Image SEO in search engine optimization is the part of On page SEO Optimization that primarily refers to image files. In practice, this is usually referred to as image optimization. In addition to better placement in Google image search, the goals of SEO images are to increase the visibility of a website.
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In addition, optimizing images can lead to a better ratio, according to WDF * IDF. As a rule, images are mainly optimized for Google search, since the search engine group has the world’s largest database for images and lists an estimated more than 10 billion images.
The image search engine optimization takes into account all elements of a graphic such as file names, file sizes or the placement of the images on the website. WDF stands for “Within Document Frequency” and measures the frequency of all words that appear in a text and categorizes them according to weighting.
This means the relevance of the content. IDF means “Inverse Document Frequency.” This value denotes the weighting of a word in the document for search engine indexing. For this purpose, the term is set in relation to an overall body.
This means that the formula WDF * IDF can be used to determine the ratio in which certain words within a text document, document body, or website are weighted in relation to all potentially possible documents.
This formula, therefore, takes the term frequency into account and can be used for On page SEO Optimization in order to increase the relevance of a website for search engines, without the keyword density alone playing a role.
A website consists of many different elements. Some of them are visible to the user, others, like the source code, are usually invisible to him. In addition to the text, images are the most important visible components of the content of a website.
In the area of e-commerce, the quality of product images and design also has a decisive influence on customers’ buying behavior. Large online shops, therefore, optimize their pictures again and again. In image SEO, visible and invisible factors play an equally important role.
While the goal of conventional search engine optimization has a website, as a result, images SEO usually aims to rank well with an image file. However, image SEO is of great importance in the context of a holistic and, therefore, comprehensive search engine optimization.
Google Image Search Update 2017
In 2017, the new Google Image Search was launched in Germany as one of the last countries worldwide. In the previous version, Google used iFrames within which the images were displayed. If you clicked on an image in the search results, you were taken directly to the website or blog where the image was used.
This enabled website administrators to generate traffic with images and thus improve their ranking in the SERPs with clever image SEO. Since the introduction of the new image search, said iFrame had been dropped. The images are no longer displayed in their full size, in which they are shown on the original page.
Instead, users see so-called thumbnails, i.e., thumbnails in uniform dimensions. If such a thumbnail is clicked, it opens against a black background within the search results. Google has inserted two buttons to the right of the image.
One that takes you to the website that issued the image, a second that you can use to share the displayed image directly. The usability has been improved through the 2017er update.
The users no longer had to go to the original page to view the full-size image, and they no longer had to open multiple tabs to switch between thumbnails.
At the same time, legal experts and website administrators criticized the share button as favoring copyright infringements. Before the big update, only two links referred to the actual image source; after that, there were four: the image title, the URL ] below, the image itself, and the button to the right of it.
This should ensure that traffic to the source pages would not decrease. Nevertheless, the new format caused many website operators to lose traffic.
Critics of the new image search attribute this negative effect to the fact that users no longer have a reason to visit the original website since Google clicks on a thumbnail to immediately display the image in full size.
According to critical voices, this would ensure that the author would lose both the content and the aesthetic control over his image because he could not determine the context in which the image would be displayed and used.
Google Image Search would have lost its character as a search engine, the purpose of which would be to provide websites to users. Since the new image search no longer requires a visit to the website that issued the image, this feature has been lost.
Google Image Search Update 2018
In September 2018, there was a new update for Google Image Search. The number of thumbnails displayed was reduced by a quarter. Previously, information about the image, especially the page title and the domain, was only visible when the user clicked on a thumbnail.
Since the optical update at the end of September 2018, this information has been placed directly below the image. As a result, only those images are shown in the SERPs whose SEO images are particularly strong. Medium rankings run the risk of slipping onto the following pages.
With the Image Search Update 2018, however, the traffic for well-ranked images is improved again compared to the update from 2017. The immediate presence of the source information below the thumbnails increases the likelihood that users will view the original version of the image on the unique website.
More updates in Google Image Search
- As part of the 2018 Image Search update, Google has now introduced a reference to the author of the respective image, the so-called image credits.
- Since then, advertising images have also been shown in the SERPs of the image search for searches with transactional keywords.
- By providing metadata in the binary file of the image, Google can now assign the images to the rightful authors. The IPTC information must be filled in for the author, rights holder, and attribution to be displayed correctly. In doing so, Google wants to strengthen the rights holders and prevent unlawful use of the images from the SERP.
What Google updates mean for the images SEO
The reduced number of preview images and the (new) possibility to generate traffic via images used on the website is significant for the SEO images.
- The image data, such as meta information, title and file name, must be in the context of the article within which the image is used. Google prefers images from content whose keyword best matches the search phrase of the user.
- It is best for site operators to optimize the image in the visible area. Google is increasingly weighting the position of the image on the original page. For users who are interested in the picture, it should be immediately apparent when they get to the website.
