10 Ways to Optimize Images and Video for SEO

Images and video are an excellent way to help convey information about your product, service, business, or other information to your visitors and they can be optimized for SEO. Taking the time to properly optimize your images and video is important because search engine spiders aren’t currently able to directly extract the meaning from photos or videos. It is our job to help the search engines understand ours by providing them with optimized metadata including alt attributes, title attributes, surrounding elements (for context), and so on.

Here are some basic techniques you can use to improve the semantic value of images and videos so that search engines, as well as humans, can better process them.

SEO for Images

1. Make Sure Images and Videos Are Contextual and Relevant

When selecting photos, video, or other media for your web page you should select those that support the text content you have written. They should also be logically related to the keywords you will optimize them for. Researches show that images are the basic selling feature of any website. Images provide important visual queues to a visitor when they land on your page about its relevance to their search. If the images and text content match their search, they are likely to stay on your site and read not only that page, but explore your other content. Images also have the potential to generate some good backlinks.

It is important to be respectful of copyrights when finding images for your site. There are a wide variety of free and paid stock image sites available to get your images and other media from. Just because you can find an image on Google Image Search doesn’t mean it’s free to use. I’m a big fan of iStockphoto for paid royalty free images and Pixabay for free images. Don’t forget that you can also take your own photos!

2. ALT Attribute

It’s important to complete the ALT attribute for every image using clear concise copy that includes keywords. The ATL attribute is generally regarded as the primary information that a search engine will use for gaining context and meaning of images. The text you enter in the ALT attribute is what displays in place of your image if the link is broken or if it doesn’t load immediately instead of the dreaded red ‘x’. Therefore, image alt attributes need to make grammatical sense; don’t just list stuff keywords in them. Keyword-stuffing is a bad practice anywhere on your page and ALT tags are no exception; do it and you may find your image and/or site banned from search results.

3. Title Attribute

The title attribute is an additional area where you can place a keyword-rich description of the image. The text you enter in the title attribute is what displays when you place your mouse over an image with a completed title attribute; it displays in a little pop-up window.

4. Image & Video Name

The quickest thing you can do to increase the SEO value of images and videos is to use natural language file names. You should always replace auto-generated file names from digital cameras (such as DSC00427.JPG) or those that come with stock images (such as ist_000000298881.jpg). Make sure every image you include in your website is named concisely and includes the appropriate keywords for the page it’s being placed on. (Don’t overdo it though – just be accurate.) By naming your images in this manner, they will have a better chance of being indexed for the keywords included in the name. It’s even possible that you can drive new traffic to your website if the image ranks in the top rows of Google Images.

Note: There’s a seemingly endless debate as to if you should use an underscore (_), a hyphen (-), or some other character to separate multi-word-named images (e.g. my-seo-image-name.jpg vs. my_seo_image_name.jpg, etc.). Personally, my current favorite is hyphens, but I also have websites that use underscores. whichever you prefer, just be consistent. Google seems to prefer the underscore for their own sites (e.g. https://www.google.com/images/logos/mail_logo.png). I haven’t noticed a difference either way in which images get crawled and which don’t. Just don’t use a space between words as it gets formatted with a %20 (the HTML code equivalent for a space) in the URL, make it look rather unattractive.

5. Captions

Captions provide yet another opportunity to include keywords on a page. If appropriate for your design, add captions to images and make sure they are wrapped in a heading or bold tag. Here again, keywords should be at the front of the caption.

6. Image Size and Load Time

You need to carefully balance the size of the images you use on your web pages with their load time. Large images tend to be more engaging, yet they tend to have larger file sizes. Small images tend to have smaller file sizes but are less engaging. While the search engines rank images with faster load times higher than those with slower load time, it’s important not to sacrifice making a connection with your visitor by using very small images, when larger images may have enabled a conversion from browser to buyer. Also, keep in mind that thumbnails should be larger than 100X100 for best results.

Take the time to optimize your images so the file sizes are as small as possible, yet the images maintain the visual quality you need for your purposes. Explore alternative file formats (JPG, PNG, GIF) and resolutions until you get the best combination.

Note: Google has confirmed that image load time plays a part in ranking, so if you find that your thumbnails rank instead of full-sized images, don’t be alarmed. If your image is something that a person is truly searching for, they will visit the page the image is located on so they can view the full-resolution version (Google makes this very easy in their image search results pages).

7. Image Sitemap

If you are running a WordPress site, you might want to consider installing the Google Image Sitemap plugin and setting it up if you have a lot of important images on your site. This will help search engines specifically key in on them.

SEO for Video

8. Video Titles

The main thing to optimize is the title of the video, particularily when you’re using a third-party streaming service such as YouTube or Vimeo. Follow the same suggestions provided for images.

9. Video Description

Descriptions are another element that affects the search results of a video. Targeted keywords should be mentioned in the first few words of the description and repeated in the second sentence.

10. Video Sitemap

Make a video sitemap so search engine spiders can crawl your videos more easily. If you are running a WordPress site, you might want to consider installing the Google XML Sitemap for Videos.

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Karie Barrett

Creative Development Director at QAT Global
is the Creative Development Director at QAT Global. She has over 20 years diverse marketing, design, and business experience. Karie is responsible for driving creative strategy and execution to develop and produce quality creative web and marketing solutions that meet internal and external client's business objectives and goals. @KarieBarrett