Tips and Tricks for Managing Images on your Website
Welcome to Part 2 of 3 of our site health series! Last time we covered image optimisation and the vital role that it plays in your site’s performance. This time we will cover content strategy for your newly minimised images.
Over the years working on our clients’ sites, we’ve encountered a number of site health hazards related to their image content strategy. By taking steps to avoid them, you can give your site an SEO edge, improve its usability, and make everyone’s content-related work much easier.
Naming your image (and other media) files something descriptive not only will help you identify images by name alone but will also improve your images’ positions on search engine image searches.
When it comes to image filenames, search engine crawlers (programs that read and log website content for search engine indexes) and humans both rely on the filename to identify content. Think about "lake-at-sunrise.jpg" versus "IMG_3219.jpg." Which one tells you and search engine crawlers more about the image? The consideration of image searches is especially valuable for organisations who would benefit from product images appearing on image search result pages.
When naming your file with SEO in mind, use natural language and load the keywords at the start of the filename. Going back to our "lake-at-sunsrise.jpg" example, think about what search query someone would use to find an image like this. They wouldn’t search for "sunrise lake"—that’s just not how English is spoken. The closer your filename matches their search query, the higher up in the SRP your image will appear.
Some screen readers also read filenames to inform visually impaired users about an image’s content, which is another great reason to keep your image names in natural language. If your image is vital for the understanding of your page’s content, the ability to understand an image from text alone is essential for making sure that all of your users will understand your content. More on this below when we talk about defining alt text.
For your own sake and the sake of other content editors, keep your file naming system consistent. Say you have a product that comes in 6 different colours and you’re trying to find the gold option so you can replace the file (with an optimised image, of course!). Finding the gold option in the list on the left is faster and easier than in the list on the right. Give it a try:
Like image filenames, the benefits of alt text (the text that shows up when an image is missing or a visitor is using a screen reader) are two-fold: accessibility and SEO. Visually impaired users rely on alt text to understand the content of an image, as this is the primary way screen readers provide this information.
Meanwhile, search engine crawlers use alt text to learn more about your image. These crawlers can’t see images as people can, so text is your only tool for informing them about an image—use it well. Alt text that is relevant to the content of your webpage supports the other SEO-related markup on your page like heading and link text, reinforcing to Google’s algorithm what your page is about. It also helps bring your images to the top of image searches. Make your text meaningful and ensure that it describes the image so no information is lost.
Keep in mind when writing your image filenames and alt text that search engines like Google punish black hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing.
Nothing is bad
Minimal is better
Descriptive is best
alt="Lake at sunrise with mountain and trees in the background"
Keyword stuffing… just don’t
alt="Lake water sunrise sunset sun mountain hill lake nature reflections water peaceful lake"
For extra SEO juice and if relevant to the image’s purpose (i.e. not a homepage banner), add a caption with your image. Captions increase scanability of your page. KissMetric wrote in 2012 that ‘Captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself, so not using them, or not using them correctly, means missing out on an opportunity to engage a huge number of potential readers.’
Save your future self and anyone else working on your website’s content a headache. Predictable, consistent folder naming conventions and logical folder hierarchy for media makes finding your images easy. As your site grows and evolves, you will only be adding more and more images. Time adds up quickly if content editors are spending time searching for images every time they want to make a change.
Nip a chaotic media folder in the bud and start organising your files early.
With all the aspects to consider with images, from optimisation to naming to organisation, it can be tempting to think to yourself, “Is all of this really that important?”
The answer is: absolutely. If you have a website, you obviously care about your business and your customers, clients, or visitors. Maintaining healthy images on your website is an extension of that. It makes your website faster, better, and easier to understand, opens the door to more traffic with improved SEO, and helps you keep often unruly media libraries under control. Once you develop your own preferred workflow for tackling these image-related hazards, you won’t look back.
We hope you’ve learned a lot about managing your images. Stay tuned for our third and final part in this site health series, where we’ll dive into best practices for your website’s copy.