Visuals such as photos, charts, graphs, and illustrations are important elements in a website.

They are elements that make your website far more interesting than just scrolling through pages and pages of text. More importantly, these visuals show your product or service, explain an idea or process, and/or promote your company far better than mere words.

There’s just one problem---the limitations of search technology. We will explain this later, but search engines, at present, cannot “see” images. So how do you optimize images so that they can be “seen” (crawled and indexed) by a search engine? How do you optimize images so they can help your website rank or so you can get more exposure and conversions?

Check out these useful tips below on how to make images visible in search engines:

1. Say no to stock images

Stock images are free photos that you can get on the internet. Because they’re free, literally anyone can use them. Unfortunately, that means that if you decide to use these free images, there’s a good chance that your website uses the same photos as thousands of other businesses.

Stock images can be optimized using various techniques mentioned below. However, they won’t have the same level of viewer impact or SEO benefit as that of original, top-quality images.

2. Use original, top-quality images


You can give your website viewers a better look at your business, products, and services with high-quality, original photos. They give your business its own characteristic brand and personality. As a result, your website becomes unique---the only one of its kind!

We recommend hiring a professional photographer to take images of your products or services. However, we know that some businesses cannot afford to spend money on professional photography. In that case, we would still recommend shooting high-quality images, preferably with a DSLR camera.

What about those high-tech smartphones and the latest digital cameras? Well, iPhones and point-and-shoot cameras are great for sharing photos with your friends and family. But when it comes to your business, it’s worth the additional cost to ensure you showcase your products/services in the best possible way.

3. Your images must have a purpose

Most human beings learn better visually, meaning they can comprehend information or an idea if they can actually see it.

Don’t just put up an image because it looks good. Don’t force it on your website if it doesn’t with your content. Rather, use images to tell a story, explain your point, complement your text content, or help your audience understand what you’re offering.

4. Don’t forget to resize your images for your website

Google has recently announced that loading speed is now a ranking factor. A fast-loading website ranks faster and better than slow-moving ones.

One of the factors that affect the loading speed is the size of the images used in the website. Sure you want top-quality images. But if your images are not optimized for web use, they will load slowly, consume a lot of bandwidth, and compromise user experience.

Considering Google’s algorithm, it has become necessary to resize your high-resolution images before adding them to your website. If you have Adobe Photoshop, you can use that to resize your images. Here’s a useful guide about how much you should resize your photos.

Don’t have Photoshop? No worries! There are also online compression tools such as CompressJPEG, TinyPNG, PicMonkey, or Pixlr that you can use to compress your images for free.

5. Change the image file name to something that truly identifies the image


When you take an image, your camera automatically names it as a series of letters and numbers such as “IMG0005.” If you read this as it is, it wouldn’t make sense. That’s the same case for search engines. Since this ID is not understandable, search engines will have a hard time finding and indexing your images that are not optimized correctly.

In order to make your images “readable,” you’ll need to rename your image file with words that describe the image. Let’s say your business is selling guitars. You have the newest Fender Stratocaster model, and you want to sell it on your page. Rather than upload it as “IMG0005,” rename it first to “2019 Fender Stratocaster guitar.” By doing so, search engines can easily identify that it is--- a 2019 Les Paul guitar.

6. Know the capabilities and limitations of various image formats

In connection with resizing photos, it is also important to know the characteristics between the different image formats used in websites. The most common are JPEG, PNG, and GIF.

JPEG images are typically used for optimization as they maintain high quality even when compressed or resized considerably. The downside is that JPEG images are “lossy,” meaning, the image quality may deteriorate as you continue to re-save the photo. It may also degrade on certain settings.

PNG images are generally used when editing and downloading files from Adobe Photoshop. The format can handle transparency, thus it is used for logo images and graphics. The resolution is high quality although the file size of the images is higher than that of JPEGs. Also, PNG is not as lossy as JPEGs, so PNG images don’t degrade as you re-save them multiple times.

GIF images are bitmap images used for simple art and animation. This is ideal if you want to animate logos, graphs, icons, and other bits of graphics. Animation, after all, makes your website more interesting and engaging. However, because it’s a very lossy format, you should not use it for static images such as product photos.

7. Include alt texts in the image’s HTML


For now, search engines can only read text, which means they cannot “see” photos. To allow search engines to crawl over your images, you need to write an alternative text, or alt text, in your image HTML code.

By adding a description (preferably a strategic keyword), search engines will be able to determine what the photo is and index it accordingly.

Alt text is also displayed in case the browser isn’t able to process photos due to problems such as slow internet speed.

8. Add captions to your image


As you know from the tip above, search engines are presently limited to reading text. So boost image optimization by adding a text caption to your images, making sure to add strategic keywords in your caption.

Captions also give images more context, allowing readers to understand what is in the photo. In fact, according to a study by The Poynter Institute, captions have 16% more readership than the main text.

Check out this article on how to write engaging captions.

9. Insert keywords in the image’s file name, alt text, and caption

Some of the tips mentioned above point out that you should add “keywords.” Keywords define what your content is all about. These are also words and phrases (called search queries) that people enter in search engines if they want to find something. They let a search engine identify and determine what exactly their users are looking for.

Therefore, include keywords that your target market typically uses when they search for your product or service. Then, add these keywords into your alt text and captions. You can identify these keywords through online tools such as Google Adwords, Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool, SEMRush, and more.

Here’s a great article on how to use keywords the right way.

10. Create and publish an image sitemap

An image sitemap increases the chances of your images being found in image search results. More than that, it provides other SEO benefits:

  • Using extensions for sitemaps provides search engines more information about the images published in your pages.
  • Sitemaps allow search engines to crawl and index images that are not usually found by viewers, such as those with a JavaScript code. These images are typically used in product pages and galleries.
  • You can instruct the search engine to crawl specific images.

Click this link if you want to learn more about sitemaps.

Are your website’s images optimized? If not, it’s ok! It’s never too late to start optimizing your current images (and new images) for better search engine results. Start building your website and ranking higher in search engines with Folio!