An important area that I often see as being overlooked when companies are developing their content marketing strategy is the attention to detail when it comes down to specific content types. By this I mean differentiating between online content that can drive substantial traffic to a site that is overlooked as being included in a web page including image and video content. This can be having images contained within blog content, videos used in a guides section of your website or realistically any mixed media content site wide.
In this blog post I am concentrating on images and the additional gains that can be derived from maximising the quantity of images being seen by the major search engines and more importantly the quantity of images being indexed and therefore displayed in the search results driving unique visitors to your website.
A common misconception when it comes to image content is that images will always be picked up and included in the search engine results pages as long as the page in which the images reside in is indexed – this is not the case and there are many reasons for this which go beyond this blog post.
So what is the best content strategy for images?
I will start with the best practise pieces that many people are aware of but they often overlook due to time constraints when making website changes. Then I will get to some of the details that many people may not yet know (this also gives me the satisfaction in knowing that you are more likely to read this whole article rather than leave as soon as you get to the ‘good bits’).
A key point to take note of is the supported file types that the main search engines do support and to make sure that your images are consistent to these file types and if they aren’t convert them so they are – quoted supported file types from Google for image content include; BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP or SVG.
Next, and this is always good housekeeping anyway, complete a full image content review of your images site wide and ensure that each of the image filenames are relevant to the image, are descriptive to the image content and are concise.
While you complete the above actions also look at the ‘alt’ attribute for each image. The best way is to have an excel file and export all the current image data that is live on the site. You can do this by using any of the number of free tools that are available online. This will give you information like; image URL, alt text, number of characters in alt text and status codes for the images (so that you can see if there are any broken links etc).
When you have all of the image content data at hand you will want to update all of the alt text so that the content is descriptive of the image in a user friendly way and is again, concise – no more than 4-5 words please.
An example taken directly from Google Webmaster help:
Not so good:
<img src=”puppy.jpg” alt=”"/>
<img src=”puppy.jpg” alt=”puppy”/>
<img src=”puppy.jpg” alt=”Dalmatian puppy playing fetch”>
To be avoided:
<img src=”puppy.jpg” alt=”puppy dog baby dog pup pups puppies doggies pups litter puppies dog retriever labrador wolfhound setter pointer puppy jack russell terrier puppies dog food cheap dogfood puppy food”/>
Things people may not know about indexing images in Google:
Having completed the above exercises there are a couple of key actions that you can complete to help ensure that images in your blog content, news articles and on typical web pages can be indexed.
Firstly, and likely to assist to a large extent especially for larger sites which may have some degree of indexing issues for pages, without considering images as a separate content type is XML sitemaps.
The scale of a website does not come into play here when deciding whether or not to have an image XML sitemap or to update your existing XML sitemap with image specific tags – BUT the scale of a site certainly can be correlated to the additional value you can derive from completing these tasks.
You may not believe me when I say this but this task is pretty straightforward to implement and as proof of this (and to provide you with a step by step on how to do this) see Google Webmaster information on this exact topic on http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=178636.
This next tip is pretty impressive and when I was looking into this I did appear particularly impressed with myself for finding information on this.
In your robots.txt file review all of the areas of the site that you have disallowed from being indexed and look at these sections for any/all images that you would like to be indexed. By doing this you can then allow images within disallowed sections of the site.
Happy image indexing!