When it comes to staying one step ahead of your competitors, you need to cover all the aspects of SEO that many of us overlook.
See, there’s a lot to SEO. There’s on-site SEO, there’s off-site SEO. There’s technical SEO, backlinks and so on.
A crucial part of SEO that can give you that extra bit of visibility you’re looking for are search engine optimized images and videos. If you cover all the bases with your SEO strategy, you will drive more traffic and increase conversions.
In this article, we'll take a look at how to optimize your images and videos for search so that more customers come to you.
Always Pick the Right Images
If an image is irrelevant to the text, should you still use it?
Any image you choose must be relevant to the page and content you upload it to. It should also be of high quality, and we recommend creating your own original images. However, if this is not possible yet because your business lacks the resources, you can also use a tool like Pik Wizard, Shutterstock or Pixabay to source top-notch images.
A good rule of thumb is to place your images next to relevant text and then…
Add a Caption
An image caption guides the reader's eye, and it also helps a search engine bot understand more about your image.
Check the image below. It’s an photo accompanied by a piece of text below it. This is the caption, and it tells both the reader and Google what the image is all about.
Site visitors have a tendency to scan a webpage when they first arrive on it. They look at the subheadings to give them an indication as to what the page is all about, and they also look at image captions. So don’t overlook this aspect of image SEO.
In fact, research has shown that image captions are read 300% more than body copy! It must also be said that you don’t need to add a caption to each and every image, but when you do, make sure that the caption is absolutely relevant to the image.
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Optimize Alt Text and Title Text
When images aren’t displayed on a website, the image's alternative text, or “alt text,” is displayed instead. Wikipedia describes image alt text thus:
“In situations where the image is not available to the reader, perhaps because they have turned off images in their web browser or are using a screen reader due to a visual impairment, the alternative text ensures that no information or functionality is lost.”
For this reason, you need to optimize your alt text so that it’s clear what the image is all about. Include a brief description of the image and be sure to include a keyword. This is image SEO 101.
Your title text, meanwhile, can be the same as your alt text. Adding it for each image will make them more discoverable.
Optimize the File Name
Imagine if your image's file name was DWI3949.jpg. Google wouldn’t have a clue as to what the image was about. Consequently, it would be hard for users to find in search engines.
Add your focus key phrase to each image file name. For example, let’s say that I have an image of a black BMW. My file name could be “black-BMW.jpg” To make it more specific and even easier for users to find, I might call it “2013-black-BMW-sedan.jpg”
Whatever the main subject of your image is, that should be its file name.
Get the File Size Right
A key part of on-page SEO is site loading time. If your website takes too long to load, your rankings will drop. It’s that simple.
One of the biggest culprits behind slow-loading pages are huge images. There are excellent resources available on the Internet to help you trim your images down to size, such as the WordPress plugin Imsanity that automatically resizes the image or the tool Batch Image Resizing Made Easy.
It’s really important that you understand the rules behind file size because you could end up with a few mishaps. As well as images that are too big, you might end up with images that are scaled badly therefore look horrendous. Either way, you’ll end up with a high bounce rate.
If you use WordPress, the good news is that the platform provides your images in numerous sizes after you have uploaded them. However, it doesn’t help you optimize the file size. That’s up to you.
Add Image Structured Data
There’s no evidence that Google will rank your images better if you add structured data, but it will flesh your listing out a bit more in Image Search.
Moreover, you should add badges to your images if, for example, you have a food blog with recipes. Google will then link the image to the recipe:
Structured data isn’t actually supported for everything, but it is supported for recipes, videos and products. If you add structured data, Google may (or may not) display your pictures as rich results, thus improving their visibility.
There are a few guidelines you’ll need to check before you add structured data, which is well worth doing if you have recipes, videos or products.
Next, let’s take a look at how to optimize your videos for search.
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Decide Where to Upload Your Videos
When it comes to deciding where to host your videos, you have a few options. You could host them on your website or you could choose a video-sharing platform like YouTube or Vimeo.
It all depends on your goal. For example, YouTube is a great place to raise awareness about your brand. Here you can pump out lots of educational “how to” videos that help your audience build a meaningful connection with you, like Growth Everywhere does:
On the other hand, if your aim is to boost conversions and leads ASAP, you’ll probably want to add your video(s) directly to your website.
