Google’s website ranking algorithms also take into account the visual content of websites, with images playing a key role in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While most SEO strategies focus on the process of writing good and unique texts, you should know that it’s not enough to use the right keywords, headings/subheadings, and compelling meta descriptions. To boost organic traffic and enhance the user experience on your website, it is important to follow a set of WordPress image SEO best practices.
If you overlook image SEO in your strategy to boost search engine rankings, you are likely to miss opportunities to increase website traffic. In this article, you’ll learn what image SEO is, why it’s important for improving rankings and what practices can help you get the most out of your WordPress website’s images, which play an essential role in generating impressions.
What is Image SEO?
Image SEO refers to the techniques used to optimize the images on a website, with the aim of increasing their chances to get a better position in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). These practices include using the right size images, writing alternative text and adding captions.
Search engines try to understand the content of a website, both text and images. If your images are optimized, search engine crawlers will find it easier to interpret them, which may improve your website’s position in search result rankings.
Optimizing your images for search engines is critical for obtaining high-quality organic traffic. If you adopt image SEO best practices, you also have a better chance of having your images appear among the top image search results.
In other words, image SEO refers to all the techniques we use to enhance the search engine’s ability to understand and process the images we upload to our WordPress website, by providing context and using photos that match our content. As a result, the website becomes more discoverable and the UX is better, since image optimization is about ensuring faster loading speed, which is also a factor that Google takes into account when ranking a website.
Why is WordPress image SEO important?
If you choose relevant images, you help the user understand your content more easily by providing examples and reinforcing ideas with visual content. If the images are SEO-friendly, you also help the search engine understand them better. On the one hand, you get user satisfaction and engagement, and on the other hand, you get quality organic traffic because your images rank well in the SERPs.
The images on your WordPress website should have a positive impact on rankings and UX, being a significant source of traffic. That’s why you must know good WordPress image SEO tactics, which contribute to the performance of your website and can be easily implemented. They can:
- Improve page load speed: after optimizing images, you will score better in performance tests. Reducing the size of an image is one of the most important image SEO practices. Keep in mind that image size has a great influence on page load time;
- Offer a good user experience: using only SEO-friendly images means that your website is faster and users can find it more easily, which translates into easier targeting and increased traffic. In addition, using relevant and high-quality images will make the users spend more time on your website;
- Generate more traffic: as mentioned earlier, one of the goals of image SEO is to rank your images in the top results generated by Google Images. Many people who search for images on Google also check the source when they find a result that meets their expectations, which means more traffic to the website;
- Ensure that all categories of users can navigate your website easily: image SEO practices increase the accessibility of a website, which means that content can be understood by visually impaired visitors as well. How? Through alternative text, which is read by screen readers and allows users to understand what the image is about.
All the benefits of image SEO can be summed up in one sentence: optimized images have a positive impact on rankings and user experience, resulting in increased traffic, conversion rate and engagement.
Image SEO Best Practices
As we’ve discussed image SEO and explained why image optimization techniques for search engines are important, let’s explore the best WordPress image SEO practices you can follow to boost your website’s performance:
Compress your images
Images that are too large affect your website’s performance and therefore your SEO efforts. This type of media content puts a strain on your server and takes up your website’s storage. Most of a website’s content is taken up by images, which require more bandwidth to load. If you don’t compress your images, your website will load slowly and affect the user experience.
Among the factors that Google takes into account when ranking websites is the load speed, which in turn depends on the total page size. If you scored poorly in performance tests and images are to blame for your website loading slowly, you can use a plugin such as ShortPixel Image Optimizer to compress the images on your site.
The reason why image compression is critical among WordPress image SEO best practices is that it improves loading speed and results in a better user experience and better rankings, as Google rewards fast websites and has made page speed a ranking factor since it doesn’t want to send users to websites that load slowly and do not meet their expectations in terms of loading speed.
Use descriptive, relevant file names for your images
Do you want search engine crawlers to understand your images more easily? Then give them information about what the image contains using a relevant file name. Don’t use too many keywords in the image name. Simple but descriptive text works best.
