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Why is Image Optimization a Must-Do in 2021?

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Most website owners focus on getting their web pages featured for relevant search queries in Search Engines. When it comes to web pages, we naturally tend to think about web content, especially text content. That being said, one must note that images too are important content assets that have the potential to drive targeted traffic to your website. 

Why is image optimization important?

On February 10th, 2021, Google’s John Mueller released a video sharing important pointers that explain various techniques for optimizing images. 

When a user searches for a product/service in Google, they read the title and description snippet before making a decision on whether or not to click that particular result for more information. In a similar way, relevant images have the potential to influence a user’s psyche and compel them to visit the site. This is imperative for product-based sites, especially e-commerce websites where the users evaluate a product based on the image before arriving at a purchase decision. 

Mobile-First Indexing:

Google’s initial plan was to introduce mobile-first indexing by July 1, 2019, but owing to Covid, it has been rescheduled to March 2021. 

This means that your mobile version of the site has to be consistent with the desktop version. It has to be responsive, user-friendly, and essentially be equipped with seamless navigation. 

This surely goes hand in hand with the image optimization strategies suggested by Mueller. In order to feature your images right in mobile platforms along with the usual desktop counterpart, one must follow these steps: 

Serving Relevant Images: 

When it comes to Google or any other search engine, the very word “relevance” is the key. Whatever image you upload in support of the content has to be relevant to it. And, it is imperative that your image is placed towards the beginning of the content rather than the end.

Most importantly, do not compromise on the image’s quality. It is the high-quality images that get the best attention from users and prompt them to visit the website.  

Tip! Always provide necessary alt tag information and add an image title when applicable.

 Search engines can’t read images. It is only through the alt tag that Google can identify what an image is about. Hence, it is absolutely important to be as descriptive as possible while composing alt tags for the images. The same idea applies to image titles. Do not leave your image unattended with the dimensions. 

Clean URL Structure: 

The clearer you are regarding the location of the images, the better your chances of getting them indexed. Make sure that your image path is clean and reflects the exact location of the file. 

For example, an image location like: http://www.example.com/images/confectionaries/cookies.png 

is better than something like: http://www.example.com/images.png/?session=1213_1232

In the above example, cookies.png is the file name of the image and the whole URL defines the path where the image is located. It is important to keep the filename relevant to the image and as descriptive as possible, that way it is easier for Google to comprehend it. 

Needless to say, a clear URL path is like a clearer way to the destination. 

And, a word of caution! 

Make sure that your important image files aren’t blocked in the Robots.txt file. Having your important images blocked inadvertently would permanently omit your chances to capitalize on image Search. 

Structured Data: 

We believe it is absolutely necessary to include structured data markup on the page. If it is a product, you can include a product structured data schema. Similarly, for recipes, articles, reviews, and FAQs, you can provide the relevant markup. 

We completely agree with the fact that adding relevant structured data markup adds the necessary momentum for your website. 

Tip!  Adding structured data to your site’s FAQ section accelerates its chances to get listed under featured snippets as well. 

Image License information: 

If you provide license information for images, the same would also be reflected in Google image search. Google would display a “licensable” tag, which would cater information to users on how they can use the image. 

Check out this article to know more details on image licensing and image structured data. 

Mobile responsiveness: 

With mobile-first indexing being a top priority item for Google, it is absolutely necessary that your website property is mobile optimized. All images should open seamlessly in mobile layout as they would on the desktop. Our experiences say that only by having a robust mobile appearance, a website is able to secure a long-standing position in search engines. 

Having a large preview image option is definitely an add-on from the user’s perspective. This is more so for online retail platforms as it provides better clarity for an image and assists users in the buying process.

Image Dimensions:

It is almost imperative to specify dimensions when it comes to optimizing images. By doing so we specify the same to the browser and it is able to load the image smoothly without any layout shift. To prevent cumulative layout shift from images, always include width and height size attributes on your image and video elements. 

If the image dimensions aren’t specified, the browser will build the whole page based on its text and then again build the whole page with images and this time by relocating the images in relevant places. This has an impact on the page experience. When using responsive images, the “srcset” attribute defines the image URL. You then allow the browser to select between what size each image is, you just have to make sure that each image uses the same aspect ratio.

This also goes hand in hand with core web vitals, which elaborates on cumulative layout shift as well as other essential aspects aligned to a site’s UI/UX.

Avoid Lazy Loading:

For essential images, it is advisable to avoid lazy loading of images. In many cases, the images that aren’t rendered upfront in mobile platforms are not indexed. This would deter the images from gaining enough brownie points in the eyes of Google.  

In a nutshell, images, as well as videos, are significant content assets that can definitely contribute to your site’s traffic contribution. It is important for website owners and search engine optimizers to leverage this opportunity to gear up your website for enhanced search engine visibility.