12 Crucial Image SEO Tips You Shouldn’t Miss

  • June 20, 2024
  • SEO
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Images often dominate webpages in terms of size and visual impact.

They warrant their own tab in Google search results and even have dedicated algorithms. As part of a holistic SEO strategy, appearing in image search results is crucial to engaging users who seek visual content.

Your content needs high-quality images to enhance user experience, so why not optimize them for better search visibility?

If search engines are offering both the cookie and the milk for free, why only take the cookie? Dunk it in milk for the complete experience.

This article will delve into the various facets of image SEO, guiding you on how to enhance your images for superior search engine visibility.

How Search Engines Index and Understand Images

Search engines crawl web pages to detect images and extract relevant data including metadata and file names.

Factors such as surrounding text, image file name, alt text, captions, and the overall page content are taken into account by Google to understand image context. Additionally, image recognition technologies assist in deciphering the content of images.

What Is Image SEO?

Image SEO encompasses various techniques aimed at improving image visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). This involves optimizing images to ensure search engines can efficiently crawl, understand, and rank them.

Optimization techniques include compressing images to reduce load times, using responsive images for different device sizes, implementing lazy loading, adding relevant alt text, employing descriptive file names, and incorporating structured data for images.

Now, let’s explore each image optimization tip in greater detail.

1. Choose the Right Image Format

Google supports several image formats: JPEG, PNG, WebP, BMP, GIF, and SVG. Understanding the differences between these formats and their impact on your website and SEO is crucial.

  • PNG: Uses lossless compression for better image quality and supports transparency. Ideal for detailed images but results in larger file sizes.
  • JPEG: Utilizes lossy compression, which degrades quality but balances file size and image quality.
  • WebP: Developed by Google, it supports both lossless and lossy compression, offering smaller file sizes at comparable quality levels. Supported by all major browsers.
  • GIF: Uses lossless compression but is limited in color support, making it suitable for simple graphics and animations.
  • SVG: A vector-based format that scales without increasing file size. Ideal for logos and icons in responsive designs.
  • BMP: Produces high-quality images but with large file sizes, making it less suitable for web use.

For web optimization, PNG can be converted to WebP for better performance.

Note that some older browsers, such as Safari 15.6 and older, don’t support animated WebP formats, but this affects only a small portion of users.

It’s wise to regularly monitor support for various technologies through tools like Google Analytics.

How Compression Affects Image Quality and Load Times

To illustrate, here is a sample image in BMP format, converted into different formats with varying file sizes and load times.

Sample image in PNG format

Image Format File Size Load Time on 3G Connection Load Time on Fast Connection (128 MB/sec)
BMP 1900 KB 17.22 sec. 311 msec
PNG 552 KB 9.16 sec. 156 msec
GIF 265 KB 5.89 sec. 89 msec
JPG 91.5 KB 2.91 sec. 47 msec
WebP 41.2 KB 1.77 sec. 29 msec

In this example, we used a local Apache web server to include images on a sample HTML page.

This example demonstrates the efficiency of the WebP format, offering the smallest file size and fastest load times compared to PNG and JPG formats.

Adopting WebP format can significantly improve load times. However, be mindful that sometimes WebP image sizes might be larger than the original files. You can learn more about this from Google’s FAQ page.

Switching image formats can sometimes lead to quality and sharpness loss. The chosen format should be based on the nature of your website. For instance, if you run a photography site, PNG might be more suitable due to its high detail retention, whereas JPG or WebP could be used for thumbnails linking to high-quality PNG images.

Understanding different image formats and their respective compression methods is crucial. Tools like ShortPixel or TinyJPG employ advanced algorithms to reduce file sizes while maintaining image quality.

For example, converting our sample image from JPG to WebP using ShortPixel resulted in an 8.3 KB file, while TinyJPG produced an 8.7 KB file.

However, these tools can sometimes degrade image quality, especially in text-based screenshots. Therefore, carefully choose optimization types based on your needs.

The AVIF Format

AVIF is a new format supported by all major browsers, although not yet supported by Google. It offers higher compression but may degrade image quality.

For instance, the same image in AVIF format is 11 KB versus 41 KB in WebP. However, AVIF might reduce image irregularities more aggressively, as evidenced in the comparison below:

Avif vs. WebP

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