With the continual advances in the search engines, especially regarding blended search results through Google’s Universal Search, Yahoo’s Blended Search, and Ask 3D, images will appear with even greater importance in the search engine results. In blended search, the user is provided with results from across multiple vertical databases that can include videos, image results, book results, news, blog results, and more. The search engines have taken their usefulness to a whole new level, and as a result, are able to provide more relevant information to the searcher even if the searcher doesn’t know exactly what he or she is looking for. With this being said, it is very important to take advantage of every opportunity to expand your reach on the internet through multiple types of search engine optimization (SEO).
In order to give your images relevance (so that they will be found by the search engines and included in these blended results) they should be considered as part of your ongoing SEO efforts. Below are a few tips regarding how to best optimize the images on your site.
- Take a look at your image file names. They should be identified in a descriptive manner by naming them exactly what they are. Often, people try to get creative with their naming, but if the image is of a black iPod nano, name it just that, “black-ipod-nano.jpg”. Without taking the time to address the names of your images, they may end up with the name automatically given to them by a camera or editing software (i.e. image001.jpg). Keep in mind, when naming these images that it is best to use dashes instead of underscores when separating words.
- Make use of “alt” attribute of the image tag. As with the file name of the image, keep this relevant to the actual image. This alt attribute is also useful for anyone using screen readers to understand what the image is or what the page is about.
- Are the actual images and the names of the images relevant to the content on the page? Including images for the search engines is appealing to visitors to your site.
- The search engines will need to have access to your images. Make sure that a robots.txt file does not block search engines from the folder storing your images.
- Another good idea is to make your images available in other locations if possible. Some of the most common ways to do this is through Picasa (which is owned by Google) and Flickr (owned by Yahoo!) or by uploading them to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.
As the search engines make changes to provide the best end-user experience possible, it is important that we do our job to adapt our SEO efforts to these changes. This will help to keep your site positioned in the best way possible and be visible to your targeted audience.