like stock photos, unless taken by yourself. In the end, that is still the best idea.
Obvious alternatives for photos could be illustrations, like we sometimes use, or graphs, of course. An honorable mention should go to animated GIFs, as these seem to become more and more popular these days.
Don’t go overboard. It’ll make your post less attractive to read, as your reading will be interrupted by the movement in the image, of course. Like in the post where I found the above image.
Preparing Images For Use in Your Article
When you have found the right image to use, either an illustration, chart or photo, the next step is to optimize that image for use on your website. There are a number of things to take in consideration:
Choose The Right File Name
Image SEO starts with the right file name. Of course this is the first location to use that keyword. Without even looking at the actual image, you want Google to know what the image is about. It’s simple: if your image is a sunrise in Paris showing the Notre Dame, the file name shouldn’t be DSC4536.jpg, but notre-dame-paris-sunrise.jpg. The main keyword would be Notre Dame, as that is the main subject of the photo, that is why I added that at the beginning of the file name.
Scale For Image SEO
Loading times are an important UX, and therefore SEO, aspect. The faster the site, the easier it is to visit and index your page. Images can have a huge impact on loading times, especially when you load a huge image and show it really small, like using a 2500×1500 pixels image and showing it at 250×150 pixels size. The entire image will still have to be loaded. Scale the image to the size you want to show it. WordPress helps by providing the image in multiple sizes after upload. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the file size is optimized as well, that’s just the image size.
Reduce File Size
The next step in image SEO should be to make sure that scaled image is served in the smallest file size possible. There are tools for that. Of course you could just export the image and test what percentage of quality is acceptable, but I prefer (especially with retina and similar screens) to use 100% quality images.
You can still reduce the file size of these images by for instance removing the EXIF data. We recommend using tools like ImageOptim or websites like JPEGMini or PunyPNG. I’ve also heard great stories about Kraken.io, but I haven’t used them myself, to be honest.
After you have uploaded the image, tools like YSlow can tell you if your image optimization succeeded.
By Michiel Heijmans SEO Tips.