Since Google rolled out its Universal Search in early 2010, the importance of proper optimization of images on your website has taken on new importance. Frequently, a set of images are the second or third listing on a Google results page. That’s very high placement. Get your images listed in that spot, and a click-through takes the visitor straight to your site. In addition, many searchers go directly to Google’s image search index to find what they want. If the images on your site aren’t optimized, you are missing out on this crucial SEO channel.

How do you go about optimizing the images on your site? Here are some useful tips that should help you gain more traffic via your images.

  • First, make sure you have some images on your site. Most sites can use at least a few images. Even if your site is really “dry”, add a few charts or diagrams to spice it up. Charts are images too! If you are lucky enough to operate a site that is image-rich, take advantage of that fact and make sure to add all the images you can.
  • For every image, use a keyword-rich image file name. Just as with urls, the file name provides a clue to the search engine as to what the image is about. And as with urls, search engines use the signal in an image file name as part of their search algorithm. So rather than <img src=”img44001.jpg”/> you might write <img src=”blue-widget.jpg”/>.
  • For every image, add the alt tags. Expanding on the code above, you might write <img src=”blue-widget.jpg” alt=”picture of blue widget”/>. It’s amazing how many webmasters leave the alt tags blank. For an SEO, that’s like leaving money on the table. Google has made it clear that alt tags help your SEO.
  • Don’t forget the image title. This is different from the file name or the alt tag. It is another opportunity to describe an image. The code might look like this: <img src =”blue-widget.jpg” alt=”picture of blue widget” Title=”Real life picture of a blue widget.” Height=”250” width=”350” /”>
  • Provide keyword-rich, descriptive captions for your photos. The caption is another clue for the search engine. Make sure your description accurately describes the image, and that it is placed close to the image both on the page and in the code.
  • When linking to an image in your text, make sure to use keyword-rich anchor text. Don’t use “click here for an image.” Rather, use something like “here is a photo of that wonderful blue widget.”
  • When appropriate, use social media prompts such as the Facebook “like” button to let users comment on images, share images, and so forth.
  • Add your important images to your xml sitemap. Since April, 2010, Google has been recognizing information about images placed in sitemaps. Information on how to implement this is on the Google Webmaster blog.

Not a lot of work, really, for the benefits that may be conferred, now that Google places such a high emphasis on images. Not only can your site be found through Google image search, but you may also score big by appearing in their regular (universal) search results.