Alt tags are tricky, aren’t they? There’s a lot we can do as bloggers to enhance our site’s SEO practices but one of the most convoluted seems to be naming images. Helping Google find our pictures should be a key part of our blogging strategy as they can generate a ton of traffic for us.
Today we’re lucky enough to have Vijay Nathan, Co-Founder, Editor, and Chief Nosher of NoshOn.It, sharing his brilliant expertise on the topic. The guy is stellar. So, without further ado, take it away Vijay!
Hi everybody! Thanks so much to Kristy for having me here to guest post. I first met Kristy last month when we featured her Garden Gimlet and loved that in addition to her food blogging, she also shares a passion (and a business) for helping bloggers and companies improve their presence online. Today, we’re going to talk pictures!
You all know this saying, right?
A picture is worth a thousand words
Perhaps nowhere is this more true than on the web. I’m going to venture to guess that if you’re reading this post, there’s a high chance that you spend much more of your picture-viewing time on the web than in any art gallery! Especially if you’re blogging about anything related to lifestyle like beauty, fashion, design, or *cough cough* FOOD, pictures are becoming an increasingly important way to distinguish your blog from the thousands of others that are out there. And with Pinterest and Instagram (come follow us, by the way, we post lots of uber-artsy photos) becoming huge drivers of traffic and engagement, readers are often finding us first by photos and second by written content.
So wait, you’re telling me that what I write doesn’t matter?
Absolutely not! Quite the contrary, actually. I’m a huge believer that great content above everything else will drive great business. After all, that’s what we’ve dedicated our company to. But in certain categories, words alone may not be enough. In my world – food – I constantly have to remind myself that people have taste buds in their eyes. They feast with their eyes first so pictures are an important part of my strategy of “great content.”
But wait, there’s more! The most interesting thing about images on the web is that there’s actually much more than meets the eye (cue cheesy idiom music). While a pretty picture is what we see, what’s behind the picture – how we format, label, and describe it – determines when we see it.
You may or may not be familiar with terms like “Alt Tag,” “Image Title,” and “Image File Name,” but these are the most important attributes that we need to consider when formatting our images for our blogs.
So let’s get into it! In the rest of this post, I’m going to walk you through what each of these terms means, why they matter, and what you need to do to be an image-naming rockstar.
Why This Matters
Who cares, anyways? Why should I worry about what I name my images? I’m just trying to get a blog post up and get the kids off to school!
As we’re all trying to build our audiences, nailing our SEO is extraordinarily important in getting our content discovered and ranked by Google. But did you know that images play a role in this too?
The Google web crawler spider thingy that indexes all of our pages is pretty smart….but let’s just say he got a C in image class. With images, we have to tell Google what they are and the way we do this is through alt tags, file names, and titles. By customizing these attributes (read on to see how), we get the power to tell Google exactly what a certain image is using the terms we want, making it easier to index and rank correctly.
The second reason this matters is shareability. How many times have you tried to pin an image from a blog only to see that the Pinterest description is IMG_6047 instead of Strawberry Mascarpone Grilled Cheese Sandwich? Well, as appetizing as IMG_6047 sounds, that doesn’t cut it! Let’s help our readers out and give them a good description to start with.
Let’s go from most to least important and break this thing down piece-by-piece.
Priority #1: Alt Tags
Out of everything, the single most important thing you need to worry about with your images is the Alt Tag (Alternative Tag). Alt Tags are what the browser will display if the actual photo can’t load or if for some reason the reader has images turned off on their browser. Think of it like the hidden title behind the actual picture. So, it only makes sense that as Google crawls down your page, it looks at the Alt Tag to determine what the picture is actually about so it can index the image correctly in search results. In addition, the Alt Tag is the first place Pinterest looks for the pin description. It then looks for the Image Title Tag (#3 below) and lastly, the page title if it can’t find anything else.
If you’re using WordPress, you can edit the Alt Tag when you upload a file.
If you’re using Blogger, you can edit the Image Properties using this guide. If you’re on another blogging platform, you should have similar functionality somewhere in there! It doesn’t matter where it happens, as long as it gets done.
There are 3 main things to consider when creating an awesome alt tag:
- Be Descriptive yet Concise: Don’t get too fancy. Tell us exactly what this image is about but don’t be wordy. For a recipe, something as simple as the recipe title (e.g. Strawberry Mascarpone Grilled Cheese Sandwich) is good enough!
- Use Keywords: Re-enforce the keywords used in your post title and throughout your post here as well. For example, instead of just Grilled Cheese Sandwich, use Strawberry Mascarpone Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
- Think About Pinterest: It’s not 100% necessary but we also like to add a reference to our blog after the recipe title so it pops up in the pin description when using the Pin It bookmark button or browser extension.
That’s it! It’s really simple but too many people just skip over this step (or never knew about it to begin with. This one thing will go miles in helping improve your image SEO and shareability
Priority #2: File Name
In second place in terms of SEO importance comes the actual name of the image file. This is what you save the actual image file as on your computer before you upload it to your blogging platform. Most people thinks this doesn’t matter but Google (again) thinks otherwise!
Just like using keywords throughout your post is important, it’s also important to include those same reinforcing keywords in your file name as well. This will help the image get indexed and ranked on Google Image search results.
For example: strawberry-mascarpone-grilled-cheese-sandwich.jpg vs. IMG_6047.jpg. The former tells Google what words are associated with this image and post….while the latter just tells us that you’ve taken a LOT of pictures!
Pro tip: Use hyphens in the file name instead of underscores or any other characters. The web understands hyphens as you type them while other characters can get interpreted differently.
Priority #3: Image Title Tag
I’m going to spend the least amount of time on this one because every day, the Title Tag is becoming less and less important, especially with the Alt Tag taking reign. In fact, in the latest release of WordPress v3.6, it actually strips out the Title Tag even if you enter it in!
However, the purpose of the Title Tag is similar to that of the Alt Tag in that it helps the reader identify what the picture actually is. If you’ve ever hovered over a picture with your mouse and seen a little box pop up with a description, that’s coming from the Title Tag.
You can edit the Title Tag on WordPress (shown below) and other blogging platforms in the same place where you edit the Alt Tag. More often than not, we just create the Alt Tag then copy/paste it over into the Title Tag field.
We would still recommend that you edit this just in case, but since it has no real impact on SEO (or anything for that matter), don’t worry too much about it
That’s All, Folks!
And with that, I’m signing off! I hope this post has opened your eyes (pun fully intended) to the world of images and that you’ll put some of these tools to use today. Have any additional questions? Just leave them for me in the comments. Otherwise, swing by and say hello to us over on NoshOn.It. Until then, happy noshin’!
Vijay Nathan is the Co-Founder, Editor, and Chief Nosher of NoshOn.It, a daily recipe newsletter and website that helps you discover recipes you’ll crave from new food bloggers you’ll love. He is passionate about helping people realize that anyone can be a great cook with just a little bit on inspiration and education. And he’ll fight you for that last piece of bacon. Send him a high-five on Twitter!