5 Great Ways to Optimize Photos for Search Engines Traffic

The quickest way to save your photos is to copy them from the camera memory and to paste into some folder on your computer. That’s very easy and thanks to the preview option you can always find photos you need. But when it comes to the web it appears that search engines can’t see your photos like common people. Search engine crawlers scan your website’s HTML code and “read” your pictures’ URLs and descriptions. In their world your photos don’t exist, so you have to be patient enough to put them up to the beauty of your photos.

The majority of photographers know little about web mechanisms. But you don’t need to be a pro in HTML coding to optimize photos for search engines. You just need to know and follow several quite simple rules in order to have good ranked photos. And here they are.

1. Think Over File Names of Your Photos

use proper file names to optimize images for the web

If you’re planing to upload photos on the web regularly then obviously you’d like to do it yourself without outside assistance of highly-paid professional developers. It doesn’t matter if you want to upload photos on Facebook, Pinterest your portfolio website or blog, you should edit pictures’ file names correctly.

All photo cameras always automatically name shots FV00001.jpg and so on. But if you want these images to be indexed by search engines well (I mean that people will be able to find them on the web) you should rename each picture. The file name of each photo will be visible in its URL: neither people nor search engines like to see abracadabra.

There are different opinions concerning the length of file names. Some web gurus proclaim that the more descriptive words will be included to a file name the more effective it will be. Others are against such statements. Probably the truth is out there. You need to choose good keywords which describe your picture in the proper way. If you think that 3 keywords will be enough – that’s ok, if a photo can be described with 10 or 20 keywords it’s also ok.

By the way, search engine crawlers don’t “see” interjections and articles (so called stop words which don’t influence sentences meaning), so you can leave out them. Do you remember good old telegrams? While sending a telegram you had to write your message without “insignificant” words. And now do the same.

The next tip: forget about capital letters and special symbols (#$+%@{}()_[]!”‘><=). Some browsers can distort them and search engines can even miss them when crawling your website. Moreover, if your image's file name contains capital letters which are absent in HTML code, then your image won't be displayed at all.

And of course you should separate words from each other with dashes. Google takes in it as a delimiter between words (underscores or space characters don’t work).

For example:

  • wrong - FV_00001$ at homeOrElsewhere100% Brrrrrrrr.jpg;
  • right – still-life-photography-contest-2011.jpg.

2. Use the Proper Format

jpg photo format

JPEG (JPG) is probably the most popular extension that the most digital cameras use as their default format. This photo format is also good for the web – all browsers can quickly and easily read it. There are also other file formats which require special software to be opened. For example, Nikon saves photos in their personal Nikon Electronic Format (NEF). Probably you think that it’s not important, but it does matter for photos optimization greatly. All the uncompressed, or as they’re called “lossless”, formats capture too many excess information that will overload web pages.

For example:

  • wrong – digital-camera.png; digital-camera.tiff;
  • right – digital-camera.jpg.

3. Use the Alt Attribute

Now it’s turn for the alt attribute (alternate text). Do you know what it is? Simply speaking, it’s an image title for search engine spiders. As we mentioned earlier, bots which crawl web pages can’t “view” images like you and I. They don’t understand what’s displayed on pictures until you explain it. So alt is just that very thing you need. It’s a text behind every image. And you know what? This text can and even have to include keyword phrases. You just have to choose relevant keywords because photos (and entire pages where they’re lying) will be ranked by them.

You should better use long tail keywords (Canon digital camera with 3x optical zoom) instead of short tail ones (digital camera). Such phrases can easily be ranked in search engines thanks to a lower competition (there are 100s and 100s digital cameras on the web, but considerably fewer Canon digital camera with 3x optical zoom).

It’ll be also good for your photos if your vary their alt attributes. Our language is quite rich, so you can try different words combinations to grab potential customers’ attention. It’s considered that wrong spelling can also bring you to success. For example, millions of people prefer to write “foto” instead of “photo”, so why not to get benefits from it?

For example:

  • wrong: alt=“Digital camera”.
  • right: alt=“Canon digital camera with 3x optical zoom”.

4. Don’t Forget About the Title Attribute

title attribute in photos optimization
Source: SmashingHub

You can truly be surprised with a necessity to write pics titles along with their alts. But the title attribute differs from the alt in spite of the fact that many people use the same keyword phrases to describe them. These two attributes give you a chance to use more different keywords to improve your images ranking. It would be a great fail to lose such an opportunity.

Title is always displayed as a mouseover text, i.e. it’s viewed when you hover the mouse pointer over images. Such description will help your site visitors to better understand each photo idea.

For example:

  • wrong: it’s hard to write a wrong image title :) ;
  • right: title=”Canon digital camera with 3x optical zoom”

5. Captions Are Also Important

use captions to optimize images for the web
Source: Digital Photography School

A caption is another way to show search engines what your web page is talking about. Captions are quite popular on photo blogs because they allow to describe pictures in a few sentences without a need to overload texts with additional keywords.

Moreover, you probably know that people are not intended to read all articles on the web (even if they need something). When entering a website people scan pages looking for the proper information and missing everything else. It can happen that people even won’t read your article at all, they will read small captions and make a decision about the entire page. So don’t lose a chance to grab them :).

Now you know well what to do. You can upload your photos to web pages and get more benefits from them. Give your photos a chance to be noticed. I used to underestimate such small details as photos optimization but now I know that it’s the small things that add up to your success on the web.

Ann Davlin Ann Davlin runs Photodoto Blog. She believes that creative photos can save the world (the web world :)). Don’t you think so?

Ann welcomes Twitter discussions, so contact her there anytime.

Ann Davlin

Ann Davlin runs Photodoto Blog. She believes that creative photos can save the world (the web world :)). Don't you think so? Ann welcomes Twitter discussions, so contact her there anytime.

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What Our Readers have to say

  1. Great tips. Not sure if “title” attribute helps in optimization. Some reference to this would be appreciated.

  2. Cool tips, Ann! SEO is a powerful tool and we should use it to promote our materials.
    Thank you so much :)

  3. Simon Slater says:

    Very insightful, thanks for sharing this very useful information….

  4. Christoph says:

    These are some very informative tips, thanks a lot…

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