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I was wrong. In the past I’ve told you that YouTube was the world’s second largest search engine. While technically true, as YouTube is a separate site from Google, this is a “myth” that apparently started back in 2008.

The truth is that the Google ecosystem equals about 90.8% of all searches. This ecosystem includes Google itself, Google Images, YouTube and Maps. Data shows that Google core makes up around 62.6%. Another 22.6% go to Google Images followed by YouTube with another 4.3% approximately. Effectively this means that Google Image Search is the 2nd largest search engine. That would put YouTube as the 3rd largest search engine.

For comparison, Bing claims 3.1% of the market. Yahoo! at 1.47% and DuckDuckGo at 0.69%.

What this means to you

The fact is that videos in general, and YouTube specifically are still incredibly important when it comes to search placement. Google has been prioritizing videos in in search results, just as it has been prioritizing mobile searches. But image searches remain huge, even though they are often overlooked when it comes to optimizing your website.

Most website owners do not prioritize image optimization on their websites or online stores, which means you are ignoring an incredible opportunity for getting found. Not only are people searching for images, but this can provide a significant boost overall for getting found in Google’s blended search results.

Example of a Google image search showing silver earings

How do you Optimize Images for Search?

Pick the right file format

PNG, JPEG, and GIF are all popular. WebP is a modern image file format that can reduce the file size of your images without changing their quality or resolution. Smaller file sizes mean faster web page load times. WebP’s image file sizes are considerably smaller than other image formats such as JPEG, PNG, and GIF, and this reduction in size causes no harm to your visitors’ experience.

Your photo editing software may not save images in the WebP format yet, but some do. I recommend saving your images as JPEG for photos and PNG for images with text. Then you can convert them into Webp images using a plugin like ShortPixel.

ShortPixel Image Optimizer

You can also convert your images to the WebP format using an online conversion tool like convertio.co. The WebP image format is a great way to reduce the size of the images on your WordPress site without changing their quality. By shrinking the size of your images, you can make your website load even faster and create a better experience for your site’s visitors.

Resize your images

Image size and file size are not the same thing. Image size refers to the dimensions of an image (e.g., 1024 by 768 pixels). File size is the amount of space needed to store it on the server (e.g., 250 kilobytes).

Images with higher resolution and larger dimensions (often created with a professional camera) slow your page load times considerably. While they work well for print reproduction, you need to scale down the file size without losing too much quality for them to work well on the web. While WordPress creates multiple image sizes from your original, you should scale your images to an appropriate size prior to uploading them to your website. The tool I like to use for resizing images is XNconvert.

When inserting images, be sure to specify the height and width parameters as this helps a browser to load the image faster.

image html example
Large, high quality images(1200 pixels or larger) tend to do better in image searches. Square images do better on mobile and work equally well on desk top devices, so I recommend images that are 1200 pixels by 1200 pixels (or better yet, 1600 x 1600) for images that you want to rank. This turns out to be a good size and dimension for ecommerce product images as well.

image optimization joke humor funny comic cartoon

This comic image was 662K as a png file and only 100K as a WebP file.

Image file names

Choosing the right file name is important for your page SEO and for ranking in image search results. Before uploading any image, name the file with relevant, descriptive keywords to get the most SEO juice. Include target keywords at the beginning and separate them with hyphens. Don’t use underscores or spaces because search engines don’t recognize them and won’t be able to “see” the words individually. Don’t use image12345.jpg as a filename – change it into something meaningful. It is a good idea to include a product’s part number in the image name. For example: 7mm-Small-Sterling-Silver-Cartilage-Hoop-Earrings-576028046.jpg

Use alt tags

Viewers may understand what a picture is about, but search engine spiders still need clues. Without alternative text, it’s impossible for search engines to accurately index your image content. A good alt tag provides context and helps visually impaired users who use screen readers. Even when images aren’t loading because of a glitch, search engines can still read the alternative text to help rank a page. Avoid keyword stuffing. Use alt tags on all images that aren’t purely decorative (like icons and line dividers).

When creating alt-tags, provide more detail than you included in the file name. Do not use the words “image” or “photo” of as this is redundant. While no ideal number of words exists, aim for 10 to 15 to convey something about the image. For example:

20 Gauge Piercing Earring Hoop for Rook Helix Daith Tragus Surgical Steel Nose Hoop Seamless

You should also include an image description and image title if available. When writing these tags, think of the user intent: why are they searching for this type of image? Is it to get ideas for creating their own image? Perhaps to include the image as part of another image? In the case of ecommerce, are they looking to buy this product? If you can understand why a visitor might want to find the image, it can help you write better alt and description tags. Remember, when writing copy for a page, you are optimizing for human readers, but when providing information about an image, the primary purpose of the alt tag and description is so you can get better SEO and rank on Google.

alt-text and image description insertion

Use Your Own Custom Images

Stock images that are used on multiple websites are unlikely to be ranked in the Google image results. If you want to show up in the image results, create your own images. If you really must use stock images (such as a product image from a manufacturer), make sure you have optimized your page for that image better than anyone else.

Wrap-Up

When it comes to image optimization, Google is actually ranking pages but showing images in the results. You must still have great copy / product descriptions in order to rank for images. The words on your page must compliment your images, and Google will take that into consideration. Then, if you want to rank your images on the Google image results page, make sure you follow the best practices for naming images and using alt-tags. This way Google will clearly understand what your image is and it is more likely that you will get seen when people do an image search. As the second most popular way that people do searches, this can have a large impact in your search rankings.

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If you need help optimizing your images, call WebStores at 303-688-6560.

 

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