If you took a picture with your phone and downloaded it to your computer, you will notice that the file name is not relevant and has nothing to do with the content of the image, being rather named after the image number in the gallery (for example: IMG0003.jpg) Thus, before uploading that image to your WordPress website, a good idea is to give it a more relevant and specific file name.
To help the search engine understand what the image contains, it is best to avoid generic file names, such as “food”. When you rename it, try to be more specific and provide more (but not too much!) details about the photo (for example: green-salad-bowl.jpg). Another SEO boosting tip is to use hyphens instead of underscores. If you use underscores, Google will read the image name as a whole, which is also available for URLs;
Use accurate alt text to describe the content of your images
Using accurate, descriptive and thoughtful alt text (alternative text) is one of the image SEO practices you should definitely keep in mind. Alt text is text that explains the content of the image and helps your website index, because it contributes to the understanding of the image by the search engine.
At the same time, alt text is the text that the browser shows to visitors using a screen reader, as well as the text displayed when the image fails to load and the browser cannot properly render it. Therefore, accurate alt text helps both people and search engines figure out what the picture is about.
Increased understanding, both from users and search engines, can help your images rank higher in image search results. File name optimization and alt text optimization work hand in hand to achieving this goal. The image name can come with additional context to complement the information provided by the alt text, but the latter is displayed when there is a problem with the image loading.
Add image captions
Captions have an indirect impact on your SEO strategy, having a positive effect on user experience and engagement metrics. Captions are those short texts, which are found at the bottom of an image and should be written naturally, without being stuffed with keywords (keyword stuffing is a negative ranking factor). They are an opportunity to make a call to action and help search engine crawlers figure out the content of the image.
It is important to mention that not every image needs a caption. Add them only where you think users still need background details, without providing redundant information. For example, a good situation where it is recommended to use captions is when the visitor needs a short explanation of the background story to better understand the image or subject. If in your article/post you already describe the image and talk in more detail about its content, there is no need for a caption;
Choose original images
A successful website loads quickly, provides high-quality information and is remarkable for its attractive, engaging, relevant and original visual content. We advise you to use your own images and not stock imagery – this will not help you stand out from the crowd and will give users a feeling of familiarity since many websites use stock images. We are 100% sure that you have seen such images before on dozens of websites (such as the classic picture of a smiling businessman).
If you use original and high-quality images, users will be more excited to explore your content and you will gain an edge over the competition through uniqueness and creativity. Moreover, Google encourages original content and ranks it higher compared to websites stuffed with stock photos. Using copied images can negatively affect your ranking so beware of copyright. If you use your own images and they are really good, there is a great chance that other websites will want to use them as well, which means a good opportunity to earn backlinks.
Just as you make sure your written content is unique, apply the same rule to the images you upload on your WordPress website. While for photographers and designers this is a simple task, for those who don’t have original images it can be a real challenge. If you find yourself in this position, you can use online tools that allow you to create your own graphics or download free images. Pick the ones that don’t offer that “total stock” feeling and aren’t used by hundreds or even thousands of other websites;
Use a sitemap to help search engines discover your images
As its name suggests, a sitemap is a file that can be compared to a map of the content on your website, that lists all of its URLs in order to explain the structure of that website to the search engine. If you already have a sitemap, add images to help Google discover them.
If you add images to a sitemap that has been created in the past or if you create a new one, you make your content more crawlable and contribute to Google’s indexing, getting more chances to see your images on the results page. The sitemap will include not only images, but all the visual content on your website (videos, GIFs, infographics, etc.).
These image optimization strategies for your SEO success can help you get the most out of your images and make your website content easier to understand, for both users and search engines. Image SEO plays an essential role in outperforming the competition and delivering a great user experience. SEO image optimization techniques bring benefits like better website ranking, lower bounce rate and overall improved website performance.
We hope our article has helped you better understand the importance of WordPress image SEO optimization and that you have learned how to implement the best techniques. You can start right away by optimizing images, renaming them with suggestive file names and adding alt text.
When it comes to image optimization and compression, we are here to help. Try ShortPixel Image Optimizer – our efficient and easy-to-use plugin. It uses minimal resources and allows you to choose between three levels of compression without compromising on image quality.