Today’s guest post is by Zach Prez, author of Photographers SEO Book, which can help optimize your images, text, links, and tools. I’ve found that the information Zach provides is great for photographers, artists, and retailers who have sites where pictures are the primary content items.
Google gets paid when you like its search results. Why? Because 10% of the time, people will click the sponsored results down the right side of Google and cha-ching… $450 stock price. As long as they don’t screw up and show bad results, billions of searches are done each year.
A search engine insures quality results (and continues making money) by finding pages that relate to the search phrase. Search “wedding album designs” and the results are all exactly about that phrase. Google’s job is to figure out which pages are exactly about that phrase to keep searchers satisfied. To figure it out, Google will of course check out the text of the page, but keywords for images can be weighted more. More than even an H1 heading tag according to SEOMoz“
“Alt attributes shown to have quite a robust correlation with high rankings in our studies. Thus, we strongly advise the use of a graphic image/photo/illustration on important keyword-targeted pages with the term/phrase employed in the alt attribute of the img tag.”
Like the title and URL which are also weighted highly, the images of a page are almost always representative of the page content. You could show me a page with just images (no text) and I can conclude with reasonable accuracy the topic of the page. Google can too, as long as you make your images visible to a machine.
Google Can’t See Images
Since Google can’t intepret the visual components of an image like a human can, it looks to context clues. Remember that from elementary school? Image context comes from image text (alt attribute), filename, size, caption, etc. Here are some ways to improve the search results of a page by focusing the images around quality keyword phrases.
Alt Text Attributes
Alternate text is the name of an image within HTML code and looks like this
<img src=”/image.jpg” alt=”Short description of the image”>
In many cases a website system or blog creates this code automatically when you type in the image attributes upon upload. For example I update the alt text for an image in WordPress here:
When alternate text describes the image appropriately, it tells a lot about the image AND the page.
My post Photography Alt Texts hits the following high points:
- Describe the photo
- Use sentence structure
- Think niche and not broad
- Repetition and keyword lists are the fastest way to spam
- Alt Text Alone Won’t Rank You
Proper Filenames Please
URLs are the second most important part of your page when determining where you rank in search, right behind the title. That means get in the habit now of naming your files properly for maximum SEO benefit. Hundreds of photos in your website galleries present you with an opportunity for lots of keywords integration when you name your images appropriately. Naming an image bride-holds-grooms-hand-during-wedding.jpg instead of DS1000123.JPG gives more context to the image and the page, helping both to rank. Put that image in a folder structure like /weddings/hilton-hotel to let search engines know you have a series of wedding galleries, one of which was at Hilton Hotel… all from just one URL!
Surround the Image with Quality Keywords
I get a better understanding of the image by reading the text around it, like the caption. Google does too. Tip: use text between all the images in a blog post to provide added keyword weight for each image. A running list of images makes context more difficult. Plus, the added text helps you reach 300 words per page which is the minimum I would use when hoping for a quality rank.
All of these tips are not as meaningful if you have images embedded within Flash (like on BluDomain or Big Folio websites) where there is no alt text, filename, or surrounding HTML text. Same thing goes for making a collage of 5 photos into one image. Unique images offer more information.
More images don’t increase your chance of ranking. Search engines can understand the topic of a page with no images just fine. They reinforce their understanding of the topic with the first couple images and beyond that images becomes less important. I don’t want you to start adding tons of images per page thinking it will help your rank. In fact, it might hurt if you negatively impact the page load time, now an important factor for Google.
If you’re a photographer trying to gain more traffic or business from search engines, then the Photographers SEO Book can help optimize your images, text, links, and tools. You can also look for Zach Prez on Facebook or Twitter.