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SEO Tip – Optimize Your Images for Better Rankings

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Sometimes it's a good idea to share what's on the insideIt’s Saturday morning, so you know what that means – time for another SEO Tip.  This week’s tip is so simple some of you may wonder if it’s even true, others may wonder why they haven’t been doing it already.

You have all been told for years that you must add lots and lots of images to your sites.  You’ve learned that visitors enjoy looking at pictures of houses, that blog readers are pulled in by having large images at the top of a post.

But is it possible to bring more traffic in from the search engines because of how you use images on your sites?  The answer is yes. Today we’ll cover a few ways to help your site rank better using images.

Before we continue, take six minutes and watch these three Google Webmaster videos:

  1. Should I expect increased traffic if I optimize my images?
  2. Matt Cutts Discusses the Importance of alt Tags
  3. Does Google consider the URL of an image?

That pretty well sums up this post…oh, you want more?  Fine, keep reading.

Use Descriptive File Names for Images

In video 1, Matt flat out tells us – YES OPTIMIZING IMAGES WILL INCREASE TRAFFIC.  What else do I need to say to convince you?

Matt suggests using descriptive file names for your images.  Don’t keep the bland,boring name your camera created, what good is a name like “dsc00234.jpg”?  You should use a carefully thought out descriptive name.  You shouldn’t get too carried away with long file names, but I do suggest using multiple words. Of course, keep in mind our tip from last week and use dashes to separate the words in your file name.  Possibly use something like: “3576-lakeview-street-homerville-tennessee-kitchen-1.jpg”.

Use ALT Tags for Images

In Video 2, Matt reinforces something I and others have already told you – ALT tags for your images are important.  However, he does tell us something new; it’s OK to use slightly longer, more descriptive text instead of just “cat”, “house” or “motorcycle.”  So what does that mean for you?  It means that when you take pictures of a house you are listing, you have an opportunity to really do a good job of describing the property through photos, in a way the search engines not only understand, they want.  Consider putting something like this in your ALT tags: “123 brookehaven road, Jasper, Wyoming – master bedroom – MLS 123456”.  Be creative in your description, use words people will be using when they search the web.

Image File URLs

Image URL Sample - shown in windows file explorerIn video 3, Matt reminds us that the URLs of files help the search engines figure out what is in the picture.  Depending on how your site is constructed, this might take a little bit of planning.  Rather than just drop all you images in a generic folder named “images”, or named for the date you uploaded them (like WordPress does by default), perhaps you should consider creating a special structure to store them in.  You could get pretty detailed if you wanted to take the time.  You may want to create a folder structure like what’s shown here, based on your state, county & city names.  Of course, YOU should know your web traffic better than I do, use names you KNOW people use in searches, based on your keyword research.

BONUS Information

How well did you listen to video 3?  Go back and listen to it again, starting from about the 25 second mark, ending at about the 40 second mark.  OCR and Meta-data for the images?  Now we’re talking.

OCR?

123-southhampton-roadOCR, if you don’t know, stands for Optical Character Recognition.  Matt’s comment implies that Google is able to READ and understand the text with in your images.  How can you use this?  Start adding a crisp, clear title to all of your images.  Make it easy for them, place the text on a plain background and use a simple, non-swirly font.

Meta-data?

Image MetadataOMG!  Not more meta tags!  Take a deep breath, relax.  It’s not more geeky tags.  Image meta-data is often added automatically by digital cameras and it can be edited by many image editing tools to add all sorts of information.  The image to the right is a screen shot taken from within Adobe Photoshop, but the software that came with your camera may also allow you to edit your files like this.  Place your descriptive text within these fields before you upload them.

I know this was a lot of information, but I’m confidant you can manage it.

When working with images, keep the fortune cookie in mind; how it looks on the outside is important, but sometimes it’s what you can’t see that is more important.

Jack Leblond is a SEO/SEM professional working for a large corporation full time in Austin, TX. He is not a Realtor, he is our in-house SEO expert. Jack is the Director of Internet Strategy and Operations for TG (www.tgslc.org). In addition to managing the team that develops and maintains the company's multiple Web sites, he focuses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-marketing and Social Media. Jack's background ranges from Submarine Sonar Technician/Instructor for the United States Navy, technical writer, pioneer in internet/intranet creation for McGraw-Hill and Times Mirror Higher Education, former Adjunct Professor for two Universities teaching web-related courses, has served as a city council member and co-founded Net-Smart, a web design and hosting company, where he managed networks and oversaw the development of hundreds of Web sites. As a free-lance SEO consultant, Jack performs SEO Site Audits for small/medium businesses that want their web sites to perform better in the search engine listings.

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Matt Stigliano

    November 7, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Jack – The OCR bit is news to me. That could be potentially pretty powerful (try to say that three times fast) and I had never thought of it. I’ve been using your dash vs. underscore theory lately and I immediately starting trying it on images.

    Thanks for the constant supply of things to think about.

    Hey, did you ever get my email about Google Analytics?

