How do you ensure your images are drawing people to your site? Follow these steps to add high quality images optimized for viewing.
1. Image Optimization: Resize
So you found some amazing images, and chose a couple to load onto your homepage. First, you want to make sure the image is sized to the specifications of the space it will be taking up using your editing program of choice (Photoshop, SnagIt, PicMonkey, Gimp, etc.) Setting up your site to resize large image files per visit means making site readers wait for images to load – and this also lowers your SEO performance. Resize your photos before you post them to your site.
2. Image Optimization: Compress
You need to do more than resize the image too. A digital image contains a certain amount of information, making it either high or low resolution. A high-resolution image can slow down your site substantially. You don't really need a high-res image for a website, either. These types of images are more for printed images or photographs, where detail is key.
Go ahead and compress your image, the display quality won't be affected. You can use the free smush.it tool offered by Yahoo to make this task a lot simpler.
3. Image Optimization: Keywords In File Names
Let's say you sell furniture. You are uploading a picture of your best selling couch to the homepage to entice users to browse your online inventory. Instead of loading “IMG_2034.jpg”, rename the file using keywords — “leather-couch-discount-furniture.jpg.” — in order to optimize it for SEO.
4. Image Optimization: Title and ALT Tags
Putting keywords to work for your site yet again, add a title tag and ALT tags. These fields are important for both SEO and visitors to your website. However, don't make it keyword-rich gibberish. Instead, write image descriptions that sound natural. Use the target keywords in a way that makes sense and is appropriate.
Image optimization is key to improving page load times and, ultimately, SEO. If you go crazy on the keywords, however, you might find yourself penalized by the search engine for over-optimization! This is especially true with Google’s new Panda algorithm, which quickly penalizes sites for bad content – and that includes overly keyworded photographs. Sure, keywords are helpful, but there is such a thing as overkill!
We also want to remind you not to simply right-click and snag photos from the Internet. Using a service like Flickr’s Creative Commons is the best way to go – simply attribute the photographs you download to the person that posted those images, and you are good to go. Otherwise, you risk copyright issues, and that can lead to your cheap hosting site taking down your site temporarily (a real headache!).
Do you already optimize your images? Got any additional tips? Need help? Ask away!