8 easy steps to optimize visuals to improve SEO

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Google SERPs have become more and more visual in the last few years. When we search on Google, most of the time the first thing we see is visuals, such as product images and article thumbnails. The old days when all you saw on Google’s results were links and text.
That’s why you need a foster a comprehensive visual marketing strategy if you want to achieve organic visibility on Google.

A critical aspect to build visibility is optimizing visuals for SEO, so your images help you to reach high positions. Your SEO checklist should include how to optimize visuals for SEO, from infographics to GIFs and photos.

Visuals are critical to making your content more engaging and, as a result, reduce bounce rates that could damage your SEO efforts and all your content marketing strategy. Also, data shows that videos are returned for more than 30% of search results on Google, while images are returned for nearly 40%.

Google makes it clear that relevance is the number one ranking factor, so making people want to read your content should be your main goal if you want to improve your SEO.

Likewise, the longer users stay on your website, the higher your content will rank, according to studies. So having powerful visuals such as long-form infographics, videos and carousels will drive traffic to your website. This is not only because of a feel-good factor added to your content but also because of Google’s algorithm.

Now that you know why it is critical to optimize your visuals for SEO, let’s see how to do it in 8 easy steps.

1. Write optimized alt tags

Keywords are crucial to any piece of content, and every content marketer knows that. But oftentimes we forget to add keywords to Alt tags when creating visuals.

An alt tag is an alternative text for an image or video.  It is critical to help Google find your content, and not only to be shown when visuals are not properly displayed. So including the right keywords is a great way to help your content to be found. This way, if you upload an image without an alt tag Google will not read it and it will be as if it doesn’t exist.

Google will read your image according to its alt tag. So, focus on letting search engines know what your visuals are about. Also, make sure you add your content’s main keyword to your alt tag. This way, Google can read your content and rank your site accordingly.

Also, Google makes it clear that alt texts are valuable and help them to show the best images to queries.

When writing an alt text, keep it short. Google indexes short tags easier and avoid keyword stuffing.
This is because longer keywords can lower your content’s rank.
To optimize your visuals for SEO, focus on describing your images. All you’ve got to do is include a relevant keyword. This will help both visually impaired readers and search engines read your visual content.

If you are starting to fill your alt tags now, check your web pages to see if all alt tags are written accordingly to what images show and the main keywords of your pieces of content.

2. File size

Page speed certainly is a rank factor and it also influences website bounce rates. Also, page speed is important, especially for e-commerce, to improve customer satisfaction.

The larger your image files are, the longer it will take to load a webpage, so make sure that your visuals are no larger than necessary to avoid slowing down your site speed hence damaging your SEO and driving readers away.

You can increase your webpage load speed by reducing image file sizes by different means:

  • Use Photoshop’s Save for Web to set the image to a lower size while checking image quality;
  • When uploading an image, depending on the CMS you are using;
  • Using online an online image resizer.

To improve webpage load speed, besides compressing your image files, consider setting visuals to lazy loading, which means the browser will only load a media file when they need to be displayed. Doing this speeds up, especially long pages with many images.

3. File type

Here there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on you your image and its purpose, you can upload your files as JPEG, GIF, or PNG, since each one of them has its pros and cons. ​So check the main differences between the three most common file formats that you can use to upload images to your website:

  • JPEG is usually the best choice because it provides more ways to keep image quality even when compressed, and it is certainly the right format for photos.
  • GIFs should only be used for smaller images, as they lose much more quality when compared to JPEG to have a smaller file size.
  • PNG is better for logos and other small, high-quality images and graphics with less than 16 colors.

4. Make your visuals responsive

Google mobile-first indexing makes it critical to make your website responsive. And fully accomplish this task, it is important to ensure that your visuals are responsive too so your pages work well on different screen sizes.

It is not recommended to upload low-resolution or too-small images and thumbnails to make them fit on smaller screens because they might not be included in Google Images.

5. Descriptive titles

Google can extract data from your filenames, so writing a descriptive title will let them know what your image will show to users. Also, Include captions and text for images, and place them near the relevant text to add some context.

As an example, this infographic below can be named how-to-create-a-job-aid.png.

6. Structured data

Make your visuals stand out by adding structured data to your images so they can be shown as rich results. You can add structured data for review, video, and recipes.

To improve your chances of being eligible for Google’s rich results, make sure your image is relevant to the page so don’t specify every image on an article, for example, but only the most important ones.

Also, image URLs must be crawlable and indexable, so take a look at the next topic and, for a complete guide to rich result display, see Google’s structured data guidelines.

7. Use image sitemaps

Google has a topic in their guide for developers called “Help us discover all your images” and its first item is on image sitemaps. Doing this is very straightforward, and you just need to submit an image sitemap. Image sitemaps can include URLs from other domains, which regular sitemaps can’t.

Using an image sitemap boosts your SEO by helping Google crawl and index your images. You can generate a sitemap using online tools such as Yoast if you are running WordPress or a desktop tool like Screaming Frog.

8. Leverage shareability

Visuals are highly shareable, when original. So work towards creating visual content to engage and impact users so they share your content on social media and blogs.

You can use infographics to get more links to your website as a part of your link-building strategy by repurposing articles and delivering data in an attractive way, like this one on child labor that summarizes an article from United Nations.

When combining a well-designed infographic with relevant text, you add to your content and improve the user experience and, as a result, your blog’s ranking.

Likewise, blog posts with infographics get 178% more backlinks and had 72% more views than all other articles. And more links plus more views equal better ranking.

To see a complete step-by-step, check the infographic below and a complete article on how to make an infographic.

Wrapping up

It is worth taking time to optimize your visuals for SEO and using images to generate more links to your website. Using more visuals and optimizing your content for SEO will help users and Google to find your content and make it more valuable for your marketing strategy.

Remember that before uploading visuals to your site it is important to follow these tips to make the most of your visual content.

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