- The timeliness of an article can have a short-term influence on the positioning of the associated image in the image SERPs. Better is so-called evergreen content, which is updated as regularly as possible.
Aspects of image optimization for search engines
Like the on-page optimization of the website, SEO images have different optimization levels: the visible level, the meta-level, and the image level itself. Search engines such as Google have become better and better in image recognition through artificial intelligence and machine learning.
But cannot yet read all the image content exactly, For this reason, the context in which the image material is embedded and the meta elements for image optimization are very important.
The Following Aspects Apply to the Optimization of the Image
- File format: The common file formats for images are JPG or JPEG, PNG, and GIF. Formats such as SVG are rather unsuitable for images in the context of the website. New formats are currently being developed, which should guarantee the high quality of images even with small files.
- These include FLIF, HEIF, or Google’s current project WebP, in which images can be displayed up to 34% less without losing their SSIM index. The common file format is the JPG. PNG is also suitable for graphics. These types of image files can be easily compressed to good file size.
- File size: To make a picture URL or file faster and easier to be crawled by Googlebot in the index, it is advisable to work with moderate file sizes optimized for the web. High-resolution images, which are compressed to a file size of approximately 150 kB, optimize the page speed of a website.Since the loading speed of a website is one of the ranking factors, the optimization of image file sizes is very important.
- Filename: This plays an important role in the later ranking in the image search. It should represent exactly what can be seen in the picture. At the same time, the image with the file name is placed in the overall context of a website.For Google and other search engines, the name offers an important orientation in order to grasp the topic of the website.
Example: a picture with fir. Filename: fir.jpg
Additions are added with hyphens.
Example: a picture with a green tomato. Filename: green-tomato.jpg
- Image size: In SEO circles, it is agreed that images that are too small such as thumbnails or previews, do not have a high chance of ranking well in the image search. The standard size of 300 pixels has been established for at least one side of the image.
- Image format: When displayed in the image search, images in landscape format, or exact 4: 3 format, are generally clicked on more frequently and have also been preferred by Google since the last update.
- Image source: The URL of the image also plays a role in image SEO. It is advisable to use a thematically relevant folder structure.
If you want to promote the indexing of image files, you can also store all image URLs in a separate XML sitemap and upload them to the Google Search Console, formerly Google Webmaster Tools.
When embedding the image and with the meta-information
- Environment: The content around the image is important for the ranking of individual images. The use of relevant keywords plays a role here.
- ALT attribute: The classic function of the alt attribute is to describe an image if it cannot be displayed in the browser due to technical problems. Accordingly, the alt attribute should exactly reflect the content of the image and contain the main keyword.
- Title tag or image title: The meta title should also be used to accommodate a relevant keyword. However, the title is primarily important for improving usability and less as a major SEO factor.
- Markups: Using schema.org and other markup languages, pictures can be provided with structured data that search engines can readout. This data makes it easier for bots to crawl and assign.
The following factors must be considered if a good ranking is to be achieved:
- Strong internal linking: This can be done “hard” or indirectly via thumbnails. However, it should also be acted with moderation here.
- Multiple-use: In this case, image SEO is complementary to content SEO. Because the multiple uses of an image with the same meta information are rather conducive to the ranking, this also applies to exact copies.
- Backlinks: These do not have a direct impact on ranking. Nevertheless, the following could apply: the more trust a website has, the more likely it is that its images will also rank well.
When optimizing images, it is certainly important that the later ranking for a certain keyword or group also depends on the competition. It will, therefore, be more difficult to rank well with a celebrity’s picture than with a photo that has been optimized for a fancy name.
However, it is also conceivable that so-called ” longtail ” keywords have better chances of good rankings than single keywords in the image search.
Advantages and benefits for SEO
The advantages of image SEO can be outlined in the following key points:
- Strengthening visibility: Since images with high relevance are also displayed directly in the organic Google SERP, websites with well-optimized images can increase their presence in the search result lists.
- Indirect traffic boost through a good ranking with images: If images are clicked in the Google image search, more users get to the website. Accordingly, traffic can be increased with SEO images.
- Possibility of a top-ranking via Universal Search: A website may be not found with the URL in the top rankings, but with an image.
- Improvement of topic relevance: If images are tagged with all-important tags, the overall thematic context of the website can be improved. This increases the chances of achieving better rankings in Google search as well.
- Usability improvement: If images are adequately compressed and of high quality, the usability of the website increases. Compression is particularly important in the context of mobile optimization since smartphones usually have less bandwidth on the go. Large image files can then unnecessarily delay the page layout.
- More traffic for e-commerce websites: When potential customers search for products, they often use image search. Anyone present there thanks to images SEO increases the chance of additional visitors and thus of more conversions.
Optimized image files support a website not only in terms of search engine optimization. By reducing the image loading time of a website, SEO has a positive impact on the user experience. In addition, optimized image data are also ideal in terms of accessibility in order to allow blind users to experience all the contents of an Internet presence.