Michael Utley: All right. Hey, welcome to episode number 42 of the Dodgeball Marketing Podcast. I'm Michael. This is Chris.
Chris Raines: I'm Chris. That is my name.
Michael Utley: And 42 is, if you read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe, is the meaning of life. So today's topic is, "How to Think About Your Website Images for SEO". Not just the user experience, but how do they factor into whether or not you show up higher or low in search results? That's what we're going to talk about.
Chris Raines: Google cares about that.
Michael Utley: Yeah, a lot.
Chris Raines: Google cares about everything.
Michael Utley: It cares about a lot. Chris, you've got number one. So get us rolling here.
Chris Raines: So number one here is, use high-quality images. The main thing here is to make sure they're original images. Use real images as much as possible and avoid stock photos. Sometimes you can't avoid that, but if you can, use original images. Good resolution. So you don't want images that are from your flip phone from 2004. So, get a high-resolution image, but not too high resolution, as we'll talk about in a minute, in terms of file size and things like that. And then, of course, I've said this before: real people, real products, real services. I would say this is halfway between the user experience and the Google robots—
Michael Utley: But user experience impacts—
Chris Raines: Impacts the robots. The robots are looking at user experience. So, make sure that you have good, pleasing original, high-resolution images.
Michael Utley: And that's tough. There's a little bit of a cost-benefit analysis you have to do. And so often the situation that we're in with a client coming in to us, ready to level up their marketing, we're often saying, "Well, this website's not going to work. We need to do that over, but we can do some SEO for a year and then redo the website." And so during that time of doing some SEO on an existing website, we're often coaching them to queue up, get some smartphones out in the field activated. Think about patients who had a great experience, who, when they came in, they would sign a media release and let you get an over the shoulder shot of a smiling account rep or somebody who's a frontline worker.
Chris Raines: The cool thing about images. . . I mean, if it's 2004, the only way to get images, you got to find a local photographer and get. . . But this, I got the new iPhone X or whatever it is, it's got like seven cameras on the back or whatever. This thing takes amazing images and you can edit them. So, that problem is kind of solved, if you can just take a few minutes to learn how your phone camera works, you can even do wide angle images with this is pretty cool, for interior shots. So, no excuses. Get your phone, learn how to shoot images, edit images on your phone, and you can get there, or close to there.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Even a handful of videos on YouTube just say "how to create good images for my website".
Chris Raines: Sorry to all the professional photographers watching this.
Michael Utley: We had a good run while we had it. And side note: if you are thinking about anything for sort of the hero area of the website, back up a little bit, so there's a little more background for the web developer to work with.
Chris Raines: Yeah, that's good—
Michael Utley: That's a good little oversight. . .
Chris Raines: Overshoot it. Shoot it... tend towards wide. You can always crop in.
Michael Utley: You can crop in, you can't add data. It's brutal to try to expand an image that wasn't planned for that. Next up, size images correctly.
Michael Utley: I'm going to talk about two things that can kill the SEO of your website, if done incorrectly, that have to do with sizing images. Two separate ways of talking about sizing images that are both important. When we say the size of an image, that's a vague statement.
Chris Raines: Because it could mean file size or it could mean dimensions.
Michael Utley: Yeah. So let's divide it into two categories. "Dimensions" is the size of the image in terms of the two dimensions that it takes up on an XY axis on a webpage.
Chris Raines: So pixels, right?
Michael Utley: Yeah. Pixels. So if you are using an image, for example, maybe on your homepage, you have a block of content that says, "Hey, here's a little bit about us", and maybe you've got a little inset image, like a picture of the team. If you are taking a raw file from a photographer and loading that through a content management system or through however your website's built, it may or may not automatically resize the image for you. So what could be happening when you load that image is you could be forcing it down into the display window with HTML rather than editing the image. And if that's happening because of your setup, you're actually forcing the viewer of the image to download into their display in their browser to view it. I don't mean like a separate step, if they download, I mean, if they look at it, they're actually having to load that entire big image—
Chris Raines: Which is unnecessary.
Michael Utley: ... And this is going to crush your page speed in a bad way. Not like "we're crushing it", but like now you just like, you just broke that. So your homepage—
Chris Raines: You're losing customers.
Michael Utley: ... is the highway of people coming into your site. And if the page speed on that is damaged with one of these images being pushed in. So what's the trick? Well, depending on your situation with your website and how images are showing, you can just test this out. You can right click on it and say View in a New Tab, View Image in a New Tab. And if that works and you go look at it, see if there's a, hover over it if you're in Chrome, and see if there's a magnifying glass and then go further. Click on it if it's a plus sign and get the biggest display image. And then, if that's like a big image, you got a problem you need to resize that image in Photoshop or some other photo editing tool, even maybe Paint or something, or have someone do it for who's a Photoshop person. And then load something that's going to work for most users and most screens.
Chris Raines: And Michael, you might know some specific plugins here, but there's some plugins that can accomplish this—
Michael Utley: That's right.
Chris Raines: ... if you're using WordPress, right?
Michael Utley: Yeah. That's right.
Chris Raines: What are some of those?
Michael Utley: I don't know them off the top of my head, but-
Chris Raines: Oh I just remembered, I think Smush is one.
Michael Utley: Smush, okay.
Chris Raines: And it'll do that kind of resizing for you.
Michael Utley: Yeah. And so with [a] CMS you often have a lot of tools for this, but if you're just getting that first blush, but yeah, Smush, that's a great idea. And then, second item on this is a little bit easier to understand, it's the image quality. So if you've ever worked with images and you have, for example, a JPEG, a J-P-E-G, an extension on the end of it, that's a JPEG, we call it a [pronunciation: jay-peg], and you can save it at a 100% quality. Or you can knock it down to like 80% quality and cut the file size of that image in half, just by losing 20% of the quality.
Chris Raines: And most of the time, the viewer doesn't know.
Michael Utley: And that 20% is not really perceptible. Now Google would like it if the entire world was just textures and colors and no images were being loaded because they're hyper-focused on speed. So you've got to do some trade-offs here, but image size is important, both in dimensions and image quality.
Chris Raines: Perfect. Love it. Okay. Next, we've got optimized image file names. So this is, we talk about this a lot, but anywhere, anytime where you can give Google information about who you are, what you do, your services, and your geography.
Michael Utley: This idea was worth a million dollars to me. Yeah. I've gotten a million dollars in sales from this.
Chris Raines: Yeah, We can do, we can do a separate podcast on that, but yeah, so important. And, and the reason it's important because Google has a hard time. . . Google can read text really well, right? The robots. Pictures, not so much, it's hard to, it's hard for Google at this point in time to scan a picture and figure out what that is, who's in the picture, what's going on, because it's a picture. They do the same thing with video. So that's why this file names and alt texts, and all that kind of stuff, is important. I know you're going to talk about alt text next, but including things inside of your file name and your alt texts that are descriptive of what it is. And you've got on here "hyphenate between words". So talk about that because I'm not really sure what the reason for that.
Michael Utley: Yeah. If you have an image on your page, the filename of that image is absolutely an SEO factor. And so if you just name it, "the number that your camera produced when it saved it to the SD Card dot JPG", that's communicating no useful information with that filename. So you can rename the image before you load it. And depending on your setup, if your CMS doesn't mess that up, or you don't have some complicated system that some IT group has forced on you, then save your images and use images and handle them so that you have some keywords in that filename. And we'll use geographic info in there. So-
Chris Raines: Don't call it an orthopedic clinic, call it Scranton Orthopedic Clinic.
Michael Utley: Yeah. And if you dig into GoEpps.com and look at some of the images on the services pages, you'll find things like, "search-engine-optimization-agency-Nashville-TN" [all separated by hyphens, to name a file ]dot JPG. So yeah, that's a good one.
Chris Raines: It's one of these, we talked about this a lot. It's one of these tiny, tiny things you can do-
Michael Utley: Super huge.
Chris Raines: . . . that just one doing it one time doing one tiny thing isn't going to help, but if you do tiny things like that over and over again in different places, it's going to add up as you just described.
Michael Utley: Yep. And I can absolutely demonstrate this, and I'll segue to our next point on this, but yeah. We did this with optimizing image file names in 2016 and in particular, the regional identifiers and this generated a new flow of new business to GoEpps. We're sitting here in Nashville, Tennessee, and my company is GoEpps, And Chris' is Bullhorn Media, but on the GoEpps.com site, we used local identifiers in these file names and immediately started getting leads in from California where they, for whatever reason, had either Tennessee dollars or Tennessee relationships that needed to be served with our services. And so they were doing searches from California, like "Tennessee marketing agency", or "Nashville, Tennessee marketing agency", or "performance online marketing Nashville".
Michael Utley: And guess what. Guess who's coming up in California now, because we serve a nationwide audience, and yeah. This generated deals for us. And I'm, kind of on the conservative side, saying a million dollars in revenue, but since then it's generated a million of revenue.
Michael Utley: All right, I'll take us to our next point, optimize image alt text. This is the same, but different from the last point we covered. So if you're watching this—
Chris Raines: It's not a file name.
