You love taking photographs. You may even love editing photographs. But once you’re finished, what then? Uploading your photographs to your website is pretty easy but optimizing them for SEO perfection is where most photographers have trouble. Not anymore. Welcome to the always-up to date and always evolving guide to optimizing your images for your website perfectly, every time. In this guide we’ll go over everything from export settings, to optimizing, to alt-tag usage. Once you finish this guide, you’ll be a pro and (hopefully) never need to invest another minute into learning anything about image optimization.
Best Export Settings
One of the most important aspects of your image efforts will be your export settings. As a photographer you want something visually appealing to your visitors but you want to limit the filesizes to something reasonable so they can be viewed quickly and on multiple devices/connections.
Preferred | JPG | Smallest file sizes, great quality, superior SEO-readability.
Maybe | PNG | Medium file sizes but allows for background transparency. Use .png files when you need to for specific uses but don’t use it otherwise.
Never | GIF | Large file sizes with no actual quality gain.
Preferred | 80%
Most image editing programs will allow you to choose the export quality. In my testing 80% is the best setting as it provides a superior image and a great file size. Anything above 80% won’t be noticed by the common eye and it adds tremendous file size.
Preferred | 1400px on the long-edge.
When it comes to your export size you want an image size that can be viewed by everyone yet still respect those low image filesizes so your website loads extremely quickly. Exporting your images at 1400px on the long-edge will ensure that everyone can view from including people on large ultra-wide monitors down to people viewing on a iPhone.
Optimizing Your Images
Naming Your Images For SEO Perfection
The original goal of alt text for images was to help visually impaired viewers of their website understand what you actually had on the website. Alt tags were used to describe the image just like if you were actually seeing it.
Today they’re still used to help describe images but other tools are (mainly) used to help the visually impaired and now alt tags now instead help search engines understand what story your image shows.
For best practice, we should try to satisfy both of these needs the best we can.
You wouldn’t be the first to say “Well, I don’t have many visually impaired customers anyway so I’m going to only optimize for SEO.” Don’t do this. First, it’s rude. Second, writing a few hundred SEO-only alt tags could very easily lead you to the bad side of Google. I have seen competitors get their clients sandboxed/blacklisted for doing things like this. Also keep in mind, Google isn’t stupid. They have some of the most advanced algorithms to read text ever created. They can sniff out keyword stuffing in milliseconds. When it comes to SEO, being honest and playing by the rules will also benefit you more in the long run as opposed to dirty tricks that may help you today but get you penalized tomorrow.
How I’d Alt Tag These Images
Some commonly asked questions.
Why aren’t you using photographer or photography in your alt-tags?
Google already knows that this is a photographer based on all of your other content. We’d be beating the proverbial dead horse at this point.
Why aren’t you mentioning your own name or brand name in your alt-tags?
Same reason. You’ll rank for your brand name almost-instantly. Mentioning it in every alt-tag is just unnecessary and could even be considered keyword stuffing. You won’t need to optimize your brand unless your website is brand new. Even then, don’t do it in your alt-tags beyond your logo. Google will take care of it naturally.
Do you mention your models (if shooting a professional) in your alt-tags?
I do not. While getting them some SEO love is nice too, I most likely would rather focusing on something that would bring me actual clients, not someone who just wants to know more about a model. The only exception to this would be a celebrity or someone who would bring massive amounts of traffic because even though they’re not going to hire you, a massive spike in visitors will bring you other SEO benefits.
So if you’re shooting Little Miss Olympia, no. If you’re shooting Taylor Swift, yes.