Unless you live in the SEO-world, you might not be familiar with the importance of naming images for your website. How you name your images should be just as important as selecting the images themselves. Why is that? Because search engines' algorithms "read" the names of your images, just like they "read" the text on your site.
As a side note, choosing the right images for your website is important. If you've ever seen photos of people shaking hands, you know the designer really didn't give the photo selection much thought. (Personally, we think photos of people shaking hands - especially if they're smiling, too -- should be banned from websites!)
If you've ever done a Google search for something like, say, "Ford Thunderbirds," and clicked the "Images" link, the reason those specific images show up is because they're named with the keyword phrase you'd just searched.
Not all Columbus website design firms focus on SEO
Just because a Columbus website design firm designs websites, doesn't mean they know about the intricacies of SEO. True, most people know images for your website are important, but most don't know they can do double-duty, potentially directing people to your website.
Here's are the key steps to preparing and naming your images.
1. Optimize your image
This means you should prepare your image for the web. Whether you do this though a free online image-sizing tool like Resize Your Image (one of our favorites), or through Photoshop, make sure your images are 72 dpi, and between 50KB and 100KB. Smaller is always better. Not only does the Resize Your Image website allow you to size your image, it automatically reduces the size of your images so they're optimized for the web.
Why are small file sizes important? Because smaller image sizes load faster. And load time is a Google ranking factor.
2. Name your image
When you download an image from a stock photo house, or your camera, the image name defaults to the name the stock photo website, or your camera, gives it. For example, the two images we downloaded for this blog had the following file names:
Once we combined the images, we named it "Name_tag_on_shirt_by_Columbus_website_design_firm_Sevell.jpg"
3. using keywords in your image name
When naming images for your website, include keywords. One of the keywords we use is, as you can see, "Columbus website design." So most of the images we use on our website have that phrase in it. Of course, you have to include text that also explains what the image is. (Side note: never guess at the right keywords. This is far too important to guess, and the chances of guessing wrong are very high. Using the wrong keywords is like doing no SEO at all.) Work with a web design firm who knows how to research the right keywords.
Anyway, naming images correctly is why certain images will show up in a Google Image search. The same reason certain websites show up in a Google search for specific search phrases. When your images, and website contain the keywords your audience uses to find what you offer, your site should show up well. Of course, there's many other reasons a website would show up well in a Google search, but for this blog we're just focusing on images.
3a. Don't use spaces between words
One other note: when naming images don't use spaces, and ONLY use letters, or numbers. It's best practice to separate the words in your image name with dashes or underscores. This helps search engines' algorithms better "read" the image name.
4. Using keywords in your "ALT TEXT" fields.
What is an "Alt Text" field and why is it important? This is what an "Alt text" field looks like in the backend of a website:
Why is it important? Two reasons:
- Sight-impaired people have software on their computers that "speaks" the text you place in the Alt Text field. So for those who might not be able to see the images clearly, this is how they understand what they are, and
- Google, other search engines, and the Word Wide Web Consortium, (WC3) have established standards for all websites.
While you might not have sight-impaired customers, it shouldn't matter. Making your website meet industry standards helps with your ranking.
Through algorithms, bots crawl the pages of your website, and pick up image file names the same way they do text. They're more likely to know what your image, and website, is about when your image name uses keywords, and not just a random mix of letters, dashes and numbers.
As we mentioned, there's other reasons a website would show up well in a Google search, and naming images is only 1 piece of the SEO puzzle.
The other, but not all, considerations are:
- The amount of time people stay on your website (called "Dwell time"). Google rightly thinks, if someone spends 2 or more minutes on your site -- instead of 30 seconds -- your site must have good information. Google wants to share (by ranking them high) websites that people like. So taking the time to put good, informative, content on your site, is one of the biggest things you can do to help with your ranking.
- Adding good Page Titles and Meta Descriptions on every page of your website. To see how Google uses Page Titles and Meta Description, watch the first 40 seconds of this video.
- Regularly blogging. The more you update you website with fresh content, the more often it's indexed by search engines. The more your website is indexed, the better it ranks. We do this by blogging.
- Having backlinks to your website from other, reputable websites. This is one of the most difficult things to do. Having links from your website to other sites is easy. Having people want to link to your website is difficult.
We hope this information helps your understanding of SEO, and specifically how naming images are part of that process. Good luck with your SEO efforts!