Ah, images… From the “simple user” point of view they can really contribute to the general browsing experience on websites, elements that can add more flavor and maybe even to visually explain better points or topics. And I didn’t even began talking about better appealing appearance.
But from SEO perspective, things are a bit more tricky…
Search engines can’t really “understand” images and identify what are they about. Sure, it’s true that search engines have progressed (both Google and Bing) and can recognize some visual elements, for example advancements in face recognition technologies (that are also being used on Google+), but in general their capabilities are pretty limited in that area.
Therefore, when adding an image to a page we should help the search engine understand what it is about. Recently, Google released on its Webmaster Central YouTube channel two videos related to this whole image-SEO topic that can provide more details about this matter.
Optimize Sites With Little Textual Content
In the first video, Google’s software engineer Tiffany Oberoi (which is kinda funny) is discussing about sites that don’t have much textual content on them. Basically, Tiffany is saying that it shouldn’t be a problem, however, there are few extra possible steps to do for letting Google know what the site/page is about. She offers the following advices:
- Use the file name- Instead of giving a useless name for an image file like IMG12345.jpg, use the file name to give some “clues” what the photo is about. For example, the name of the photo on the top of this post is Tiffany-Oberoi-Matt-Cutts-image-seo.jpg.
- Surrounding text (captions)- Add text around the photo that describes it.
- Use the Alt attribute- The Alt text is essentially the title tag of the photo. Personal note: The Alt text is somewhat considered the anchor text of an image link.
On the video, Tiffany is also discussing about Flash. Even though Google can index flash content (at least partially) Tiffany recommending to use Flash just for decoration and not as the core content. It is HIGHLY recommended NOT to use Flash for the site’s navigation which can also damage the experience of iOS users (Apple don’t support Flash on its devices).
Here’s the video:
Images Flow Link Juice (PageRank)
Matt Cutts is hilarious! On its funniest (and shortest) video ever, Matt is answering the question if image links are flowing PageRank (link juice). I think it would be best if I simply transcribe the video:
Hi. This is the shortest Webmaster video ever. The question is does PageRank flow through image links? The answer is yes. It does flow through image links.
Hilarious. Here’s the video: