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Posted on 08.30.2012

How Simple Changes to Website Images Can Increase Search Engine Discovery

"A picture is worth a thousand words" - or maybe more, if it's on your website.

Most websites contain images because they are a powerful way to keep visitors on your website longer. Images keep people's attention and can range from an infographic containing important statistics to an intriguing picture related to your business message. Did you know that images can also help people discover your website through search engines?

Images can be optimized to provide more opportunity to place keywords throughout your site, which can help target more of your relevant keyword phrases. Optimizing your images with target keywords can also increase the chances an image from your site will be displayed as an image result in the major search engines. Although search engines can't actually see an image (yet), they can determine what an image is all about by reading 1) image file names, 2) title attributes and 3) alternative attributes within the website code. And in those three attributes lies your opportunity.

File names are the actual names of the images that you are using. So when adding an image to your website or a blog post, try to add some relevant keywords (describing your business) as the image file name as opposed to something along the lines of, "pic24464." This is especially important in the age of image heavy social media sites such as Pinterest, since photo file names travel with a photo (by default) when pinned to a board.

Alternate (ALT) attributes are the words that are displayed in place of an image when the image doesn't display properly. So it's an "alternative" way to understand the image. Images that don't display may typically look like a box with a colorful little icon. These images appear less often as more websites and browsers continue to improve how they display images. Search engines, however, continue to use ALT attributes as a way to discover what an image is all about. So if you use an image of a hospital on your healthcare marketing blog, consider describing the image with an ALT attribute such as, "Healthcare Marketing Blog Image of Hospital."

The same goes for a title attribute when adding relevant keywords. The title attribute is displayed as text when you hover the mouse over a website image. It can be read by the search engines in your website code and should describe the image as well as contain your target keywords (where possible). Be careful not to use the same phrase for the file name, title and ALT attribute as search engines like to see some keyword variety. When in doubt on whether to use keywords versus a more realistic image description, use the better image description. Websites that are more user friendly as opposed to more keyword stuffed will do better in the search engine results.  

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