Search Engine Optimization

Top 5 Tips to Optimize Images for SEO Value

When it comes to SEO, you want to take advantage of every tool, of every SEO asset that you have.  Your images are an asset you can leverage for better SEO results.  The fact is, most websites do not have images optimized.  There are two main reasons for that.  The first is simply not knowing that it is important, and relevant, to SEO.  The second is that it is just plain easier to not bother.  Working with images can be time consuming, especially if you already have a bunch of images loaded to your site.

Search Engines such as Google do not interpret the graphical content of your images files.  They do not know that your picture of a red convertible is anything but a an assortment of pixels.  So, in keeping with the theme of making your site content blinding obvious to Google, we need to offer some assistance.

So, below we have listed our guidelines for image SEO optimization.

1. Image file name.  Probably the most important, and the easiest to work with, before you load up your images.  The proper time to properly name your image files is while the file is sitting on your hard drive.  If your phone is your camera, you will often end up with images named, image.jpg.  If you use a standard digital camera, you may have images named something like IMG_2301.JPG.  Google has no idea that this file is your red convertible, and that IMG_2302.JPG is your daughter playing on swings.  So BEFORE you upload the file, change the name to something descriptive and something unique (in respect to all the other images on your website).  “red-contvertible.jpg” would be a far better name.  Try to incorporate the primary keyword of the page into the file name, without going overboard.  If the page is about red cars, and you have other pictures of red cars on the page, a suitable name would be “red-cars-convertible.jpg”.

2. Use the files attributes to provide information about the image files.

  • Always add height and width to the image
  • Always add an Alt-attribute to the IMG-tag
  • Always add a Title-attribute to the IMG-tag

Using height and width tells the browsers how much space to allocate for the image in the page rendering and prevents pages which bounce around on loading as images push the content around.  This is a better user experience.

The alt attribute was originally used to be displayed as text when a browser is set to not load images.  More importantly in a broadband world, if the image is a link, then the alt text is used by browsers as the link anchor text.  Additionally it is used by search engines as a hint towards the on-page content.

The title attribute is not generally used by search engines, but often will be displayed when a user mouses over an image.

3. Size the image for it’s use on the page.  If you have an image that is 1000 pixels x 400 pixels, and you shrink it down to 500 pixels by 200 pixels using html, you are simply distorting the image and slowing down your page load speed.  Page load speed is increasingly becoming a ranking signal in search engines.  Slower loading pages can get ranked lower.  This is reported to be even more important in the new “Mobile Friendly” rankings on Google.  Images over a cell network can dramatically increase the page load time.  If you need an image 500 pixels wide, use your image editing software to create the proper sized image.

4. Make the Image a Link.  If you have larger versions of images, for viewing full screen, link to them from the smaller image of thumbnail.  Where it makes sense, use images for navigation assistance.  Remember, the alt text attribute will be used as the anchor text in the link so make proper use of it.  In this case, the alt text should be relevant to the image you are displaying, but even more relevant to the page you are linking to.

5. Use the proper image format.  The larger the image, and the more complex the color range, the more important it is to use the jpg format, as opposed to the png format.  png image file format results in larger file sizes (more bytes) as colors are added and dimensions increase.  png files are an excellent choice for logos and icons, which often are positioned to overlay other images or backgrounds.  These files tend to be smaller, and the color schemes usually are monochromatic or are limited to only a few colours.  Use jpg files everywhere else.

 

SEO Project – Dr Chris Thomson

We are usually not shy in telling our audience when we have completed another project and have achieved positive results for our clients.  Like our slogan, “We make websites work better”.  Well, we’ve done it again, with the SEO project component of the new website launch for Dr. Chris Thomson.

See the previous link for more detail posted in our portfolio.

New Responsive Website for Studio 8

Just launched and gaining traffic already is the new website for Studio 8 Designs.

You can see more in our Portfolio.

