24 March 2009

Optimizing Images for Search Engines, Social Media, and your Readers

People do not just search for web pages; they also search for certain images. By optimizing your images, you can enhance the entirely new channel of the visitors to your site. Yes, it is true that the search engines are not smart enough to decrypt an image and tell exactly what it is, like human eye can. But you can assist search engine to figure out what keywords your images are related too. So, we will discuss in the article as how the images can be optimized for the best perception by the Search Engines, Social Media Sites, and People.

Image search, by one definition, is query results, accompanied by thumbnail graphics and supplanted by contextual information, that best match users’ search queries. Such information can be generated and submitted by the image creator, by site owner where the image resides, or by 3rd party reviewers.
Places where image search results appear, and are indexable into general search engines’ contextual results, include:

  • Major search engines - either within contextual search results or vertical image search
  • Photo sharing sites (Flickr, Webshots, PBase, Fotki, ShareAPick)
  • Social image sharing sites (MySpace, Facebook, Flyxia, YouSayToo)
The panel, consisting of both image search specialists and search engine product managers, concurred that image search is the fastest growing vertical in the search arena today. Statistics from Hitwise show it to achieve 90% growth year after year, with over 360,000,000 searches per month across the top search engines: Google, Yahoo!, Ask, MSN, and AOL. All in the "Big 5" have a search vertical dedicated specifically to image results, with 3 of them (Google, Yahoo!, MSN) integrating images into some contextual search results.

The recommendations for the images optimization in relation to the main optimization focus are as follows.

Optimize your images for search engines:

  • Keywords in alt text, text around the image, image name, page title. Give meaningful names to your images. For example, GreenToyotaCamry.jpg is better than image1.jpg. Add long description tags to your images. For example: longdesc=”1998 green Toyota Camry driving down the highway”. In addition to a long description, an alt tag should be used as a short description. For example: alt=”Toyota Camry”
  • Preferred image formatting for photos is JPG, and for other graphic image types - GIF. Search engines are going to interpret a GIF as a standard graphic image with 256 colors, and JPGs as photos (because photos have millions of colors).
  • Separate SE accessible image folder.
  • Image freshness. If you’re targeting high popularity keywords, try experimenting with re-uploading your pix, since image freshness is a contextual clue for the search engines and might affect relevancy.
  • Enabled image search option at Google webmaster tool.
  • Reasonable image file size. But note that the bigger images usually have a higher priority than smaller images.
  • Limited number of images per page.
  • Popular and reliable photo sharing hosting.
Optimize your images for social media:

  • Use really great images to give your readers another reason to spread the word.
  • Image originality. There is a special advantage to taking original photos. You can brand them with your logo, URL, or trademark.
  • To get Digg thumbnailed submission stick to jpg format and make sure the images can be resized to 160Ч120 or 160Ч160 pixels (Unless you have an image that can be resized that way Digg will not offer the submitter a thumbnail to go with the post).
Optimize your images for people:

  • People pay more attention to a clear image where they can see details (choose high quality images).
  • Clean and clear faces in an image get more eye fixation. (Don’t use abstract images too often).
  • Keep them relevant: images are not the first thing a visitor sees on a web page but they can compel him to stay (according to the eye-tracking research web text is prior to images; when looking at a printed article people see images first; with web page they see text first - nevertheless images make the visitor stay and remember the page via relevant associations).
Gender specific:

  • Women are better at recognizing facial emotions than men.
  • Men seem to be more likely than women to first look at faces rather than other parts of a nude body.
  • Women are more interested in images with more than one person.


Sources and Additional Information:

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