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5 Rules for Image SEO

November 23 2011

One of the greatest ways to improve your website or blog is to add images. People love pictures – prefer them to copy, in fact. Of course, you must choose your images wisely. And that’s no easy task. But choosing your images is just the beginning. They also need to be search engine optimized. Here are a few quick and dirty rules for image SEO.

First, An Example
In order to demonstrate what we’re talking about here, I’m going to use the image below as an example:

Film Strip

1. Make sure that the images you choose “fit” your content.

We’re going to address where you’ll use keywords for your images next. But before we do, it’s important to point out that the keywords you use for your images need to fit with the keywords you use for the copy on your page. Search engines will like this. It shows them that you are providing relevant content.

You may have a gallery of images already saved. If you don’t, however, you may want to check out iStockPhoto, Flickr, or Getty Images.

The example image above would be a good choice for a post about video. For example, I’ve used it several times in articles about the importance of using video in blogs and on your website. Using Google to search images for keywords is a convenient way to find images that are contextual to your post.

2. Don’t keyword stuff.

I’m going to encourage you to use keywords in the alt text and – perhaps – anchor link text, etc. But before I do, I need to give you a word of warning: don’t keyword stuff. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it refers to over-use of keywords. Keyword stuffing could hurt your SEO efforts; the spiders don’t like being manipulated.

So, we’d want to avoid trying to use all these keywords for the image above: “video, film, filmstrip, recording, DVD, movie, television, TV.” That’s casting far to wide a net. Instead, we’d focus on just one or two keywords like “video” and “filmstrip.”

Try to use location or topic-based keywords in your ALT Text, like “Avila Bay Club,” or “real estate film strip.”


3. Use the keywords in the file name.

Search engines do index image file names. Thus, it’s smart to include keywords in image file names. Some images, such as the one above, could be used for several different types of posts. So you may find yourself regularly renaming your files before you upload them.

The example file is named “filmstrip.” Another example would be to use “real estate filmstrip.” If it is a photo of an area, use the geography in the description, like “Times Square New York”

4. Write descriptive “alt text”

Search engines can’t “look” at images. They cannot, on their own, develop any idea what the image depicts. Thus, they need YOU to tell them. One way for you to do this is to include keywords in the file name. While it may seem unlikely, this is one of the things, the spiders can “see.”

For the example above, I would describe the image as follows: video filmstrip.


5. Choose anchor link text wisely.

If you’re going to link to an image, choose the text for that link wisely. As discussed before, the text should be descriptive and, if appropriate, should include keywords. This isn’t just helpful for the spiders, it’s also helpful for the real people who are actually visiting your site.