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Some sites have it tough. If you are building a site such as Flickr, or are a photographer wondering how to get better exposure (pun not intended) for your images via search engines, you are generally up against it. With the majority of your content being visual, it’s harder to get a decent rank on Google.
Here’s a few SEO tips which you can apply to images within your website to gain better traction within Google image search.
Alot of these can be applied to any website, but I’ve primarily focused on image related seo for this article.
1) Image Keyword Planning
It’s important that you make sure you give your images location, detail and relevance. When I say location, I mean the place that they have been taken. For example. Let’s say you’ve taken a photo of a tree. A boring old tree. Place yourself in the context of a searcher looking for it. Being as descriptive as you can is important. Here’s a few samples to show what I mean
a) Large oak tree – short tail, hard to rank for
b) Large oak tree near Omagh – longer tail, added location
c) Decaying large oak tree near Omagh – extremely long tail, but covers three phrases
For the first keyword, to rank for it, you’ll need to check out the on – page ranking for images discussed next. For the longer tail keywords, you can expect less traffic, but more relevant searches, and thus lower bounce rates for potential visitors to your site, and people are more likely to actually use the image they find. For the third example you are covering a couple of bases: “decaying large oak” , “large oak tree” and “oak tree near Omagh”. Once you have worked out the keywords to use, it’s time to work out where on your web page the keywords should go.
2) Keyword Placement
Your web page will have a number of elements within that will influence how the image(s) on the page will rank in Google image search. A lot of these are similar to the onpage factors I’ve mentioned over here – in addition to these there are two places that you should concentrate your keywords. The image ALT tag and Title tag are extremely important for photography SEO. Just to recap – using my example of a photo of an oak tree, here’s an example on how you should optimise the page that it sits on.
<title>Oak Tree near Omagh</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”Photo of a decaying Oak tree near Omagh Northern Ireland. Taken with a Nikon D40″ />
<span class=”description”>This is a photo Paul took whilst on a photo walk near Omagh. This <strong>old oak tree</strong> is unfortunately dying due to a fungal infection.</span>
<span class=”caption”>Decaying old Oak Tree <img src=”decaying-old-oak-tree-omagh.jpg” alt=”Oak Tree” title=”Oak Tree near Omagh” /></span>
<a href=”more-oak-trees.htm”>Links to other oak trees</a>
3) How to name the images
It’s been recognised within SEO generally that file names can have an impact on results. This is reflected too within search engine optimisation for images. Use dashes to separate keywords in the file name, rather than underscores. This comes straight from the horses mouth when we are talking about Google – Matt Cuts specified that Google favours dashes. Follow the same strategy for your image naming convention. Don’t go overboard with the number of keywords in your image, as otherwise it’s going to look spammy.
I wouldn’t put any more than five relevant keywords built up as a phrase in an image name. If you need to describe it more, use the ALT or title tags to do so.
It’s also worth noting that if you can keep your images in a folder under your root – e.g. images. subdomain’s don’t work as well.e.g. http://images.domain.com/image.jpg is not as good as http://www.domain.com/images/image.jpg
Tagging photos is something that many of you will be familiar with. Folksonomy is not new, but if you use it responsibly it can reap rewards. If you are using WordPress for a photoblog, then the natural thing to do is to tag the photo with “oak tree” , “omagh” etc. Do the same thing on sites such as Flickr or Delicious to encourage back-links using those keywords. Having the tags printed and linked on the page the image resides makes sense, as this increases the outgoing links to other similar pages, passing Pagerank link juice across the site.
Goes without saying, Flash is a no – no if you are trying to get your images properly indexed. Despite what If you must use it, I’d recommend offering an alternative for Google, but if you can implement your site using jQuery for the fancy effects instead, you stand a better chance in the Search Engine Result pages (SERPs in search engine circles). Standard issue HTML will always win against a site which uses Flash, simply because even though Google can read flash content, it can’t parse ALT and TITLE tags.
6) Cross site linking
You can’t really talk about SEO in any capacity without talking about cross site linking strategies. If you can link heavily within your site to other pages using the keywords as the link text, then this will improve the image chances. For those of you who don’t know already – link text is the text which is underlined e.g. oak tree
Don’t be tempted to link directly to the image itself, remember that no tags exist when you link to an image directly, so Google isn’t able to work out what the image is about.
Captions are one of the best ways to clarify what an image is about. An image caption is one to two sentences of text used above or around the image which describes it for a human visitor. Refer back to the same page structure to see what I’ve used for my caption.
Notice that the text is wrapped inside a span (could be a div) but links it closer to the image physically within the structure of the html. I’ve no hard or fast evidence on this one, apart from this guidelines document from Google- but my thoughts are that you want to try and give Google imagebot all the help it needs to distinguish what the image is about.
8) Off-page techniques
Optimising web pages first really well, and getting page rank up for the page in question is one of the easiest ways to get an image to rank well. Good content, well promoted is one of the best ways to increase your pagerank. That along with Cross site linking (mentioned early) should see you getting highly ranked on Google image search.
9) Image labeller
Google introduced an interestingly little web application known as Google Image Labeller, this is cleverly implemented as a game that you can play against another Google users. You can enable your site’s participation on Google image search, by checking the option in Google Webmaster tools. Doing so should see a boost in your site’s ranking on image search.
The Exif format will probably play a part in SEO in the future. It is a format which allows you to embed tags and descriptions directly within images. The metadata embedded within images will eventually be read by the search engines to help define relevance. Better to start doing it now, than be faced with the prospect of having to do it on thousands of photographs later. iPhoto or the free and easy Picassa both allow Exif tagging.
Google have recently posted a video on the developments within image search. Well worth watching, as it is both recent and relevant.