When you look at a picture of a smiling baby/beautiful sunset/hot guy or girl, your brain and body get all twangy with emotional responses. Even if you won’t admit it.
But Google can’t see those images. Noooo. Google just sees code, like the people outside the Matrix. You might think that using images across your website is just for humans but you’d be wrong.
Optimising images for search engines can bring you some Google love for your website – if you make the most of them.
Your goal is to make your images have meaning for search engines. You can do that through by optimising the text associated with your images.
Optimising ALT text. What the?
ALT text is shorthand for alternative text and it’s just one of the HTML tags that search engines read to figure out what your webpage is all about. More specifically, the alternative text tells search engines information about a non-text item which is otherwise quite invisible.
You can usually enter the ALT text when you insert your image and the code ends up looking a bit like this:
<img alt=”SEO copywriter kissing a marketing copywriter – sexy time!” src=”www.location” width=”300″ height=”199″ />
ALT tags are also used when someone is viewing your webpage on a text-only browser or is having your webpage read out to them – someone visually impaired, for example. For these two reasons, it pays optimise your ALT text for a human – then think about SEO. (That’s exactly how you should approach all your search engine optimisation, actually.)
Tips for optimising image ALT text:
- Use descriptive words that explain what the image actually shows.
- Be specific by adding subject names like services, places and objects. This will help you capture long-tail keywords that are highly convertible.
- Be relatively concise. One or two short sentences is more than enough.
- Use your keywords and related keywords – but always write for human readers.
- Make them unique. If you use the same text over and over again, Google will think you’re spamming.
Examples (with keywords and related keywords in bold):
- Bride walks down the aisle at her destination wedding in Fiji.
- Fairy lights draped across the wedding reception tables.
Bonus optimisation tip
Don’t be afraid to have some fun with the ALT text as well. They can be an unexpectedly fun element of your micro copy, delighting potential customers as they journey through your website.
If someone hasn’t enabled images in their email, your ALT text is going to show up. Why not make your email header a call to action! Like mine, Allow images to see my sexy email header!
Optimising image captions
If I were being cynical, I’d say that image captions are really just a way to get some more content on the page, but they can be more valuable than that.
Your readers’ eyes are naturally drawn to images on your webpage, which means you have yourself some eyeballs available to read about your awesome.
Image captions give you an opportunity to entice and persuade, which in turns keeps people on your page (I hope,) lowering your bounce rate and making your page a little bit more appealing to the search engine ranking process.
Tips for optimising image captions:
- Describe your image more fully (than the ALT text)
- Link the image to your value proposition – that thing you do that actually helps your customers.
- Repeat special offers – don’t rely on people reading the caption!
- Ask questions to engage your reader.
Examples (with keywords and related keywords in bold):
- Wedding photographer captures the bride walking down the aisle at her destination wedding in Fiji. Her bridal fashion includes a custom-made wedding dress, bridal accessories from Tiffany and wedding shoes from Jimmy Choo. [image caption in a photographer’s gallery]
- Our team of Melbourne SEO consultants help you get in front of lots of online customers, with white hat search engine optimisation services that get you noticed. [image caption on a services page]
- Are you making these email marketing mistakes? [image caption in a blog post about email marketing]
- Don’t forget we offer free shipping on all orders over $50. [image caption on the shipping page]
Name that image
If you download images from the interwebs then you’ll automatically get a name like
Or maybe even something more obscure like, 113798588.jpg
I always change the name of the images I use on my website, making them more descriptive and working in a keyword if I can.
Tips for SEO boosting file names:
- Use hyphens rather than underscores (Surprised-copywriter-pointing.jpg not Surprised_copywriter_pointing.jpg)
- Be descriptive to make the file names unique (you can understand later)
- Don’t use stop words like a, the, it, to etc
- Use a keyword or two (Surprised-copywriter-pointing-copywriting-course-ad.jpg
But what if the subject of the image isn’t what you want to rank for?
Take photographers and videographers. It’s actually their ability they want to rank for – not the subject of their images.
It’s the same with copywriters, designers and many other freelance industries. I’m not loading images of copywriters so I have to promote my services via the image tags in a way that feels natural and authentic.
You don’t want the keyword you want that page to rank for in every single ALT text, caption and file name. Google will think you’re keyword stuffing and label you a spammer.
That means you should cherry-pick some images to place your keywords in the image text.
Take this image of two people facing each other. I have ALT text of ‘Two SEO copywriters facing each other’.
Or this one with ‘A marketing copywriter relaxing with feet out of a car window’.
There is nothing inaccurate or misleading about those descriptions but they use my keywords. As long as I don’t stuff every ALT text, caption and file name with the same keyword, I won’t do my SEO image any damage.
And neither will you.
The key to any successful SEO content is to write for your reader first, then consider your keywords. Humans before robots.