New WordPress Responsive Site

Check out the new website for Chatterson Wealth Management.  This project combined custom website development along with using a WordPress responsive theme and Search Engine Optimization.  More information is available in our client portfolio.

Lather Rinse Repeat SEO Method

Maybe the better title for this SEO Method article would be How to Repeat Success.

When you have a marketing activity (tactic) that works, the simple formula to get more results is to do more of the same activity.  If you invest in 100 units of something and get back 200 units in return then simple math says that you can get 400 units, if you put in 200 units.  That seems pretty simple.  As easy as washing your hair, where the instructions on most shampoo bottles is “Lather – Rinse – Repeat”.  Following those instructions should produce predictable results, clean hair.

Sometime marketers are convinced that they must constantly innovate and change in order to deliver value to their organization.  To this I say yes, but not always, especially in many cases.  How was that for clarity?  Simply put, i don’t believe all change and all innovation is progress.  If you have uncovered a formula, or a process that works, it would be a disservice to your company to stop following that process.

An example will help explain.  A tried and tested formula for achieving good SEO rankings is to select a search term with value to your customer base, establish a page, or several, that provide the user with interesting and valuable content on the topic, supplement with several blog articles, posted at regular intervals, and make use of social media to help spread the message and attract potential links.  If this works for Product A, how do you attract a market to Product B?  Lather – Rinse – Repeat, follow the same SEO formula.

Once you have developed a process that produces success, you don’t need to start over.  Can you get better results than your Lather – Rinse – Repeat SEO method.  Absolutely!  But modify your success formula in small and measurable ways, so that you know what changes produced improvements.

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Ground Hog Day SEO Approach

Does it seems like your SEO is caught in the Ground Hog Day cycle? In the movie Ground Hog Day, Bill Murray keeps waking up to Ground Hog day, over and over and over, the same day repeats itself. If your SEO feels like you keep going to work, but nothing changes, then perhaps you are following a stale routine that is bound to produce the same bland results, the same day, over an over.

Ground Hog Day is a a great day to take a new approach to SEO, freshen up, and see if you can move the needle.  We have a couple suggestions below, but, before you start, keep in mind that nothing is permanent on the Internet, no failure is fatal, and no victory is final.  With enough attempts, you will find improvements.

Take the Ground Hog Day SEO Approach

Step 1.  Select two keywords (search terms) on your site and separate pages or sets of pages that relate to each keyword.

Step 2. Devise two different SEO tactics to try and improve your search engine placement.

Step 3. Implement the tactics from Step 2 and monitor the changes in placement for the next two weeks.  Make sure you document what you do.

Step 4. This is your Ground Hog Day of Reckoning.  For each of the tactics you choose, evaluate your placement.  if you have moved up, congratulations, the ground hog didn’t see it’s shadow and your SEO spring is coming.  Use this tactic on more areas of your site.  Did you fall in the rankings, did the ground hog see it’s shadow?  Are 6 more weeks of SEO winter coming your way?  Remember, nothing is permanent.  Immediately change back the losing tactic to the way it was pre-ground hog day and move on to another tactic.

What SEO Tactic Should I Use?

If you don’t try something different, your results will repeat, so here are two approaches that you can try:

1. Go Long Tail and support each variant with a new page on your site.  Take your root keyword and add modifiers to it to make it more specific (ie. less competition for the phrase) and build content pages that are optimized for that long-tail version of your root keyword.

2. Go social.  Choose an interesting piece of content on your site, informative or instructional, and blast it out on all your social channels.  Encourage your followers to like and link to your content and give tell them why they should, why their audience might like the content.

3. Refresh Old Content.  Dig up some content that has been on your site for several years, and edit the content to update the information, new stats, new observations, or post a revision to the article with responses to feedback and comments.

All three of these tactics have proven highly successful.  Go Ground Hog Day SEO and see what happens.

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Moving at the Speed of the Customer

Sometimes you get the customer who seems to be in a manic state about everything, hurry, hurry, hurry, and Bam! you’re done.  Sometimes the opposite, a customer who moves at a snails pace, or seems to be going backwards.  When it comes to working with a vast array of customers, one must be ready to adapt to their pace.

Without naming names (he might be reading this) I have a client that works like the Internet is on fire and he has to get it all before it burns up, then, Skreeeeech! FULL STOP!  We wait while he takes care of other business, then full speed ahead again.

Many customers are able to work at a steady pace.  These are the easy ones, but, I must admit, some of the others can be more entertaining.

Regardless, as a consultant agency, we have learned to be patient with those that are behind on delivering the content to us, and to sprint along side those that only have one speed.  Recently I was waiting for a password from one client (the inspiration for this article), for 3 months.  I would see him away from the office, at sporting events and social events, and we would discuss the current web project, with a sense of urgency.  Then I’d wait for the code to be sent by email or text, and wait.

Fast or Slow, if you are in the service business, remember that your customers are writing the checks so it’s the pace of their business that determines the pace of yours.

Why Use the Description Tag?

This topic best phrased as a marketing question, not a pure SEO question.  The description tag is best written by your marketing content experts, not your SEO guru or your webmaster.  Think of the description tag as a teaser ad about the content on your page.

First, lets look at the description tag in a set of search results in the following screen capture of a search results page:

 

seo-description-tag-use

In the image to the left, we have performed a search for the term “Buy Saskatchewan Art” on Google.com.  In the search results pages (SERPs) we see a number of results, the first organic ranking is for SaskArt.org.  The Title tag is displayed first in the results (1), followed by the page URL, then followed by the meta description tag (2).  In this example, the search phase is found in both the page title as well as in the description tag, and, in fact, is highlighted by Google to help users see the relevance to their search term.  The search results following the first place position are close to the original search term, but not an exact match.

 

Two Advantages of the Description Tag

Description Tag as Teaser Ad

This example illustrates the two advantages of the Description Tag, and how it can benefit your digital marketing efforts.  First, let’s consider that the other search results on the first page of Google are also relevant to the search term, as they are in the above example.  The searcher now has at a minimum, 10 results to select from, often more if there also ads positioned with the results.  You are competing against the other 10 search results on the page.  Your search listing needs to convince the searcher that yours is now the listing to click on, that that specific page on your site has the content they are seeking.  The meta description tag, as displayed on Google, gives you 156 characters to convince the searcher to now select your page, to select your content.  This is why your Marketing Department should write the description tag, it’s a 156 character advertisement for your page.  Use it wisely.

Description Tag as SEO Keyword Consistency

Between your page content, your page URL, your page Title, and your meta description tag, you have an opportunity to provide a consistent message to both search engine users as well as search engines.  As part of your SEO strategy, choose the main idea of your page, and make sure you build in consistency between these elements.  It helps Google, and Bing, and others, understand what to expect on your page.  A strong match will improve your ability to show up in the search engines.

More Effective Meta Description Tactics

Here are a few more tactics to use in writing your meta description tag, to solicit a higher click through rate:

  1. ask a question to peak the curiosity of the searcher, a question they can only answer by reading your page
  2. say something controversial or surprising, give them the impression that what follows will be interesting
  3. quote a stat, tell them something they don’t know to capture their attention

Description Tag Default Content

Don’t leave the description tag on your pages blank, or you will leave it up to the search engines to choose what to display in the SERPs.  If your description tag is blank, or missing, search engines will pull snippets from your page, their best guess as to the content that matches the search query.  Take control of your online marketing and use the Description Tag to provide a reason to get clicked.

What is Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing is a term used to classify a number of activities which are all intended to attract and engage your target market using a variety of online media.  Inbound Marketing can be differentiated from Outbound Marketing in tone and style and intent.  Outbound is more blatant sales oriented messaging, pushed out to make an impact and immediately draw in traffic and sales.  Inbound is more of a process of generating valuable content for users to discover and then they decide how to proceed, how to engage with your brand.

