The official Google Webmaster blog recently shared some tips that should prove invaluable in optimizing images for your healthcare web design and overall SEO strategy. If you are experimenting with ways to make your content more visual so you can take advantage of the increased popularity of visual content, these tips are definitely for you.
How Google Identifies and Indexes Images
The image types Google can index include BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG. When Google’s algorithms index an image, it looks at the written copy on the page where the image was found as well as the page’s title and body. Google also considers anchor text pointing to the image, the image’s filename, and its alt text. Google may also use other methods like computer vision (methods for acquiring, processing, analyzing, and understanding images) and the caption from the Image Sitemap, if available, to learn more about the images it finds.
Optimizing your Images for Google Searches
1. Only Use Google-Supported Image Formats on Your Site
The image types Google can index include BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG, so be sure to only use these image file types on your website to make it possible for Google to index them.
2. Use Descriptive Words Related to the Content of the Image to Name your Image
Name your image files something that is indicative of what the image is itself, rather than something like IMG2394870.jpg. Descriptive filenames are also helpful for users who come across your images in search, since Google admits to using filenames as the image’s snippet in search results when it can’t locate any relevant text on the page that references the image.
3. Use Image Alt Text to Describe Images
Because Google and other search engines have a difficult time “seeing” images, use the alt text to describe it in a way that humans would read and understand. The alt text of an image is important for a couple of reasons.
- It lets Google know what the subject matter of the image is. Google then uses this information to determine the best images to return for a searcher’s query.
- It provides users who are unable to see images (whether they have visual impairments or are using low-bandwidth connections) to be able to interpret images.
4. Provide Context for the Image in the Page’s Surrounding Text
It helps Google if the text on the page where the image is located mentions the image. Therefore, always try to reference your images in your text, close to where it resides on the page, using keywords similar to the alt text/filename of the image. Google also recommends providing descriptive titles and captions for your images, so consider adding those when relevant.
5. Submit an Image Sitemap
Google encourages website owners to submit what’s called an Image Sitemap, which helps the Google team learn about your website’s new images as well as determine what those images are about. In the simplest sense, a Sitemap is a list of the pages on your website. You can use Google’s image extensions for Sitemaps to give Google additional information about the images on your website. This helps Google discover images it might not have otherwise discovered. In addition, it enables you to identify the most important images on your own website. To create an Image Sitemap, you’ll have to add image-specific tags to a Sitemap, or just update an existing Sitemap.
6. Use Descriptive Anchor Text When Linking to Images
Although you essentially have no control over the anchor text external pages use when linking to your images, you do have control over the anchor text you use in the links on your own site. Make sure this anchor text is useful, relevant, and descriptive of your images to clearly indicate to users the destination of your links. This will also make for a better user experience. For example, if you were linking to an album of origami paper animal creations made using your handmade paper, you might make the anchor text, Origami Animals Made with Handmade Paper.
7. Protect Your Images
By not protecting your images, your original often gets buried in the rankings by copies of your image, especially if those copies are better optimized. So “if the original source is a page from an image gallery that has very little text,” remarks Google, “it can happen that a page with more textual context is chosen to be shown in search.” If you are concerned about others abusing, misusing, or not crediting the original images you embed on your website, make your images available under an attribution license that require users to attribute you as the source and link back to your website. You can use such licensing services as Creative Commons to easily implement this.
8. Consider User Experience
As is evident by the huge popularity of visual websites like Pinterest, using images and visuals is a great way to boost site traffic. But Google also encourages users not to overlook the user experience of those site visitors. Thus, Google recommends the following best practices for creating a positive user experience through use of images:
- Use High-Quality Images: Not only are they more professional-looking and sharper-looking in the thumbnail versions displayed in Google Image Search, but they are also more effective at attracting inbound links and generating traffic when shared on third-party websites like Pinterest.
- Create Standalone Pages for Important Images: You may use images on various pages of your site, but if you want a certain image to rank well in search, consider creating a dedicated page for that image where you can aggregate all its related information in one place.
- Place Images above the Fold: In other words, don’t make visitors scroll down on the page to view your image. This will help you to immediately capture the attention of your visitors.
- Create Directories to Curate Similar Images: This is particularly important if you have a visual business such as a photographer or an artist. Make it easy for your users to browse through relative images.
- Optimize Images to Load Quickly: This will prevent the text on your page from loading before the images do.