Today I am wrapping up this blog post as we fly to our first wedding in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico! If you are like us, weddings during this time of year are often met with equal parts excitement and that overwhelmed feeling you get in the midst of the busy season. I started thinking about SEO tips that I could contribute this month that didn’t create any extra work on your part since the consensus seems to be that we all have enough going on at the moment. Who wants to add major site changes or web presence growth campaigns to their to-do list right now anyway? We’ll save that stuff for the slower winter months. Besides, you still have to pack for PartnerCon 🙂

Today we’re going to talk about something you (hopefully) already do on a regular basis. Uploading images to your blog or website! More specifically, the best SEO practices for naming, tagging and uploading those images.

Optimizing your images for search engines is something I find most people don’t truly understand or take the time to do. It’s a relatively easy process that will help increase your visibility online and also your traffic. Properly tagged and named images can bring new visitors to your site from more obscure keywords that you probably aren’t even targeting in your main SEO strategy. For instance, we get about 500 unique visitors to our blog a month for the image search term “Sweet 16” just because of some well optimized images we uploaded years ago from a Sweet 16 party we shot. Now, this certainly isn’t something we are targeting in our main online strategy but any traffic is good traffic!

Google Image Search is gaining more and more attention these days. When I look at my site’s statistics I see a steady stream of visitors that find their way to us through image searches. Sometimes these searches are incredibly specific, which is a good thing if you have properly named and tagged your images. If a bride performs an image search for a wedding at a specific venue, church or destination, you are far more likely to turn up in her results because generally speaking, the more specific the term, the less people are trying to rank for that term. Also working in your favor is the interface for Google Image Search. Users tend to scan through many more results than they would in a normal web search. Therefore, even if you aren’t the first result you still have a good chance of catching the searcher’s eye. Here are 3 basic image attributes that Google looks at when “crawling” your website.

1. Image Name
The actual file name of your image is important to Google. If you are uploading images with names like IMG_3923.JPG then you are missing out on an opportunity to beef up your SEO. Try naming your files with keywords that apply to the actual image. For example, if your image is of a bride during a wedding at a popular local venue try naming your image something like bride_wedding_venue_name.jpg (obviously replacing “venue_name” with the actual venue name.)

2. Alt Text
Every time you upload an image you should also be adding the “alt=” tag to that image. This tag basically tells the user what the image is when they hover their mouse over it. Subsequently it tells Google a little more about the image when it comes around to check out your site. This text can be the same or close to that of your image file name. It should read like a very short explanation of the image. For example “Wedding flowers at St. George’s Episcopal Church”. Again, notice the use of specific keywords relative to the image. Most template websites and blogging platforms have an area in their content management system for you to edit image alt text. Check with your webmaster or do a quick Google search to find out specifics on your platform.

3. Image Size
One thing I notice far too often when helping people optimize their site is excessive image file size. Google simply won’t index your images if they are too large. Almost every piece of data from the web that Google indexes is cached (or stored) in some respect on their own massive computer systems and Google just doesn’t want anything to do with your 30 favorite 900kb images from your last wedding. Well, that’s the theory at least. Google wants to encourage proper web practices and large, slow to load images are not only space hogs (band from the 90’s?), they really don’t make your visitors happy either. Try exporting your images with the “Save for Web” function or at least try bumping down that JPG compression from 12 to 10. We shoot for images no larger than 200kb, we don’t always hit that goal but we try to come close.

Well there you go, 3 easy things you can do to improve your SEO that honestly doesn’t take a degree in computer science or really even that much time to do. Once you get into the habit you won’t even have to think about it!

If you’d like to learn more about optimizing your site and getting more targeted traffic, be sure to stop by my session at PartnerCon (only a week away!) I’ll be giving away some useful tips and tricks along with exclusive access to a complete Web Strategy Webinar to everyone that attends!

Have questions? Ask them in the comments below or find me on twitter – @phindyphil.

Written by Phil Thornton

Phil Thornton and his wife Mindy run one of the most successful wedding photography studios in the Nashville market, Phindy Studios. Before entering the photography industry, Phil was a web developer and internet marketing professional. He contributed to several international web marketing projects for clients ranging from Disney to Madonna. He has also helped develop internet marketing strategies for celebrities such as Clink Black, Martine McBride, and Sarah Evans.

Phil will be speaking at PartnerCon 2010 on the topic of SEO. See more about his presentation “Google Ranking Demystified- SEO for Photographers” and add it to your personalized PartnerCon schedule here.

7 Comments

  • Joe Sapko says:

    Thanks for that info, Phil. I was not aware that Google would discriminate larger image files. I always figured that I would rather put up larger files so that the image quality would impress my clients.

    Again, thanks for these easy-to-employ SEO tips!

    Joe

  • WOW, I had no clue that you could get SEO from the name of your images, I am going to have to change the way I start naming things on my image files.

    Thanks for the info, great stuff!

  • chris. says:

    Great tips, Phil, thanks for sharing! Hope you guys have a great time in Cabo, can’t wait to see the images!

  • Nathan says:

    Quit giving away all the SEO secrets Phil:) Kidding, of course. Thanks for the SEO help as usual. I did a consult with Phil over a year ago and my inquiries from Google have been streaming in ever since. He’s the man!

  • J Sandifer says:

    Great points Phil! Your are a wealth of SEO knowledge and even an old hat seo person would benefit from seeing you speak! Safe travels and have a blast in NO!

  • Ellen Petty says:

    Great talk at PartnerCon Phil, and it was very nice meeting you afterward! There is a free plugin for WordPress called SEO Image galleries that automatically tags entire folders of images with valuable ALT tag information. It is also a great way to create a non-flash gallery for your photos. More information is here: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/seo-image-galleries/

  • craig says:

    GREAT post Phil!

    As everyone has probably noticed we just revamped the Pictage blog. We spent a lot of time reviewing our image SEO. In addition to Phil’s spot-on advice above, two more important things came out of that:

    Surrounding Text. Be sure to surround images with descriptive text. This naturally happens in a blog, of course. BUT sometimes bloggers talk about all of their images, and then list them one after the other below the paragraph. That’s not ideal. Google relies heavily on the text immediately surrounding each image (even moreso than on alt text), because surrounding text is harder to spam. If your surrounding text happens to be an h1 or h2, even better!

    Having “keyword harmony” between these three elements (alt text, surrounding text, and filename) is the ideal goal.

    And…

    Image resolution. The “magic number” is about 350px on the longest side. Google demonstrates its preference. If anyone is curious, do a search on images.google.com for any term, and look at the resolution of the images on the first few pages of results. They are rarely below 300px on the longest side. This goes hand-in-hand with Phil’s advice about image (file) size — try to aim for 200k.

    I’ll be doing a longer post about our SEO strategy with the new blog some point soon.

    Craig Cochrane
    Director of Online Marketing
    Pictage, Inc

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