SEO goes beyond web pages and meta data. Images and video are the fastest growing content types & should be optimized to rank in search results. Learn more.

SEO Basics: How to Optimize Images and Video for Search Engines

Fri Jun 6, 2014

A robust SEO strategy should include images and video, which are the most popular and fastest growing forms of online content,especially on mobile devices. While much keyword and content optimization focuses on page content and meta tag information, most search engines serve allow you to search specifically for images or video, and include them alongside text only results.

Making it easier for those search engines to identify your media content as relevant will help it rank higher in search results, and bring more visitors to your website. We’ve outlined several non-technical strategies marketers can employ to help their visual content rank higher.

How to Optimize Images for Search

Image based search isn’t limited by the same constraints as text-based search, such as word or character count, or pagination. Users keep scrolling until they find what they want. Of course, relevance is still the target to be hit, and you want to be seen sooner rather than later, because once the right image is found, the scrolling stops.

Use Informative Image Names

Like the actual filename of your page, search engines also read the image filename when assessing relevance. Whether you’re posting an image of a product or building on your campus, make sure the name reflects what the image represents.

Include Alt Tags for Important Images

Search engines don’t have eyes, and without alt tags, they are unable to “see” images on your website. When the images are decorative, the tags aren’t important, and are actually better left out, because a drop-shadow, icon, or button background would not be a useful search result. However, images that are representative of your product, service, or article should be tagged and titled appropriately.

Minimize File Size and Loading Times

Page load times can affect your SEO because they directly impact the end user experience and usefulness of your website. Optimize images for quick loading by compressing them into the smallest possible file size and appropriate format in your favorite image editing application.

Don’t Forget Pinterest

As far as visual search goes, Pinterest rivals Google Image Search in terms of accuracy and utility. Why? Because even though many web images remain untagged, on Pinterest users are already in the habit of including tags and descriptions with their images, leading to more accurate and relevant results. Sharing your content on Pinterest and featuring images with detailed information will give you more visibility and create useful backlinks to your website.

How to Optimize Video for Search

Video content is popular because it’s easy to consume and travels well. While it’s easy for the viewer, it can take a lot of effort to create, so Google assumes it’s high quality content and is likely to give you extra credit.

Choose the Right Hosting Option

Where your videos live can have serious implications for search ranking. You can of course host your own video content, use a free service like Vimeo or YouTube, or use a paid platform like Wistia or Brightcove. Which one you choose might depend on your budget, and should account for your need to collect viewer metrics, optimize loading times for various devices, and organize video content libraries.

YouTube Is a Major Player

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, according to Google. Even if you select another platform to host the majority of your video content, you should still create a YouTube channel that links back to your website, and offers at least previews of full-length content. Even though it’s never stated, it’s always safe to assume that Google’s properties will perform strongly in search queries, and should be leveraged for SEO.

Transcribe Your Content

Like images, videos can’t actually be seen by search engines, so providing closed captioning for a YouTube clip, or transcripts gives the bots that crawl the web something to munch on, and a means to include relevant keywords and text. Presentation hosting site Slideshare will automatically pull content from slides and also hosts video recordings, to which you can add your own transcript.

Use Additional Markup

When you see videos turn up in search results, you see rich snippets with additional info about the video, much of which is supplied via schema.org markup. Using standards like open graph and Twitter cards helps optimize your content for social sharing, but these enriched links back to your site have high quality and SEO impact because they come from valuable domains.

Optimization is About Content Quality, Consumability, and Access

Beyond SEO gains to be made by optimizing visual content, every website should strive to add alt tags and transcripts to media content in order to make it more accessible. Visitors who rely on screen readers or closed captioning are denied a great web experience on sites that lack optimization.

All of these improvements tie back to the thread that ties all SEO efforts together: content quality. The better your content, the better your user experience, the more digestible the information about your content is for search engines, the more your rankings will benefit.

Karo Kilfeather, content marketing manager at Percussion Software
Karo Kilfeather
Content Marketing Manager | Percussion Software

Karo was born in Poland, and learned to speak English by watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns during her first summer in the U.S., which has left her unable to go through life without occasionally breaking the fourth wall. As Percussion's content marketing manager, she oversees and creates content that drives website traffic, engages followers, and helps fill the marketing and sales funnel. She writes about content management, content marketing, SEO, social media and web design, and how to make it all less complicated.

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