High-quality images are important to grabbing the attention of travel shoppers. Images are an incredibly powerful way to create an emotional connection with consumers, which is important because a whopping 50% of purchases are driven by emotion. Of course having the most visually-stunning content isn’t of much value if nobody can find it. And that’s where Search Engine Optimization comes in.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical to any digital marketing strategy. In this article, we explain how to optimize images for SEO to drive more organic traffic.
How Images Affect Search Engine Optimization
Images play an important role in the overall health of a webpage. At a high level, they make a website more appealing, which improves time on site and overall usability; two important factors in SEO.
More directly, images support the content on a page, and help make it more relevant to the search terms people are searching. According to Yoast, “an image that is surrounded by related text ranks better for the keyword it is optimized for.”
Images can also be a great way to drive organic traffic to a website from image-based search engines (e.g. Google Images). Searches done via Google Images are on the rise, and so is the engagement of those using it.
According to Hoosh, only 17% of Google users scroll down the traditional Search Engine Results Page (SERP), while 35% of users scroll down the Google Images results page. Furthermore, 63% of users who click on an image in this results page then visit the website. So don’t discount the importance of image-based search on driving organic traffic.
All of these are good reasons to optimize your images for SEO. Here are a few simple tips on where to start.
Best Practice 1: Use Descriptive File Names
Using a descriptive file name for your image will ensure that Google knows what the image is about, without looking at the image. In the absence of other valuable data, Search Engines will also use the file name of an image to better understand it. This file name might be used as the image’s snippet in search results, so you want it to be relevant.
Photos uploaded from a digital camera are often given an alphabetical and numerical code like DSC4536.jpg. Make sure you rename your images to something more descriptive. For example: if your image is a sunrise in Toronto showing the CN Tower, the file name shouldn’t be DSC4536.jpg –it should be Toronto CN Tower.jpg. Try to put the main keyword (the main subject of the photo) at the beginning of the file name (in this case “Toronto”).
For VScape Users: When you upload your media to VScape, make sure you change the title of the file name so that it accurately reflects what the image is, as we’ve outlined above. In VScape this will also become the caption for your photo.
Best Practice 2: Add Alt Text Descriptions
While Search Engines are robust, at the moment they are not able to read an image and determine what it contains. Instead, they use the surrounding text to determine what it is and why it might be valuable. That’s where Alt Text descriptions come in.
Alt Text (which stands for Alternate Text) is part of a webpage’s HTML code. It’s used by screen readers for the visually impaired to understand what an image is. It also comes in handy in the event that an image doesn’t load properly.
Alt Text is different from the Title Tag of an image. A Title Tag shows a description when you hover your mouse over the image. It could be an additional call to action, or details about the image. Title Tags do not affect your SEO. Alt Text, on the other hand, does.
Many web marketers skip the Alt Text box when uploading images, and miss out on its benefits. Google does crawl Alt Text, and uses this data to determine what content is relevant to someone performing a search. That means you need to put something in the Alt Text box.
For VScape Users: Your image’s short and long descriptions function much like the Alt Text for search engines. So, you should apply the same Alt Text suggestions to these descriptions. The short description is the headline for the image. Limit short descriptions to no more than 90 characters. Long descriptions are where you can share more detailed information about a media item. This is an opportunity to give additional insight into the value the image is providing. When you are implementing a Leonardo gallery on your site, you need to make sure to include the SEO snippet so that text content (short and long descriptions) is visible to search engines.
Best Practice 3: Use Keywords in Your Descriptions
The Alt Text box is a great opportunity to include keywords that you want to rank for. However, your Alt Text descriptions must be relevant to the image first and foremost, not the page. In other words, no keyword stuffing.
With this in mind, consider what keywords or search terms make sense, and how to incorporate them into your Alt Text description, while still describing the image.
Here’s a good example from the Flathead Lake Lodge in Montana. A quick Google Images search for “Horseback riding in Montana” shows their image toward the top of the page.
On closer inspection of this image’s HTML code, you can see that the Alt Text description is “Montana Horseback Riding Vacations,” which is closely related to the search term we used, while still being relevant to the image as well.
They’ve considered what people are searching for: the location (Montana), the activity (horseback riding) and the intent (vacation), and included all three in their Alt Text description. Note the file name they’ve used as well (“Horseback_Flathead_Lake”), which contains more targeted keywords.
For VScape Users: Use the keyword method we’ve outlined above for your short and long descriptions. Short and Long Descriptions are a great opportunity to include keywords that you want to rank for. They must be relevant to the image– so consider keywords or search terms that make sense, while still describing the image.
Other Ways to Optimize Images for SEO
- Keep your images topical and relevant to the page.
- Include captions where it makes sense to do so (i.e. to illustrate a point). While this doesn’t directly impact SEO, it does make for easier scanning of the page, which improves overall usability.
In summary, images play an important role in search engine optimization, but are often overlooked. With a few simple tweaks to images, you can strengthen the overall health of a website and rank higher in search engine results.