Why Are Images Important for SEO? Optimizing Your Website’s Images for GKP and SERP

If you caught our webinar a couple weeks back, then you probably heard us hinting at how the images on your website and in your Google Knowledge Panel can have a major impact on how potential customers view you as a business. If you want to attract the eye of your target audience and even get a bump in SEO, it’s crucial to optimize these images — and not in the way that you’re used to.

This may have you asking: Is there really more to image optimization besides alt text and sizing images properly to improve site speed? The answer is a resounding yes, and here’s why.

Google’s New Algorithm Update: Images Matter

Optimizing your images for Mobile, Google Knowledge Panel (GKP), Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a more refined game with Google’s new image algorithm update at the end of September. According to Google, the update will put more emphasis on images and their context, and even take into account the placement of an image on a page. When an image is the central element on a page, and higher up on the page, it will see better rankings. Google Images search results will also begin to show more context around images, including captions that show you the title of the webpage where the image is published.

So, while it is still important to optimize every image with alt text and correct sizing, it has become even more important to add captions, pay particular attention to placement of an image on a page, and have a truly relevant title and tag.

Mobile First Indexing

Images play an especially strong role in mobile searches because images are easier to view on mobile than copy. Images are also better at capturing user attention spans which are significantly diminished among mobile users. So, the assumption is images are being shown more in Local and Organic search results on mobile devices.

Are you doing all the right things to optimize your images for mobile?

Consider file size

It’s important to consider the file size, resolution, and format of the images on your site. Larger images take longer to load and slow down page speeds, which is detrimental to site performance and overall user experience. Larger images also cost more (in data) to download if a user is viewing a page over a cellular connection instead of WiFi. (You can see what your site “costs” to load over cellular networks around the world here.)

Use an image compression tool

Use an image compression tool, such as Photoshop or Preview on Mac, to reduce the file size of your images as much as possible without sacrificing quality. That way, your page load times remain low while the image quality stays high. Try “save for web” options when using these tools and aim to keep image files under 1 to 5MB depending on how or where they’re displayed.

Photoshop has a “save for web” feature which lets you reduce file size without sacrificing quality.

Don’t forget compatibility

Be sure to stick to lighter-weight, commonly used image formats like JPG or PNG, as opposed to heavier formats like TIFF. This reduces the risk of display or loading problems across browsers and devices.

Topical Relevance

Topical relevance also seems to play a larger role in the new Google algorithm update. Titles and placement on the page, which may be more relevant to the query, are showing up even more. Meanwhile, search results don’t always use the alt text that we had previously assumed was critical.

Alt text is still important; but to increase your placement in SERP, or Organic, or Local, optimization is a more involved process requiring more comprehensive formatting — including consideration for placement, prominence and context, as well as alt tags, titles and captions.

In some cases, as stated by Mike Blumenthal, images that show up in search are not the header image or carousel image, but the first image in the body of the text. This suggests that Google is considering contextual cues when determining the relevance of images, noting that images placed alongside other content on the page tend to be more relevant and useful to searchers because they appear prominently and in the context of other related content.

Accessibility

Optimization isn’t just about hitting all the right keywords; it’s also about making your content more accessible.

Imagine that you’re listening to a screen reader take you through a web page, and it suddenly throws out a random assortment of keywords, an odd image ID or a filename instead of describing the content of an image. Not so accessible, is it? Alt tags should describe exactly what is in the image so that users with visual impairments who rely on screen readers to consume web content can easily follow along with what’s on a page, without images being disruptive or confusing to the flow.

Google Knowledge Panel Profile Images

Are you optimizing the profile images in your Google Knowledge Panel? And are you choosing your images wisely to attract your target audience? Everything we believe about “Google As Your Homepage” makes the case that this photo opportunity is your true first impression.

Be aware that on mobile, GKP images are quite small; so avoid pictures that are far away or too busy. Test your images for the mobile experience, and check to make sure your most recent upload is easy to see on a smaller screen. In addition, make sure these images are updated for the seasons. The best images say something about you and what sets you apart as an HVAC, home performance or solar company, so try to avoid stock images (though stock can be a great option for website images.)

Take a look at your own Google Knowledge Panel. Which images show up first at the top?

Images in our industries aren’t always pretty or exciting, but in all of our industries, we’re working to make buildings healthier, more sustainable, and more efficient. Whether you choose to communicate that with an image of a wall cavity full of cellulose (which is great for organic rankings, by the way), or with a stock image of a happy family enjoying their comfortable home, you need to be optimizing these images properly for maximum SEO impact.

Images don’t just add visual appeal to your website and Google My Business profile — they can have a major influence on your SEO and lead generation rate. Contact us to learn more.

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Tags: HVAC, circle, digital, energy, gmb, home, marketing, media, performance, social, More…solar

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