It’s not uncommon for digital marketers and SEO experts to get caught up with how their content is performing in search results. I mean, who would blame them? It’s a key component of their jobs.

However, to create more well-rounded and compelling content, marketers need to spend time thinking about how to optimize their images for search results.

“Alright, but Devin, content is king.” I understand that, but let’s not forget that images can be just as valuable to an audience as written content–and in some cases, more valuable.

Did you know that 26 percent of all searches today are conducted on Google Images? That’s more searches than YouTube, Yahoo, Bing, and every other search engine combined. Content that contains visual elements like images or videos receives up to 94 percent more views than text-only content.

The proof is in the data, which means it’s time to tackle image SEO with some fervor.

Here are eight important image SEO tips that can help you rank higher in search results, capture organic traffic, and increase the overall quality of your content.

1. Design Compelling, Original Images

One of the most important tips I can provide is to design compelling, original images that are able to capture the attention of your audience and search audiences. Yes, this tip is less related to SEO and more focused on design, but let me explain.

To quote Google: “To boost your content’s visibility in Google Images, focus on the user by providing a great user experience. Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”

Original branded images that are able to visualize ideas/processes can be highly engaging and stand out from the crowd in Google’s image results–leading to a higher click-through rate (CTR), a metric that Google uses when testing the ranking of its search results. 

You’re also not feeding search users the same stock photo that’s been seen in thousands of other blogs, nor are you reusing and sourcing other blog images.

Don’t just write for the user experience, design for it as well. And if you absolutely must use stock photos because graphic design isn’t in your budget, then you should check out the best stock photo websites with a variety of inexpensive and royalty-free images to choose from.

2. Make Sure Images Are Mobile-Friendly

Google is all-in on mobile and has even announced that it will make mobile-first indexing its default by September 2020. This means that if your web content is not mobile-friendly, you could see some hits in traffic.

On the subject of user experience and user-friendliness, make sure that you’re designing images with mobile users in mind. Here’s an example of what this looks like using one of our G2 articles:

If you’re struggling to decipher an image on mobile, then it’s time to make some design tweaks so that it fits both desktop and mobile standards.

Tip: Most major content management systems today have options to preview articles on any device before publishing. Make sure you use this feature to preview how your images will look on mobile devices.

3. Avoid Text-Heavy Images

Another tip when designing images for articles is to avoid littering them with text. Of course, some text is alright, but if you find yourself writing a paragraph within an image, then it’s time to hit the drawing board for a redesign.

Google has world-class character recognition software to recognize text within images, but they still advise against it. From their Webmaster blog: “To ensure maximum accessibility of your content, keep text in HTML, provide alt text for images.”

Not only do text-heavy images provide a poor mobile experience, but page translation tools cannot read them. So, keep the important text in HTML and save the text-heavy images for infographics.

4. Use High-Quality Images

There are fewer things that negatively impact user experience than low-quality, pixelated images, which is why you’ll want to avoid publishing them at all costs.

In a study on e-commerce sites, 63 percent of respondents said the quality of images was more important to them than product-specific information. Quality isn’t just referring to an image’s clarity and resolution, but its relevance as well.

Is the image you’re providing actually needed? Is it embedded in the right spot? Does it provide valuable context to the site visitor? These are questions you need to consider before publishing images.

5. Compress Large Images

The duality of high-quality images is that they’re great for the user experience, but sometimes come with hefty file sizes. This is concerning, especially since page loading speed is one of the known search ranking factors.

The math is simple: The more “stuff” a webpage has to load, the longer it’ll take for the visitor to receive their content. With every passing second, the probability of that visitor exiting your site increases.

So, how do you ensure high-quality images aren’t weighing down your webpages? Simply compress them using a number of free file compressors on the web. You’ll be able to retain most of the quality while drastically reducing its size.

6. Write an Adequate File Name

Google extracts information from a webpage like headers and body text so it can learn more about the contents of an image. This helps Google understand whether or not an image is relevant to its users. Part of the information that is extracted in this process includes the file name of images.

Digital marketers should write file names directly after they create them or edit them before publishing an article. Below are examples of bad, good, and best ways to name your image files:

  • Bad: IMG008956.jpg
  • Good: SEO-tips.jpg
  • Best: 10-SEO-tips-for-digital-marketers.jpg

Be sure to use relevant target keywords in your file names and be descriptive, but be wary of keyword stuffing. This could have a negative impact on your image SEO.

7. Write Descriptive Alt-Text

After writing an adequate file name and embedding the image in your content management system, you should also look to add some alt-text.

Providing alt-text is a signal for search engines when crawling your webpage, but it’s also important for making your content more accessible to sight-impaired search users. Because of this purpose, you should write descriptive alt-text similar to the image’s file name, but try to limit it to a sentence or less.

8. Use Structured Data When Necessary

If you run an e-commerce website or host a variety of products, then factoring in structured data with your images can be a game-changer.

Structured data is basically markup language that displays your images as rich results. In other words, structured data provides more context to search users about what your product is, its price, how other users rate it, and more. Below is an example of structured data for the Nutribullet blender:

Structured data is most commonly used for products, videos, and recipes on the web. You can read more about how to apply structured data in Google’s developer blog.

Wrapping up

Some digital marketers look at image optimization through such a hyper-focused SEO lens that they forget to actually design for the user experience. Whether you’re selling a product or looking to boost your blog content, user experience needs to be front of mind.

Yes, the technical aspects of image SEO like sitemaps, responsive designs, and lazy loading are important, but if the image itself isn’t intriguing and relevant to the user, then no amount of optimization will help.

Author Bio

Devin is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at G2 writing about analytics, SEO, and digital marketing. Prior to G2, he helped scale early-stage startups out of Chicago’s booming tech scene. Outside of work, he enjoys watching his beloved Cubs, playing baseball, and gaming.