Michael Utley: ... as a full episode, you're going to get all this together, but you can kind of watch all these clips for this episode. I strongly recommend the whole episode. So don't miss out on using alt text. A lot of times when we take a new client in, we'll do 101-point checklist review of their website and score everything. And one of the things that we do with that is scan for missing alt text for images. And so we'll flag those, and identify those, and convert those into actions to go back and add alt text.
Michael Utley: Alt text is a piece of text information that's affiliated or associated with the image file in the HTML that's being used to serve the website page. So what search engines are doing, or the reason this came about is because if someone was, maybe, vision-impaired back in the day, this became a way to let them hear through a website reader, what the image was in the page and sort of not miss out on that key piece of the story of the webpage. But what Google realized was that the information associated with images—the file name and the alt-text—was kind of a backdoor way to say what the page was about. And even though so many images are so poorly named, this is absolutely an SEO factor. And there've been a lot of experiments to test this. There have even been times when Yahoo, or Google, or a search engine would say that something was not a factor and someone would load cryptic information into the alt text and then let it get indexed and do a search of it, and guess what it always shows up.
Michael Utley: So there've been a lot of articles and a lot of things over the years that have said, "Oh, we don't look at that. We don't look at this". Guess what, they do. So alt text is really great. So number one, don't miss out on the opportunity to use alt text.
Michael Utley: Number two, use a description of what's in the image and why. Don't try to fake it. Don't try to show up for something more popular than what your page is about. Communicate clearly and accurately to maintain the quality of the content, but use some keywords in there. If you have some keywords, like what the service is about in a way that people search for that's really popular. And the same thing Chris mentioned with file names, use some geographic identifiers. Those are all good keywords and use those in the alt text in a way that is going to be a part of your workflow for image handling and part of those optimizations so that you're consistently putting that content out on the pages you are creating.
Chris Raines: Perfect. Our final way to use images to improve your SEO is optimize your image captions. So this is probably one of those, Michael, that is kind of a straddling between user experience and just for the robots. Right? But when you show captions right beneath your image, you're helping the user to kind of give context to the image. And it's one more signal to Google, just like your filename[s] of your images, and just like the alt text of your image of what that image is about, why it matters, who's in the image, what they're doing. You can put geography in there. So another thing, this is another, this is just another place you can put your keywords and your geo-modifiers. It's just one more signal to Googles who you are, what you do, and where you do it. Right?
Michael Utley: Yeah, that's right.
Chris Raines: So, that's another one. And of course, it helps the user. So use captions underneath your images to kind of further that stream of information to Google.
Michael Utley: And these are visible text.
Chris Raines: Yeah. This is the only thing—
Michael Utley: People can see visible.
Chris Raines: —visible.
Michael Utley: Right.
Chris Raines: That's the only thing of visual text that we've talked about.
Michael Utley: The filename and the alt text are all kinds of hidden. Image size, that's kind of a hidden thing, but this caption is something that people can see. I'll add one comment to this. Something that I really like in the way of usability. I don't know if this is a left-brain/right-brain type of thing. Or I don't know what this comes down to with the way people take in information, but it seems that a lot of people are sort of image-heavy and a lot of people are more text-heavy. And I actually have a master's degree in Church History, which is kind of random. But one of the things that I studied was the history of text and use of images. There's a really great book on the history of this by Tessa Watt. You can find it on Amazon, but it shows that over the time, [and over] the history of intellectual content, media, and publishing, there's been a rise in the use of text in images, in art, even sacred art. And that really reflects the enlightenment and the change of literacy among the population.
Michael Utley: Well, the way that plays into kind of what we do every day is website usability. And so what I've really come to enjoy in terms of what I see in a design that I think works, is a strong singular image that makes an impact, a headline that encapsulates it, and then where it's needed, some supporting text. And this applies in a number of areas: any kind of section that's teasing blog posts, like a blog overview page, a mix of images and text, CTAs, images themselves if they're in the content. . . even if there's another section of primary text supporting it. . . Think that caption is a really good tool. Any kind of place where you've got little modules where you're introducing ideas. I think it's good to use those captions and have some supporting copy. People, an image doesn't hit everybody the same way. They don't get the idea the way that you want them to that supporting text seems to increase conversion rate everywhere that we see it pop-up.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Awesome. All right, that's all we got for images. I hope that was helpful. Go ahead and follow us on all the socials. It's DodgeballSEO on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and you'll get access to new episodes, marketing resources, everything that we're doing. So please follow us there. Follow us on YouTube, wherever you're watching, if you're watching on YouTube-
Michael Utley: And subscribe.
Chris Raines: ... and subscribe on your favorite podcast player, but thank you for listening or watching.
Michael Utley: Awesome.
Chris Raines: And we'll see ya on the next one.
Michael Utley: Thanks, everybody.