Now, let’s be clear, both Inbound and Outbound are done with the eventual goal of attracting more interest, more leads, and more sales.  To believe otherwise would be spinning your wheels.

Side Effect of Inbound Marketing is SEO

A positive side effect of properly performing Inbound Marketing is that you should see a significant boost to your SEO results.  You are creating content for the marketplace, and SEO is increasingly about the value and quality of content.  More about this can be read in our How to SEO in 2013 article.

The Process of Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing is, as I said above, a process, a sequence of activities to attract and convince and capture and sell your desired customer base.  You first need to attract your potential customers by having something of value to offer.  You attract by being attractive, that is, you have what they are seeking.  In the setting of online marketing, this is producing content that your marketplace finds valuable.  We discuss more on the topic of Contact for Content in another posting.

Once someone has shown an interest in your materials, in your ideas, your content, they still have to be convinced that what you offer is valuable.  Do not force the issue.  If what you offer is valuable enough, help them discover it, and let them set the pace.  The Internet offers many other choices for them to turn to, so don’t turn them away by a hard sell response to their first interaction with you.  By letting them set the pace, they become a willing participant in the process, instead of a reluctant and skeptical participant.  Their buy-in, at this stage, will make the rest of the process, culminating in the sales cycle, go smoother.

The Where of Inbound Marketing

Your website is the focus of your Inbound Marketing efforts, but social media channels are prime for the attraction phase.  Social Media such as Google + and Facebook are well suited to post content and handle conversations with interested members of your marketplace.  Keep in mind that social media users are not likely in the buying mood when they are browsing and posting on social media so an aggressive sales oriented message is not your best tactic.  Draw them to your site with the attraction of content that solves a problem or answers a question for them.

The How of Inbound Marketing

Putting together a sequence of activities, and building materials to attract, convince, capture and sell through Inbound Marketing is as much a planning process as a creative process.  It all begins with the central idea of solving a problem your future customer may have today, or providing information to them that they seek today.  We will have more on the How of Inbound Marketing in a future article.

 

Keywords are Dead

Hummingbird or Ho-Hum

So each time Google announces the release of an update to it’s ranking algorithm, there is generally widespread panic and pandemonium among the SEO bloggers that want to entice you scramble your SEO basket and blindly follow their newest recommendations.  The latest release by Google is named Hummingbird.  The questions is will Hummingbird prove to be revolutionary and change the search game, or is it a major set of on-going tweaks by Google that are finally wrapped up in a name?  Several early responses to the Hummingbird update have wildly proclaimed that “Keywords are Dead!”.

How Dead are Keywords?

Whenever you evaluate a blog article, on any topic really, but in this case SEO, put on your common sense filters and view it from the eyes of actions your customers, and target customers, take when searching online.  So, “Keywords are Dead!”, really?  Let’s think this one through.  Hummingbird has been described, including by spokespeople from Google, as a “natural language update”.  That is, search results will match to natural language phrases, not just to specific words matching between search terms and content.  So how will this change the search behavior of your target market?  Likely not at all.  99% of the population (probably more like 99.9999%) don’t pay attention to when Google changes their search formulas, so they continue to search for products, and information, and entertainment, by typing into the search bar, what they are seeking.  What is changing, behind the scenes, is how Google matches what was entered to what they feel is the most relevant content.  So, people (your market is made of people, right) will continue to enter search terms (a.k.a. keywords) into the search box and hit submit.  Keywords are dead?  No, not at all. Don’t be fooled by hype.  Keywords and search terms live on, how Google handles them is what has changed.

Google is About Content

No matter what you think of the past Google algorithm changes, Panda, Penguin, EMD, and now Hummingbird, watch the trends in what they say about what’s important now in search.  All these changes reveal a couple of key trends, a trend towards quality authentic content, and a trend towards making search results relevant to the way people naturally talk and write.  Match your content to the language of your market and you have taken a step towards what Google rewards.