Every element matters when it comes to optimizing your website for search engines – including the images you incorporate. After all, visuals are important for retaining visitors’ attention and increasing their time spent on a page.
However, this makes many wonder about the impact of their picture selection. With competition on the rise, marketers often forego the idea of using original images and custom images. Instead, they choose to acquire pictures from various sources. Plus, they are easily accessible and reduce the processing time required for creating visuals from scratch.
But will the search engine algorithm recognize these pictures as ‘duplicated’ content due to their vast availability? Or does the principle of ‘original’ and ‘non-plagiarized’ content applies to text only?
Let’s end the debate in this guide!
Google and Stock Pictures
A couple of years ago, John Mueller, Google’s search advocate, was asked the same question on his Twitter handle. His reply was:
“It doesn’t matter for web-search directly.”
He further said:
From John Mueller’s statement, it is pretty evident that stock photos don’t directly affect search engine rankings. But yes, choosing the wrong picture can!
Additionally, SEO is all about text. The algorithm cannot ‘see’ pictures like we humans. They can only read words or identify the browsing patterns of visitors. This means you should optimize your pictures in ways favored by the search engine bots to improve their visibility in SERPs.
Here are some strategies to help:
1. Choose Relevant Pictures
First and foremost, you should always choose pictures from a stock photo repository that is relevant to your content. They should have a purpose within the layout and support the message you are trying to convey. Failing to ensure relevancy can confuse the viewers and force them to leave your page, ultimately increasing your bounce rate.
Moreover, John Mueller said to avoid using an obvious stock photo. For example, if you are in the construction industry, uploading pictures of men wearing suits and sitting in air-conditioned rooms might not appear authentic. Instead, you should use pictures of team members onsite and working with equipment to portray the actual work environment.
2. Resize Pictures
Images contribute to significant weight on a website. They can also slow down page loading times and disrupt visitors’ browsing experience.
When a page’s load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds, the bounce rate probability increases by 32%. And when it goes from 1 second to 6 seconds, the bounce rate probability increases by a whopping 106%.
The bounce rate and page load speed are both factored into your search engine’s ranking.
To fix this issue, we suggest:
- Resize the pictures so their weight is reduced.
- Compress the pictures using PhotoShop or TinyPNG. This will reduce the picture’s weight without compromising the quality.
- Test website loading speed using GTmetrix or Google PageSpeed Insights. The tools will notify your page load time and even suggest improvements.
- Make sure the pictures are responsive for mobile and tablets.
3. Choose the Right Format
While this usually goes unnoticed, the right format or type for your picture holds great importance for SEO. The main formats in the digital world are:
- JPEG: The most common file type saves pictures in the smallest size possible, making their viewing and transferring seamless. But you can expect slight degradation in quality.
- PNG: They display images in high-quality and use a brighter color palette. Ideal for logos and line drawings. However, they are heavier in size.
- WEBP: Created by Google, the WEBP pictures are high-quality with smaller file sizes. The only drawback is that they are not currently supported by browsers like Safari, iOS Safari, and Internet Explorer.
- SVG: The SVG files are ideal for pictures with less detail, such as logos, illustrations, and icons.
- GIF: Best for animated pictures and can display details with extreme precision.
Remember, there is no right or wrong file format for images. The selection is based on your specific picture and usage. However, the wrong format can add unnecessary weight (and load time) to your site. So, consider your options carefully to find the one that works best.
4. Give File Names
Generally, when you download a file from your camera or stock photo website, they are saved under a generic file name such as ‘IMG.8540.jpg’ and ‘DC2573.png.’ However, similar to blog titles, your images also need accurate names for identification. This will help algorithms know exactly what your image is about and rank it accordingly.
At the same time, stay away from keyword stuffing. While it’s a good practice to add your focus key phrase within the file name, avoid spamming the content. Or you can be penalized by Google. You can also consider adding your brand name to the file tag.
Take the below picture, for example. Suppose the suitcases are from the brand named ‘Sush.’ An ideal file name for these can be ‘lightweight-such-suitcases’ or ‘multicolor-such-luggage.’
No need to be overly elaborative. Just name the pictures to what you see!
5. Write Alt-text
Alt text is essential for users and search engines alike. The file names are generally at the backend of a website – and not visible to viewers. On the other hand, alt text is a predominant need for visually impaired users who rely on screen readers to view your website. Moreover, the alt text is displayed when a webpage cannot load for some reason.
Search engines also use them to identify the context of your pictures when ranking the contents.
Going back to the example of luggage above, a suitable alt text would be ‘multicolored luggage for every traveler’ or ‘lightweight suitcases by Sush in varying sizes and colors.’
When naming the alt text, ask yourself if the description is understandable if you cannot see the pictures. But again, avoid being too detailed, as alt text is limited to 125 characters.
6. Add Image Captions
Another way to increase image relevance is by adding captions to your visuals. These text snippets appear right under the picture and help readers understand their connection to the surrounding content. Ultimately, this promotes user engagement, which algorithms consider when ranking the website.
When writing captions, consider the audience and tone of your brand. Keep it concise and limited to 15 – 20 words. Use typography that aligns with your website layout.
Take the below picture and caption, for example:
You can also use the area to provide attribution or source of the pictures. But remember, captions are unnecessary if your visuals are added only for a decorative purpose.
7. Be Unique
Stock images are often termed bland, overused, and generic. Using such pictures on your webpage can drive customers away, increase bounce rate and reduce brand credibility. Additionally, some stock photos are widespread around the internet, and using them to portray your brand can make you a copycat.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use stock photos. They are a luxury for marketers who cannot source customized images due to budget and time constraints. But if you select visuals from a stock picture library, be attentive to the details.
Here are some tips to help you:
- Choose pictures without the ‘obvious’ filters.
- Avoid pictures that are low-quality, blurry, or pixelated.
- Look for candid pictures or ones that appear humanized. This means no cheesy smiles, over-stressed poses, and models posing at unnatural places.
- Do a reverse image search through Google or TinEye to find similar visuals online.
- Modify, crop, and add filters to stock pictures and blend them with other stock or custom photos using image editing tools.
In conclusion, the use of stock photos doesn’t interfere with your website’s ranking capabilities. And following the above practices can leverage your SEO efforts and likeability by both – search engines and viewers.
If you would like to discuss more about SEO and image optimization, give our specialist team a call! With years of experience, ROI Digitally has the expertise and wisdom to help you create a high-converting website.