Five years ago I left the corporate banking world behind, trading my heels in New York City for a surfboard and camera in Costa Rica. After living in Costa Rica for three years, I finally allowed myself to pursue one of my passions, photography, as a profession. Besides building my photography portfolio, I knew it was really important to have a professional-looking website. However, like many small business owners, I was on a limited budget and paying someone to build a website was not an option. I already had some experience blogging on WordPress and some free time on my hands, so I decided to get my hands dirty and build my photography website.
As I built my site, I quickly ran across the term SEO – Search Engine Optimization – over and over again, learning that SEO was the key to my business being found online by search engines like Google and Bing. And let me tell you, within a couple of weeks of implementing simple and basic SEO tips, my business Samba to the Sea Photography was ranking (showing up) on the first page of Google for search terms like “photographer in Tamarindo Costa Rica”. And showing up on the first page of Google meant receiving client inquiries = more opportunities for business AND to build my photography portfolio. Can I get a heck yes?!
Now two years later, Google is my biggest business asset for the part of my photography business that is based in Costa Rica (I now split time between Savannah, GA and Costa Rica), responsible for being the lead source for about 95% of my clients. Utilizing the SEO knowledge I learned from building my wedding and family photography portfolio website, I have since built two more websites to serve my growing and very different client bases – – one for my brand and editorial clients, and one for my breathtaking sunset prints, an online print shop aptly named The Sunset Shop.
So what can you do to get started and/ or improve your own business’ SEO? There is so much to learn with SEO as it is always involving (thanks Google!), but one of the easiest ways to improve your website SEO starts with the images are your site. Web-appropriate image file sizes, properly named images, and alt text are the three key things for proper image SEO on your website.
Image File Size
Photos uploaded to your website for a blog post should be no larger 500kb, but optimally no larger than 300kb. If you’re uploading full size or high resolution images to your site, your site is destined to be slow. And if your site is loading slowly due to those large file sizes, this will negatively affect your SEO. To top that off, if you keep uploading huge image files to your website, the size of the back end of your website is going to be a HUGE AND your web host eventually will make you upgrade to a more expensive plan to keep hosting those large file sizes.
So how do you reduce the image file size?
- Photoshop: If you have Photoshop, this can be done in the “Save For Web” option. When I don’t have a lot of images to resize, this is my go-to tool. For blog posts, I first resize my images to 800 pixels wide. After resizing the image, if the file size is still too large, I then reduce the quality percentage until the image size is under 300kb.
- BlogStomp: When I’m blogging a wedding or family session with a lot of photos, this is my go-to tool. Not only will it resize and reduce the file size for hundreds of images in a blink of an eye, the software also has other cool features like the ability to make cool multi image layouts for your blog post.
Image File Name
Ideally for optimal SEO, each photo on your site would have a unique name that gives an idea of what the photo is showing and then your company name (i.e. “Savannah-Georgia-Marsh-Sunrise-Samba-to-the-Sea.jpg”). This is in comparison to not renaming the image and leaving the file name as whatever your camera named the file (i.e. “image 1.jpg” or “DSC_100.jpg”). If you don’t rename your image, Google and other search engines have no clue what the image is and will compare that image to other images named the same. Just imagine how many other ‘image 1.jpg”s are out there on the web – – probably millions!
If you only have a couple images, this is not a big deal. But for longer blog posts, I rename my images using the same keyword as the blog post and then sequence number (i.e. Savannah-Georgia-Family-Photographer-Samba-to-the-Sea-1.jpg, Savannah-Georgia-Family-Photographer-Samba-to-the-Sea-2.jpg, Savannah-Georgia-Family-Photographer-Samba-to-the-Sea-3.jpg, etc.). Take note that when renaming your images, you should use a dash (“-”) in between the words as this is how Google and other search engines read the file name of the image on your website. Don’t use an underscore (“_”)!
In other words, “alternative text.” Alt text is a an accessibility feature for those using a screen reader or has images disabled in the browser (the alt text will be read by the screen reader or displayed instead). The best way to understand what you should write for alt text is this, “How would you describe the image to a friend who is unable to see the image?” This is not a place to enter as many keywords as possible (known as keyword stuffing). Describe the image accurately and bonus points if you can naturally incorporate your main keyword into the alt text! Also, avoid using the same alt text for for every image on the page.
I know, I know, writing unique alt text for 20+ images in a blog post is time consuming, but it will pay off for your SEO, Google image search, AND Pinterest (Pinterest uses your image alt text when an image is shared).
I know these three things may seem daunting at first, and yes, it definitely takes time to properly SEO images for your website, but it will be worth it!
P.S. How do you tell how large your images are? If you’re using a Mac, once you navigate to the image, the image file information will be listed under the image (dimensions, file size, and image file name).
I’d love to hear how making these small changes impacts your business’ SEO, as well as any questions you have, in the comments below! Happy SEOing!