When choosing a hosting solution, you need to bear in mind how fast or how slow your videos will be indexed. Wistia increases the likelihood of your videos being indexed by automatically inserting SEO metadata JSON-LD (but not all hosting solutions will).
You also need to add in the fact that some platforms will ask you to create a video sitemap first, which can be a difficult task for most of us.
If you decide to embed your video on one of your web pages, make sure that it’s relevant to the rest of the page. If it isn’t, you will confuse your site visitors, your bounce rate will soar, and your rankings will drop.
Also, if you’re planning to upload multiple videos to the same page, make sure that you upload your main video first. Google has a tendency to rank just one video per page. As such, add the video you’re pinning most of your hopes on first.
Add a Transcript
Did you know that 85% of us watch videos on Facebook with the sound off? Hootsuite wrote a great blog post about how to optimize your Facebook videos to play without sound, but what’s a given is that you need to add a transcript.
A video transcript will not only increase engagement among viewers, it will also boost your SEO efforts. How so? Because text is easier for search bots to understand and index than visual content.
Essentially, a video transcript becomes page copy, which is then indexed by bots. As a result, it’s pretty much imperative that each time you upload a new video, you include a transcript.
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Titles and Meta Descriptions Matter
Just like title tags and meta descriptions matter for your blog posts, they also matter for your videos. When it comes to ranking, they are essential.
So take your time putting together a video description that’s relevant, concise, and includes a couple of your main keywords. Add any key links to your description, too. These links are good for passing some link juice back to your website, and they will also increase your chances of conversions.
Consider adding the main keyword to your title. A good idea is to type your keyword into YouTube’s search bar, before taking a look at the related searches:
This will give you an insight into the phrases that people are using to find videos like yours.
Create Customized Thumbnails
Picture it: You made a great video. It’s awesome.
You even put in the hours on your SEO game so that it’s now super visible on YouTube. But people still aren’t clicking. What gives?
It could be that a weak thumbnail is letting you down.
In 2019, thumbnails on YouTube matter more than anything. Users are saturated with content on YouTube, and they’re only going to click on content that has a strong headline and a compelling thumbnail.
A thumbnail needs to say to people “click me!” The best way to create such a thumbnail is to use tools. Design Wizard, for example, will help you create an eye-catching graphic that jumps out.
Here are three examples of compelling video thumbnails (and one so-so thumbnail):
A good rule of thumb (sorry) is to use colorful text in your thumbnail and the best image possible (make sure it’s relevant to the video, of course), like the Growth Everywhere example above.
Remember that the more views your video has, the higher it will rank. To get those views, you need to entice people with a fabulous thumbnail.
Make Sure Your Videos Are Awesome
The more awesome your videos are, the higher they’ll rank, and they easier they’ll be for others to find.
Awesome videos are “linkable.” In other words, people will link out to valuable content that, in some small way, changes their life. The more backlinks you receive, the better your video content will rank.
So refrain from putting out average content, and instead focus on pumping out valuable content only.
Check out this awesome video from Squatty Potty:
Don’t Hide Your Video
Videos are great for engagement – and, in fact, they have higher engagement rates than any other type of content. However, you can't boost your engagement rates if you hide your videos. Worse still, your video won’t rank very well if you hide it, because website crawlers won’t be able to find it!
Make sure that whatever page you add your video to, it’s easy to find for the viewer. For maximum engagement and play rates, it’s always best to make it the focus of the page:
Videos often steal the show, so why would you have yours playing second fiddle to a load of meandering body copy?
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Make Sure Your Videos Are Optimized for Mobile
Desktop video has been overtaken by mobile video viewing, which means that you need to focus on mobile optimization. This will now form a key part of your video SEO strategy.
Optimizing your videos for mobile devices isn’t too hard, and most hosting services now offer mobile optimization automatically. For example, YouTube will optimize your videos for mobile devices without your having to do anything. However, there are a few hacks you should be mindful of:
- Use square videos instead of landscape
- Increase the size of your text
- Preview your videos on mobile before anything is final
- Keep your videos nice and short
SEO can be exhausting before you even get to image and video SEO. And while everything outlined in this article is adding more to your plate, it’s all important. Moreover, once you’ve gone through the list of things to do and optimized your images and videos, life will become a lot easier.
Of course, SEO is an ongoing process and you can’t stop there. You need to keep optimizing all fresh images and videos while keeping an eye on the latest SEO trends. Over time, if you keep doing the right things, your image and video SEO should help you get an edge over your rivals.