The search engines take into consideration the entire content of a Web page. That’s why the image and sound files you display on a Web page should be related with its topic.
The best way to define this is “harmony.” The search engines want you to create harmonious content and not a soup of mismatches. Just like algebra where you group like objects together, on a web page you don’t mix the apples with the pantyhose.
“But, hey there, wait a minute,” you say. “How can the search engines judge what I display on my pages since we all know that they only read text?”
In fact, they need your help to understand images and other collateral files and that’s the advantage you have over the bots.
You have to apply the most basic SEO principles to help the bots understand the content of the image and sound files. You need to target keywords and write, yep, you guessed it, text.
Use keywords to name the image files. This works pretty much the same as naming HTML files (this topic will be analyzed in a following article).
For example an image file called cloudy-sky.jpg will usually rank higher than cloudysky.jpg or cloudy_sky.jpg. That’s because cloudy-sky has a more logical spelling (for both the search bots and the people) than cloudysky or cloudy_sky. There are SEO voices that say that Google doesn’t parse keywords in URLs when they are run together, but I wouldn’t count on this as a general rule. There are enough exceptions.
The image file name is not the only factor to making images rank.
The search engines look at the content around the images (and video and sound files) to judge their content. They take most of the information they need from that text. So it is important to have the content and the images interrelated.
For example,the image below will show you what Google displays in its image search results when someone types in Mihaela Lica.
The first three images do represent me, but most of the results are “related” to my name, which used in the search query box, becomes a keyword phrase. The only other “human” picture aside those representing me is a photo of the Italian actress Maria Riboli. Because I posted her picture in an interview on my blog, Google indexed it in its image results and it associated it with my name.
I uploaded the picture with the same file name as received from Maria, so from this point of view the image was not optimized. No wonder that the Google image bot is a bit confused.
But the image is properly optimized: it has an alternative text (“alt”) attribute — and a title tag.
<img width=”189″ height=”282″ border=”0″ style=”margin: 0pt 10px 10px 0pt; float: left; cursor: pointer” alt=”Maria Riboli.” title=”Maria Riboli.” src=”http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/img/mariariboli_7268.jpg” />
But the search engines, although they do take those elements into consideration, place more weight on the text content around the image than the text placed on the image itself.
The keyword “Mihaela Lica” is in the immediate vicinity of the image depicting Maria Riboli. So the Googlebot returned the most logical guess possible for the association of that image.
If you go back to image showing the Google results for “Mihaela Lica” you will notice that the URL listed under Maria’s picture is http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com. This is the URL of the personal blog of Miheala Lica, the main website that Google associates with that name.
Now look at all the other images listed in the search results for that name. Obviously Mihaela Lica is not a cup of coffee, so the logical conclusion would be that my name is present on the page where that image comes from. Take my word for it: my name is there either in blog comments or possibly in the very text of the blog entry.
All these elements prove that, although they don’t ignore your HTML image optimization work, the search engines place more weight on the content around the images than the content on the images themselves.
This is the reason why you should write a snippet that summarizes the content of the image, in the immediate vicinity of the image. This is also why you shouldn’t stuff your ALT and title attributes with keywords.
Google uses other algorithms to rank images.
The primary purpose of inserting ALT and title attributes for images is to explain the content to the users, not to the search engines.
If the search engines don’t place so much weight on ALT attributes and image titles why should you include them? First for accessibility reasons. People who are surfing with their images turned off will still know what the image is all about. Then, if you use correct descriptions for your images, the general SEO scores for the Web page as a whole will be higher. That’s because you will have created that harmony between text, images and site that the search engines are looking for in order to rank your website.
A correctly optimized image from an HTML point of view would be:
<img src=”http://www.yourwebsite.com/img/image.jpg” alt=”Your keyword focused image description.” title=”Your keyword focused image title” width=”100” height=”100”/>
where you replace width and height with the actual sizes of the picture you want to display on your website.
Also, “keyword focused” doesn’t mean that if you have a picture of a strawberry you write “SEO chart.” Describe the picture. Write “fresh strawberry” or, if you insist on including “SEO”, find a way out like: “fresh strawberry adds beauty to SEO content.”
- use keywords in the image file names
- do not unite the keywords but separate them with dashes, not underscores
- include keywords in the image ALT attributes
- include keywords in the image title tag
- place the image in the immediate vicinity of keyword-related content
- keep the number of unnecessary images per page as low as possible (unless you are displaying a photo gallery or product search results)