  2. Ben Goheen

    November 7, 2009 at 9:51 am

    I’m with Matt here – had no idea the OCR thing was possible. Guess I should stop using Comic Sans for my preferred font. 🙂

    I’d suggest probably not using “123 Any Street” or “MLS 13456” in the description. Besides the homeowner, not many people search for a home that way.

    Another great SEO article – thanks Jack!

  3. Rob McCance

    November 7, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Good post.

  4. Jack Allen

    November 8, 2009 at 5:35 am

    Excellent article, Jack. I had been using the meta data on my images for copyright use, but had never considered using descriptive text to help with search engine rankings. Thanks for the tip!

  5. SteveBeam

    November 8, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Sweet- I’ll check out the videos when I don’t have 4 kids under foot. I love video and can already see it driving large amounts of traffic to my site.

  6. Vicki Moore

    November 9, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    I really appreciate the tips in small bites. I just tried to read an SEO 101 post. I got halfway through the first paragraph and CLICK – I’m gone!

  7. Frampton Team

    January 13, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Nice article, but I have a flip side to consider: You say optimizing images would increase traffic, but how commercial-bound do you think image searchers really are? I’m not interested in just more traffic; rather, I’m interested in traffic that wants to buy a home.

    I think it is conceivable that home buyers looking for a certain characteristic in a home may very well end up turning to Google Image Search; however, from looking at referrer reports a clear trend has been evident in my experience that most Google Image searchers are more intent on finding pictures to post on their blogs. Not everyone is thrilled to learn that some unreachable person has used a picture of their newly purchased home like a stock photograph on his/her blog. It’s for this reason that I have not only blocked hotlinking, but also went so far as to deny the image directory for home listings in my robots.txt file.

    – Ken Schweickert
    Programmer for the Frampton Team at RE/MAX Lafayette Group

  8. Jack Leblond

    January 13, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Ken,
    You’ve missed the point and shot the Frampton Team in their collective feet – twice.

    The goal of optimizing images is NOT so you’ll be found in an image search. I can’t imagine anybody looking for a home that way. The primary goal is to build your relevance and authority on the main Google search. Secondarily, if one of your images applies to the search phrase, it will be displayed on the main page, within the consolidated results – that’s like striking oil. If you can get both a web result and an image result to show up at the same time, you have a very high likelihood of getting that persons traffic. By blocking Google from your images you have guaranteed that you r site will NEVER appear with consolidated results. There’s the first shot.

    Unless the photo-links back to your site are eating into your bandwdth, they actually a good thing. Search engines, especially Google, LOVE links. Each one of those new homeowners you block is another link that Google could have followed back to your site. There’s the second shot.

    I hope this clears some things up for you – hope your feet heal up OK.

  9. Frampton Team

    January 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Jack,

    Thank you for the reply.

    I should have been more specific in describing what I found from the referrer reports. These bloggers are not using the image *and* linking back to the site; they are simply setting the src attribute to the remote image. When a browser comes to download that image it includes the page where the image is located in the header as the referrer, but the user never actually realizes he/she made a connection to the site. As far as I have been able to tell, this yields no gain in authority to the site as a real link would (maybe because an image cannot spread out its Page Rank through links to other pages on the site?), but does help just that image rank in image results (and consequently consolidated results, as you mentioned). Perhaps you have evidence to the contrary?

    The lack of presence in consolidated results is a true shot in the foot, yes. However, it is a calculated one, as a trade off by valuing quality of service (by protecting those who don’t want their homes blogged about for whatever reason) over quantity (number of clients for whom that service is performed). Better to be shot in the foot than in the head.

    I believe I have made the right choice here, but I am certainly not an SEO, so I am quite open to suggestions.

    – Ken

  10. mooersrealty

    November 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Images interesting, local and tagged right help beyond the copy. Video coming up in page one searches with the little player embed is cool too. Video is 30 frames per second and the audio is 40% of the video experience, delivery. Great post.

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Opinion Editorials

How to turn your complaint mindset into constructive actions

(EDITORIAL) Everybody knows someone who complains too much. While being open is important for mental health, constant bellyaching is not.

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Everybody knows someone who complains too much. While being open is important for mental health, constant bellyaching is not, so here are a few tips on turning your complaints into constructive actions.

It’s important to understand the difference between “complaining” and “addressing.” Talking about problems which mandate discussion, bringing up issues slated to cause larger issues down the line, and letting your boss know that you have the sniffles all fall into the latter category due to necessity; complaining is volitional, self-serving, and completely unnecessary in most contexts.

Complaining also puts you in an excessively bad mood, which may prevent you from acknowledging all the reasons you have not to complain.

Another point to keep in mind is that complaining occasionally (and briefly) isn’t usually cause for ostracization. Constant or extensive complaining, however, can lead others to view you as a largely negative, self-centered person — you know, the kind of person literally no one actively seeks out — which is why you should focus more on redirecting that negative energy rather than using it to remind your barista why they gave up their dream of becoming a therapist.

