27 Aug
2019

How do you get images to rank well on search engines?

As discussed elsewhere, the “perfect website” is one which is visible and usable – one that serves the SE crawler as well as the human users. When you see a picture on a website, it serves the human user well, because we can see what the picture is all about. But what about the poor SE crawlers, who have no human intelligence?

Remember that search engine crawlers cannot “see” what is on a picture or video file on your website, or listen to an audio recording. It has no way of knowing what is on a picture, or inside a video/audio recording, so it cannot rank those media files, except if you give it some help.

You can do that by doing as many of the following as possible:
1.   Use descriptive filenames. Leaving an image file, for example, having the name Nikon_IMG-1234567.jpg as it is, is unwise. This filename means nothing to the crawler. Rather use a descriptive, dashed filename, like: Picture-of-John-and-Jane-wedding-day-10-September-2019.jpg.

More examples (original name first, improved name second):

Canon6D-17aug2019.mp4            My-new-Corvette-Sport.mp4

rec_00000765.mp3                  Recording-Sarah-playing-guitar-Cape-Town-2019.mp3

2.   Use the supplied space for a descriptive Alt tag. If you write or generate the HTML code to display a photograph of someone’s face, the code might look like this:

<img src=”face.gif” alt=” “>

However, the empty space between the two “ “ characters is where you should put some description of what the pic is all about, so that crawlers know what is on the picture. You should do something that is a bit more descriptive, at least like this:

<img src=”face.gif” alt=”Face of Carol Solomon”>

This will not only help the crawlers to rank your pics, but it also helps partially sighted viewers to know what they are missing on your webpage (their screen readers will read your Alt text out aloud when they are viewing your webpage).

On many CMS’s (WordPress, Joomla, etc) you are often faced with the option of adding Alt text the moment you insert a picture – use it wisely.

WordPress, for example, also allows you to add yet another piece of descriptive text to the image coding – the so-called “title” tag (not to be confused with the TITLE meta-tag which sits in the HEAD section of your coding). When present, this image title tag will show when hovering over an image with your mouse.

<img src=”face.gif” alt=”Face of Carol Solomon” title=”Carol Solomon, our latest winner”>

Some more examples:

    a.     Not recommended – the empty Alt tag:

<img src=”bicycle.jpg” alt=””>

    b.     Okay:<img src=”bicycle.jpg” alt=”bicycle”>

This alt text is only “okay” since it is not very descriptive. Yes, this is an image of a bicycle. But, one can easily make this better.

    c.     Not recommended – the stuffed Alt tag:

<img src=”bicycle.jpg” alt=”bicycle bicyle cycle wheels bicycle MTB road bike cycle bicycle”>

    d.     Good:

<img src=”bicycle.jpg” alt=”A MTB bicyle being serviced”>

This example is a bit better already, though not perfect. At least it gives some idea of the kind of bicycle and what is happening on the picture.

    e.     Advisable:

<img src=”bicycle.jpg” alt=”A Scott Spark 940 MTB bicyle fitted with a Shimano XT Deore groupset”>

This example is brimming with descriptive keywords and key-phrases, making it easy for crawlers to rank this image better.

3.   Make sure that your pics are surrounded by descriptive, SEO friendly key-phrases. If your website is about wedding photography, ensure it contains text including phrases like “wedding photography”, “wedding venue”, “marriage vows”, “perfect wedding pictures”, “wedding pics in nature”, etc. This will ensure that the SE algorithms can more easily determine that your webpage contains pictures of weddings or food or sport or news items or weather or whatever it is you have on your webpage. This is standard SEO best practice anyway, so you will not be wasting your effort to do this.

4.  Try to put your images closer to the top rather than the bottom of the webpage.

5.  Do not use images containing important text – these images will need the same treatment discussed here to be of any use to crawlers.

6. For video and audio files, provide the text transcripts – it is handy for viewers to have that around anyway, and now you also add the advantage of telling the crawler what is inside the video/audio file – two for the price of one.

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