When it comes to website optimization, images are sometimes an afterthought. Copy, design, and coding all play important roles in an optimized website, but images can also increase your visibility in image based searches. Optimizing images is easy do if you follow these best practice guidelines:
Utilize image compression and file type: Maintaining fast load times is important for an optimized website. If your site is using lots of image data, you’ll need to compress the images to keep them from affecting your site’s performance. You should also consider which file extension your images use. For example, a .png file can show more colors than a .jpg file, but it’s larger and will take longer to load.
Create an image sitemap: To increase the chances that search engines will index the images on your website, create an image sitemap.
Don’t forget social sharing buttons: The advent of image sharing sites like Pinterest has only increased the importance of sharing buttons, especially for images. By adding social sharing buttons, you’ll increase the chance that web pages and images reach a wider audience.
Optimize image metadata: Most importantly, you should optimize the file name and alt tag. For both, use five to seven words to describe what the image is. If possible, use keywords that you’d like to target. If the image contains text, include this text in the alt data as well.
In a previous blog post, we discussed the disadvantages that come with certain “aggressive” SEO strategies. Aggressive strategies try to find ways around search engine algorithms and guidelines to gain an advantage. This results in shortcuts that deliver quick results yet aren’t actually against the rules. As we showed, those types of strategies are usually a poor idea in the long run because they become ineffective once search engine algorithms and guidelines update — resulting in wasted efforts. Therefore, a natural approach to SEO and search engine guidelines is the path to long-term success.
An easy way to tell if you’re on the right track is to ask yourself how much action you’d need to take if Google or Bing announced a new algorithm update. If you’ve done lots of natural link building through a variety of websites, consistently updated your website with useful content, maintained a clean sitemap and URL structure, and basically did all of the hard work of keeping your website running like a well oiled machine, you’re probably not worried about Google tweaking some ranking signals. However, if you’ve spent the past year looking for quick-fixes, trying to build PageRank as fast as possible, or putting all of your eggs in one basket with the SEO strategy that seemed to deliver the fastest results, you might be more nervous — and understandably so.
To implement a natural SEO strategy, you need to stick to the basics and do them extremely well. If all of your strengths lie in things that search engine guidelines will never outlaw — like creating original content and improving your website’s user experience — then your site has a much stronger chance of building rank over time no matter what sorts of algorithm or guideline updates there are.
In an overly-aggressive approach, you can’t focus on the long term because you’re always using resources to learn new strategies when the old ones are no longer effective. By avoiding exploits and shortcuts, a natural approach streamlines efforts and helps you build strength in the areas that matter. Remember that when deciding to implement new SEO strategies.
As the saying goes, “good things come to those who wait.” In certain aspects of quality SEO programs, there’s a lot of truth to that statement. Time and time again, we explain to clients that results from an SEO program are not quantifiable overnight. SEO efforts are most effective when they follow a natural philosophy.
“Natural” here refers to the actions your SEO strategy takes in light of guidelines set by search engines. All over the Internet, there are SEO blogs showcasing the latest and greatest aggressive SEO strategies. These are usually tweaks and implementations that are not out-rightly against guidelines. Essentially, an aggressive strategy searches for ways to bend the system to gain an advantage. Aggressive strategies aren’t necessary for SEO success, but they may get results faster.
An advantage that doesn’t actually break any rules sounds great! But, the advantage tends to fall apart over the long-term — resulting in wasted effort. In fact, many of the strategies that are now banned by current search engine guidelines were aggressive strategies that gained widespread use, to the detriment of users.
Take blog networks as an example. Until last year, it was ordinary for websites to join up with a blog network for quick promotion and increased rankings. It was similar to a link farm, but it wasn’t expressly forbidden. In March 2012, Google finally took action and de-indexed hundreds of blog networking web pages. The aggressive strategy of signing up with blog networks and catering to their requirements garnered good results for a while. But, any sites that worked with blog networks essentially had all of that time and effort thrown out the window once Google adjusted its guidelines. Had these sites promoted their blogs via natural linking efforts, they wouldn’t have suffered such a penalization.
That’s just one of many examples of a successful “aggressive” strategy completely backfiring. In a future post, we’ll go over why “natural” style strategies are more effective in the long run.