SEO Tips for Optimising Your Website Images

As a photographer I take an active interest in the way that the internet affects my craft and the industry. As General Manager for Vertus Technologies, I am also concerned with the technical importance of image optimisation on the internet. This article aims to focus on the combined importance of image as an SEO tool and attention to practical augmentation both before editing and web use.

Preparing photos for the internet begins in-camera. A technically sound image will form the basis of its’ full potential on the web and no matter what the software, a badly lit low resolution image will only be able to achieve limited results. Once you have a well-lit, well framed image, which is in focus and no smaller than 72 dpi then you can graduate towards editing.

The most important things to remember when optimising images are file size and type. Anything too large will cause slow loading speeds, which may cause you to lose viewers, and consequently, traffic to the site. The best file formats to use for web are jpeg and gif, however a ‘gif’ image reduces your colour palette to a maximum of 256 colours, so this may not be suitable for portraiture. Conversely, if upload time is not an issue, then the ‘Png’ format will keep all the quality of your image without reducing the file size. This is used frequently by web designers presenting work to clients, who will then reduce the design down to jpegs and gifs before the site goes live.

Nick Pickles, Music Photographer has provided some examples of images changed for web use. He says “Technically, keep subjects sharp and image size down- some compression can ‘fuzz’ the image so find a good balance between how large the image is in pixel size and how large the file is.”

As you can see, the two photos of Richard Thompson show a clear difference in quality. They are both 800 pixels on their longest side, with the top image optimised to 80% quality and the second image at 20% quality. Pixels here are easy to see in the background as the light gradient changes, and the image overall looks much less sharp, and the colour is more pale. The overall effect between the two being that the first would be too large for web use, and the second is clearly not of the correct standard. This is something stipulated by most articles about image optimisation, so depending on your intentions, optimising images to somewhere between these two may be the best option.

From the perspective of a Photographer it is easy to see why Nick would pay attention to image quality. He also points out that security is another important point to consider. “The bigger the image, the greater the risk that someone can use your work commercially without you knowing. Everyone has to find their own balance, for me that’s 800pix on the long edge.” It is worth noting however, that this is an important factor for anyone adding content to a creatively driven site, although not as much of an issue for other types of sites. It really does depend on your aims with your content.

This leads me to Search Engine Optimisation. Adding tags, meta-data, keywording and other similar technical aspects are all important ranking factors to consider. For example, filename should denote the content of the image, and captions will strengthen the purpose of the filename by describing the image, which in turn will help the image to gain a higher ranking in a search engine. Using relevant keywords in the alt-text for important images, creating links to the images, use of anchor text will also contribute to this and help to drive traffic, but of course all of this should be applied with forbearance. Adding lots of irrelevant information about an image will only hinder the ease with which a search engine can find it.

Nick Pickles suggests that for a specific photography site, a really beneficial tactic for driving traffic to the site is to have a “core site that is the best demonstration of your skills, and enough non-core content to keep people looking and increase the search reach of the site.” This advice is universal in its’ meaning, for instance notifying users of new content, keeping variety in your site and indexing this information so that it is easy to find would benefit any kind of website and is simply good SEO practice.

It would be hard to argue against the benefits of this. All optimisation techniques are there for the purposes of promotion, whether the end goal is conversion, sales or a general marketing tactic. When applied concisely, where necessary, using these tips can help to drive traffic and gain publicity for your work, and they can apply to any means for which you want to optimise images. The viewing platform you use is an important tool to publishing work and consequently, image optimisation for SEO purposes, as you can see, is a separate entity to applying technical practicalities and should be treated as such.

Nick Pickles’ work can be found at http://www.music-photographer.co.uk/

Vertus Technologies is an image editing software company, whose premier program is Fluid Mask, a professional level masking tool ideal for both print and web use. www.vertustech.com

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