All writers need a blog or website – if you have any doubts about that, check our Blogging page in the resources section at writing.ie. Your blog or website is a reference point on the web that allows you to show off your wares whilst maintaining control over your own image and marketing message. In this series of Essential Guides posts, writing.ie is looking at elements that will help improve your blog or website and its discoverability via search engines. We’ve looked at tips to improve your search ranking, the importance of link building, making a wordpress blog search engine friendly, and author Sarah Webb has give us excellent tips on attracting traffic to your blog.
Recently Darina Loakman, an internet entrepreneur and former Business Woman of the Year spoke at a Dublin City of Literature/Irish PEN event about social media for writers, addressing the issue of maximising the benefits from your blog. Her key message in all your social media and online activity was to focus on exactly who your target audience is, and ensure you deliver content that is both entertaining and informative to them. It’s not about quantity – having thousands of followers on Facebook or Twitter, but about quality – gaining a readership who will support you and help spread your message through their own channels.
One of the area Darina touched on was using images in blogs. Google loves images, and often using great images – correctly- is just as important as using the right words.
Making Your Images Count
Employing SEO tactics to label images provides an opportunity to give both search engines and readers the type of content they value.
Firstly, and this is where many bloggers fall at the first hurdle, it is essential that you optimize the filename of the saved image using a keyword in the name of your picture. Instead of “front-cover.jpg” (or worse, a random set of numbers), save the image as WildFoodrecipesandforagingtips.jpg. Add in the title of the book and your/the authors name. The goal is to have the keywords you want to get ranked for in your image title instead of a random description of what it is. This will enable Google to find your image, recognise it and give SEO credit to well-named image files.
Next, make sure to fill in the title attributes. There are search engines that search specifically for images. When appropriate, include either a descriptive or keyword-rich title.
The ALT (alternative text) attribute offers another place to use meaningful keywords. For anyone whose computer is slow to load or who is partially sighted and using text to speech software, these alternative text titles are vital. Again, Google can find and understand them, and will push your pages towards web users who are searching for them.
Don’t use the same ALT attribute on multiple images on the same page, though. Five pictures on the same page, with the same attributes, look strange and contrived to the search engines. You could be penalised for over-optimisation or ‘keyword stuffing’. Just keep it very natural and use images where appropriate. Alternate your title and ALT attributes to use variations on relevant keywords.
By following these suggestions, you’ll ensure that there is plenty of text provided with each of your pictures. The filenames, title and ALT attributes, give search engines more content to crawl when determining the meaning of the image.
Finally, add pictures within your text. Embedding images in the midst of content improves their relevance to the theme of the page and in turn, the overall quality of the page increases.
Although utilizing these SEO basics for blog images will not catapult you to the top of the search engines, they’re still important elements in the increasingly competitive SEO world. Optimized images contribute to a better user experience for readers and help search engines read your website.
Where to find images
There are many image sites such as iStockPhoto or Dreamstime where you can buy images for a very low cost. This ensures that there is no issue with copyright on using the images. Alternatively use images you have photographed or created yourself. Do be aware of copyright and reproducing images that have been taken by professional photographers – just because an image is on a website doesn’t mean it is available to copy.
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. If you’re looking for content that you can freely and legally use, there is a giant pool of Creative Commons-licensed creativity available to you. There are hundreds of millions of works — including images (from Google Images, Flikr, Fotopedia and Pixababy), songs and videos to scientific and academic material — available to the public for free and legal use under the terms of the Creative Commons copyright licenses, with more being contributed every day.
Watch out for copyright
Even with image sites like those mentioned above, ensure that the license agreement for the image you are purchasing covers the use that you have in mind. You wouldn’t want anyone copying your writing, so watch out for accidentally copying someone else’s image.
Use images and make your blog attractive
While your blog may be all about writing, images liven up the page and make the text easier to digest. Opening a web page with no images is daunting for anyone. Darina Loakman also recommended using a header that says exactly what you do and who you are on every page – just in case someone arrives at your blog through a link rather than through the home page. Make the most of this by using attractive and use correctly labeled images!