Optimizing Your Images for the Web

The internet has come a long way since the days of Netscape Navigator. The web has become an increasingly visual space, and our attentions have become commodity. Apps like Instagram and Snapchat further push us into a visual world full of instant gratification. All of this means you’re likely using images as much as possible throughout your website. It’s important to optimize these images for the best user experience and SEO value. There are a few key tips keep in mind when using images for your website.

Stock Images Don’t Help Your Cause 

While it may be tempting to use stock imagery, you risk getting lost in the thousands of other sites that are using the exact same imagery. Stock photos turn your website into a generic marketing brochure for a faceless business. Imagine the overused photo showcasing a group of diverse professionals standing around a computer chatting. Or the woman wearing a headset, looking at the camera, and smiling. While these are certainly nice looking photos, custom photography will push your website to stand out among a sea of stock photography.

Beware of Copyright

If you do decide to use stock imagery, be sure to check that there is no copyright conflict. Even if you think an image is copyright free, you may be missing information on the original owner. There are some resources where you can find photos with a Creative Commons license. You’ll be able to use these so long as you give full credit and link back to the original owner.

Optimize Your File Size

Page speed is an incredibly important aspect of your website’s user experience. Images are common causes of slow loading times. You can minimize the effects of your images by resizing and compressing your images to the smallest size necessary without sacrificing any quality. Adobe Photoshop has a “Save for Web” function to help reduce file sizes. Oversized photos that slow page load speeds will result in a poor user experience and lower SEO value. It’s important to not compress your images so much that it starts to affect quality.

Follow SEO Best Practices

There are two main things you should do to optimize your images for SEO. The first is to create a descriptive and keyword-focused filename. Often you’ll find images with names like “IMG_23232” or some other generic naming convention. Using descriptive file names will help search engines understand your imagery.

Alt tags are another great way to give search engines more information on what your images are. Google has stated that alt tags provide their search engine with useful information on the subject matter of the image. This helps give contextual value to the image as well as the page it is on. Alt text is also required under the American Disabilities Act, as it is used by screen readers for users who cannot see.

Use an Image Sitemap 

Creating an image sitemap houses all the information on your images in one place. It gives Google and other search engines a road map to crawl all of the images on your site. The easier content on your site is to find, the more likely search engines will assign value to that content. If you’re using a WordPress CMS, creating an image sitemap can be made easy through the use of plugins. You can either create a specific sitemap for your images or add images information to your existing sitemap.

Using high-quality, unique imagery on your site is a great way to draw attention and keep users engaged. By keeping size and SEO best practices in mind, you can maximize the value that your imagery adds to your website from both a user experience perspective as well as being found in search engines.

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