Images and Video
Images and videos, if used correctly, can influence your SEO rating and online exposure. They can also have a negative impact if some simple steps aren’t followed.
Pictures can come in different file formats. The different formats, or file types, are identified by the letters that follow the name of the image. The three most commonly used file formats for images are jpg, png, and gif. We’ll discuss these formats more shortly.
Although most images are just pictures, text can also be included as part of an image. Logos, for instance, usually include text. Text included in an image usually cannot be read by most computers directly, they can’t tell the letters apart from the rest of the picture.
Images can also sometimes be interactive parts of a website. Many websites use images as links – clicking on the image takes the user to another page on their website, opens a form, or something similar. Sometimes images that are used for this purpose are called ‘buttons’ or ‘tiles’.
Images on the internet also have special traits, or “properties”, that can influence search engine optimization.
- The file size of the image can influence SEO ratings. File size refers to the amount of data the image uses, not the dimensions of the picture (which refers to the height and width). Different file formats use different amounts of data.
- The name of the image can play a significant role in search engine optimization.
- Alternate text is the text that shows to blind users, or to regular users if the image fails to load. It has an influence on SEO as well.
Let’s review the effect each important property has on SEO.
The effect of image file size on search engine optimization has to do with page load time, which is the time it takes for a particular webpage to fully finishing loading. Web pages that load more quickly are rated better by search engines than those which load more slowly.
An image with a large file size take longer to load than an image with a smaller file size. Image file size is measured in units of kilobytes or megabytes. One megabyte is approximately the same as 1000 kilobytes. Using images with smaller file sizes can help to reduce your page load times. Some image editing programs like Photoshop can reduce the file size of larger images to something more manageable.
Some file formats are also naturally smaller in file size than others. With very large images, it’s a matter of balancing file size and picture quality. Earlier, we introduced the three main types, or file formats, of images that are found on the web. Jpg, gif, and PNG. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
Jpg is the most common file format for images on the internet. This is largely because it has a good compression rate, which means that the quality of the image isn’t reduced very much when the file size is decreased. It’s balance of quality and file size make it ideal for most situations.
The gif file format has the smallest file size of the three. However, gifs with large dimensions tend to be very low quality, which only makes them suitable for smaller pictures.
The file format with the largest file size is PNG. Although PNG files are large, they are also of very good quality. If you need a particularly clear or high quality image, PNG might be your best choice. However, the large file size of PNGs might slow down the load time of your website, so use them sparingly. They are also the only file type that supports transparency – so if you want your logo to have a transparent background, for instance, you’d have to use the PNG format.
The actual name of the image (file name) can have an influence on search engine optimization. Google and other search engines read the names of your pictures, just like they read the rest of the text on your webpages. The closer the image name to the terms someone has searched for, the more likely that it will help your website show up in results.
When picking a name for the image, be descriptive. If the image is a picture of a woman getting her temples massaged, you might use a name like “massage therapy for headache relief”. As with the regular text on your website, try to include keywords – terms that a user might search for – right in the name of the image. In the example “massage therapy for headache relief”, there are several potential keyword combinations that might correlate to the name: massage, massage therapy, headache, relief, etc.
Alternate text can also be used to help improve SEO rankings. Alternate text, usually shortened to alt text, is what shows to users when an image on your page fails to load for some reason. Just like the rest of the text on your website, Google (and other search engines) will scan the alternate text of your images when trying to determine if the content is relevant to the user’s search. Make sure your alternate text is descriptive, and includes words the user may be searching for.
Another benefit to including alt text with all of your images is that it increases the accessibility of your website. Alt text provides blind users with a description of the images they cannot see on your website, which means they don’t miss out on the information the images displays. Increased accessibility also improves your search engine optimization ranking.
Alt text is meant to be descriptive, but brief. Any important information related to the image should be included, but try to keep the alt text to 20 words or less. Most content management systems, which are the tools used to create websites, include simple ways to add alt to images.
Above is an example of where to add alternate text to an image in WordPress, a popular content management system. This is done when you first upload the image into WordPress, and can also be done when you add the image to a webpage.
Here is what alt text appears like when an image fails to load. If the image does load properly, the text isn’t visible to the user, but will still be read by search engines:
Just like images, videos have several different file formats. Some may even require special software or plugins to play properly. This makes using videos on your website potentially very complicated.
Luckily, Google owns a video sharing service called YouTube. Anyone can upload a video to YouTube for free, and share it on their website and social media sites. Videos uploaded to YouTube do not require any special software to play, and they work on phones and tablets too.
If you don’t want to use Youtube, you have the option of hosting the video yourself, or using another video hosting service. Including a video from a video hosting service like YouTube on a web page is called “embedding” the video.
Videos help with SEO and online exposure in a couple of ways.
The time that someone spends on your website and individual webpages has an impact on your SEO ranking. If visitors leaves your webpages quickly, it can hurt your ranking. Videos help with this by increasing the amount of time a user spends on your website while they are watching the video.
Searchers can also use Google to search for videos directly. Video results on Google also show up with other web results, and there is less competition for video SEO since not all websites have videos.
If you use a video hosting service like YouTube, the description and annotations in videos can include links to other websites. This means that if someone stumbles onto your video on YouTube (instead of finding the embedded version on your website), you can direct them to your website for more information.
Videos shared on YouTube get better SEO ranking that videos shared on other platforms because of Google’s relationship with YouTube. Combine that with the ease of use, fast loading time, and no required fees, and YouTube is the smarter choice for video hosting for most small businesses.
Some simple strategies for video search engine optimization:
Make your videos topical, and informative. People are watching the videos to get information and learn about a topic – if the video comes across to pushy or like a long advertisement, people will get bored or annoyed and not finish it. It’s OK to promote yourself, but make sure the videos have value outside of self-promotion.
Videos can be a great way to introduce a topic, or summarize a lot of information quickly. You can also use them to direct people to your website for more information. For instance, you might spend 2-3 minutes talking about homecare remedies for headache pain. Toward the end of the video, explain that more information on headaches and other health tips can be found on your website, and include a link to your site in the video’s description.
Make sure to embed the videos right on your website, instead of relying on people finding them on YouTube. That way you get the SEO credit for the time they spend watching the video, and it makes your content more engaging!
YouTube offers the ability to add annotations and captions to the videos you upload. Annotations are little text bubbles that pop up at specific points in your video, which can be helpful to provide extra information that isn’t included in the video itself. For instance, if you mention your website, you could use an annotation to make the website URL pop up for the watcher to click on.
Captions are essentially transcripts of what is said in the video. This is helpful for SEO because Google will read through the transcript to find terms the user searched and match them to your video, and also helps with accessibility for hearing impaired watchers.
General Tips for Media
Some general rules to consider for video and image SEO:
Just like the text on each of your posts / pages, make sure the videos and images you add are related to the topic you’re writing about. Remember, most people are more interested in finding information on a particular topic, not reading or watching an ad for massage therapy. Would you be watching this video if it just promoted my website instead of offering information on a topic you were interested in or wanted to learn more about?
Although adding media like images and videos can help improve the SEO ranking of your website, make sure you feature enough written content to make your website worth visiting. The media you add should be a compliment to the text you post, not a replacement for it.
Remember that quality is more important than quantity. One really great video or picture will go a lot further than 10 unrelated or poor quality videos and images.
When you do want to include several photos in a single post, most content management systems and blogging platforms have gallery creation features or plugins to help with the process. Using these tools can enhance the look of the pages they are featured on, and help to prevent some of the page load time issues that would occur if you just added multiple photos normally.
Continue to page 4 to learn about links, social media and tracking your traffic.