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November 3, 2015

Are Images Killing Your SEO?

We’ve been told it before and we’ll be told it again: Every page should include images. Blog posts, “About Us”, even FAQs and dull specs pages should contain an image. There has always been, of course, a right way and a wrong way to add an image but recent findings have made it significantly more clear that businesses need to pay even closer attention to the images they use, from the aesthetic appeal right down to the coding of that image.

Why Is This Important?

A recent in depth study by Raven, software developer and SEO experts, found that nearly 80% of websites’ issues were tied to their images. The metrics for the study are impressive; they reviewed “4 billion on-page SEO issues among 200 million page crawls.” Talk about a cross-section of the web and its myriad SEO issues.

Images 101

Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s talk about tried and true strategies that always work when adding images to web content. Humans are becoming more and more adept at processing visual, non-text, information. We’ve always done it when communication needs to be quick – icons that tell us not to go near the cliff, or that the escalator is broken – but more and more consumers are getting used to getting their information visually. That means websites need to think about what can be communicated visually and how to do it. Without going to deep, here are some strategies that aren’t going away:

  • Don’t Slap On Any Old Image. Images should not be an afterthought. A restaurant page should not post a stock image of a burger – they should include a professional shot of one of their burgers. Images should be as unique to the site and its mission as possible, loaning authenticity to the website – most can spot a stock photo a mile away.
  • An Image Doesn’t Have To Be A Picture. If you’re posting a study about, say, the most common SEO issues found on the web, like Raven did, there may not be a picture that matches. Graphs and charts that help visitors easily grab important information make more sense here than photographs. Think about how many infographics you see shared on social media sites – infographics, when designed well, are some of the best images for SEO.
  • User-Friendly Means More Users. Sites with appropriate use of images – ones that are authentic, relate to content and communicate something of value connected to the purpose of the page – get repeat visitors who share those images and pages. And when someone clicks on that title and image they get to your page.

The Raven study found that there were many times, though, that images were harming SEO. In fact, the two most common SEO issues were image related and involved things missing from them:

  • Title Attributes: Text that shows up when a cursor hovers on an image.
  • Alt Attributes: Text that shows up in place of an image when images disabled in a browser, or a slow browser doesn’t load the image. This is very important for the web crawlers that determine SEO rank!

Crafting Title Attributes

Title attributes show up when you hover your mouse over a picture and are helpful to your visitors. Using the idea of a restaurant picking images, a restaurant posting a picture of one of its awesome burgers would be smart to include the name of that burger in the title text and something else that connects it to the page, like the name of the restaurant. Is it on the menu page? “You’ll Find This Blue Moon Burger On The Menu at Burger Bot.”

Determining Alt Attributes

While alt attributes are important to your readers, they are more important to those little spiders crawling the web to determine how good a site’s SEO is. Visitors will see this text if an image doesn’t load or if they have images disabled. So don’t just stuff! Be sure that alt text gives information about the image but is varied from the title attribute. Both attributes should exhibit authentic use of keywords and connect to the image and the content.

How do your images stack up? Are you including titles that are more than the file name? Are you think about keywords and the rules of keywords when assigning title and alt attributes? Go through your site to find places where you can make better use of these two major SEO stumbling blocks.

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