Image optimisation isn’t what immediately springs to mind when most business owners think of search engine optimisation, but it’s an important task – more important than many may think. Optimising your images can contribute a lot to your SEO, both in direct and indirect ways. Failing to optimise images can also hold you back.

So why optimise? The main reason is to help your page download time. The mistake a lot of webmasters make, and have always made, is to alter images within the site’s code. This means you’re taking a potentially huge file and reshaping it to fit a small space on screen. The alterations made within code don’t change the amount of data your user’s computer has to download though, so essentially your little short cut has created more work for the technologies involved.

There are a few other aspects of your images that will affect your website optimisation. Here are the first five things to think about:

1. The first step should always be at the file level. Image optimisation begins before you go online. Start by resizing your images within the file, reducing them to the size you’re going to need for the page. Image resolution is also often much higher than needed for a computer screen, so adjust that as well. These changes can reduce the file size down to one tenth of its former level.

2. Keywords count in file names. File protocols are the enemy of SEO. Having your own labelling system may be great for organisation of your disc drive, but it doesn’t help your web pages. Make sure you re-label your files to reflect their content before uploading. Using keywords in the file name is a great way to work some SEO in.

3. Craft your alt text. Search engines are getting better at interpreting non-text content, but it still pays to think of them as blind and to help them as much as possible. Alt text is a great place to put the keywords that fit your image. Not only does this help the search engines understand the purpose of the image, it provides information to site users who are unable to see the image.

4. Get a bit wordy. Another great SEO trick is to place a rich description beneath the image. This is a great way to sneak a bit more information in without drawing too much attention away from your page’s main content.

5. Fit the image into your site’s landscape. Not all of image optimisation concerns the image itself. The layout of your page plays a big part as well. Getting the ratio of text, graphics and white space right is something SEO experts spend their whole careers trying to perfect. The thing to remember is that white space gives your site users a chance to breathe – so give them enough room not to crowd them, but not so much room that they get bored and walk away. This area of usability is a whole topic on its own.

Websites have been known to push image optimisation too far, jamming keywords into descriptions of images that really don’t fit the content. Remember that a light touch is needed for SEO as a heavy touch could see your site penalised. This applies as much to images as it does to anything else. Images are only valuable when they add to your page.

The trick to successful SEO is to think on a broad scale. Every aspect of your online campaign can contribute to your site’s rankings. Image optimisation is a good place to start.

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