Working on your website’s SEO? Don’t forget to optimise your images for SEO. Not only are optimised images are a feature of SEO-friendly sites, but also they give you extra chances to rank in Google’s Universal Search, when images, videos and more appear on page one.

Choose a Keyword Rich File Name

Images often have file names such as 21072011_DM95.jpg – descriptive or what? Google’s robots cannot see images, so you have to choose your words wisely to help them to understand what the image is about.

Boom Logo: Image Optimisation GuideFor example, to your left is the Boom logo, as you and I see it, but here’s how it looks to Google:

<a href=”http://www.boom-online.co.uk/?attachment_id=1010″ rel=”attachment wp-att-1010″><img title=”Boom Online Marketing’s Image Optimisation Guide” src=”http://boom-online.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Boom-Online-Marketing.png” alt=”Boom Logo: Image Optimisation Guide” width=”150″ height=”150″ hspace=”2″ vspace=”2″ /></a>

So, as you can see, you need to give Google all the help you can. Choosing a file name like “Boom-Online-Marketing.png” tells the search engines a lot more about what the image is than a string of numbers and letters ever could.

Use Alt Tags – Vital for SEO

The file name does have an impression on Google, but much more significant is the Alt Tag, or Alternate Text. Not only does this have the most impact on your image SEO, but also the Alt Tag is used by screen readers, allowing disabled users full access to your content.

Again, choose a keyword-rich but descriptive Alt Tag for your image. This one has the tag “Boom Logo: Image Optimisation Guide” – it describes both the image (Boom Logo), and the context of the post (Image Optimisation Guide).

Warning: Err on the side of caution when using keywords in Alt Tags. Remember, humans use it too, so keep it relevant and avoid keyword stuffing.

Write a Descriptive Image Title

The title is a relatively minor factor in the image SEO game, but best practice dictates that you should use one.

Again avoid keyword stuffing, just be clear, concise, and if possible keyword rich.

Bonus Image Optimisation Tips for Photographers, Artists & Designers

For most businesses the tips above will be more than enough to boost your online presence. However, if you make your living out of your images, or if you want to use images as linkbait, you’ll need to do work hard to get your pictures ranking.

Here are a few extra ideas for creative types interested in SEO:

Descriptions & On Page Text

Do you have a gallery page on your website? Don’t underestimate the importance of descriptions – any text that you include on the page will help Google to understand your image.

Don’t waffle, but write a clear description, include details about the content of the image, technical details (e.g. size, camera used) and even how your image can be used if appropriate.

Comments

Allow comments on your images. They create additional content and text that Google can easily understand, and the social interaction will boost the value of your page.

This tip comes straight from Matt Cutts, head of Google Webspam, so sit up and pay attention. Find out more in his video on SEO for image-based sites.

Watermarks, Labels & Captions

Improving the online visibility of your pictures is essentially all about giving search engines content that they understand – i.e. text. And, one way to do this is to add text to your image. Consider making use of captions and watermarks to “label” your images, making them more accessible to search engines.

Google also has a tool, Image Labeller, that gives users chance to label images from Google search. It’s  an odd little feature – more of a game than a tool – and at the moment you can’t control which images you get to label, but it may be worth investigating.

Panormaio & Online Galleries

It may seem odd to suggest adding your images to online galleries to improve optimisation, but consider this: As with websites, getting top rankings for images is all about links.

By placing your images on online galleries, you can label, get comments on and build links to the pictures on your site. You’ll have the value of social buzz around your images. And, using Panormaio, Google’s own gallery, may give your images preferential treatment – just as Google favours videos from YouTube.

For most, image optimisation is just another piece of the SEO puzzle; but it still shouldn’t be ignored. Whether you make your living with pictures or not, for effective search engine optimisation, you need search engine friendly images.