Complaining stems from two main sources: the need to be validated—for example, for others to know what you’re going through—and the need to be comforted. Addressing a chronic complaint mindset, then, is largely about validating and comforting yourself. This is a simple solution which nevertheless can take years to manifest properly, but you can start by doing a couple of things differently.

“Focus on the positive” is perhaps the hokiest advice you’ll get from anyone, but it works. In virtually any situation, you can find a positive aspect—be it an eventual outcome or an auxiliary side-effect—on which you can concentrate. Think about the positive enough, and you’ll talk yourself out of complaining before you’ve even started.

It’s also good to remember that no one, no matter how much they care about you, can handle constant negativity. If you find yourself constantly hitting people with bad news or tragic personal updates, try mixing up the dialogue with some positive stuff. That’s not to say that you can’t be honest with people—friends, family, and colleagues all deserve to know what’s going on in your life—but make sure that you aren’t oversaturating your listeners with sadness.

Lastly, keep your complaining off of social media. It’s all too easy to post a long Facebook rant about being served cold pizza (no one likes cold pizza on day one), but this just results in your loding a complaint reaching a larger number of people than vocalization ever could. If you have to complain about something in earnest, avoid doing it anywhere on the Internet—your future self will thank you.

Being honest about how you feel is never a bad thing, but constant negativity will bring down you and everyone around you. If you can avoid a complaint mindset as a general rule, you’ll one day find that you have significantly less to complain about.

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Business Finance

7 ways to get your freelance invoices paid more quickly

(FINANCE) It’s easy to feel uncomfortable bringing up money with your superiors, but for a freelancer, it’s more important than ever to bring up the issue. Here are 7 tips to get your invoices paid quickly.

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financial advice

For many, an awkward topic of conversation revolves around money. Whether asking for a raise or asking to borrow money, people often feeling uncomfortable when talking money.

This is equally, or possibly even more so, true for freelancers who are solely in charge of their finances. Without a system of weekly direct deposit, freelancers have to work overtime to keep their earnings in order.

The issue with this is that clients also have a lot on their plates, and something as simple as a freelancer’s paycheck is common to fall through the cracks. This causes freelancers to have to work friendly reminders into their repertoire.

However, freelancers may not always be knowledgeable of the best ways to keep their finances in check (no pun intended). Below are seven ways to enhance payment methods.

  1. You have to be willing to make billing a priority. Due to the fact that money is awkward to talk about, as aforementioned, many let this fall by the wayside. The best way to do this is to keep up to date with your invoices and send them as soon as they are done. Making a calendar specific for billing can help with this idea.
  2. This second bit dates back to when we were young and learning our manners: it is crucial to be polite. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also increases speed in payment. Using “please” and “thank you” in invoicing emails are said to get you paid five percent faster.
  3. It is best to try and keep a complicated concept like finance as simple as possible. Make sure you are creating specific due dates. This will help to signify importance of payment.
  4. Now that virtually anything can be done online, it would make sense to use electronic payment verses an old-school check. Accepting online payments will get a user paid, on average, eight days faster as opposed to a check.
  5. This is an important notion to keep in mind for any aspect of your business life: be professional. Invoices are often seen by many eyes so it is best to include your business’s logo on said invoice. This has been found to increase chances of being paid on time by 10 percent.
  6. Specificity is urged again in the form of transparency. Make sure you are giving detailed descriptions on each invoice so that anyone looking at it knows exactly what you are being paid for. By doing this, you are 15 percent more likely to be paid on time.
  7. While you may be invoicing month by month, try to avoid sending on the 30th or 31st. Being that everyone, generally, sends their invoices in on these dates, it takes 10 – 20 percent longer to be paid. With everyone sending it at the end of the month, it has a tendency to back up payroll.

The most important thing to remember is that while the topic of money may be awkward, it is your money. If you let a few invoices fall behind because you are uncomfortable reminding your client, this has a way of adding up. Be sure to keep on track with your finances to earn what you are working for.

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Tech News

For meetings that should be an email, there’s StandupMeet

(TECH NEWS) If you’re tired of having your precious work time taken up by useless meetings, there may be a solution.

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standupmeet

Have you ever attended a meeting that turned out to be a waste of time and set you back on your work? I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that every person reading this article is nodding in agreement.

Meetings, if executed appropriately (and sporadically,) can be effective. However, having weekly (or even daily) meetings that are designed to catch-up or give reports can add up to a ton of wasted time.

Across the board, meetings are generally geared towards productivity, and oftentimes they are counterproductive. So, how can you still get that need for touching-base with employees while still being productive? StandupMeet might just have the answer for that.

StandupMeet is a tool designed to make meetings more productive and agile. According to their statistics, more than $37 billion per year are being spent on unproductive meetings.

The main features include: the digitization of meetings, the instantaneous sharing of minutes, and the ability to assign actions and keep track of progress.

By making the meetings digital, you organize meeting points in one place. Decisions, actions, and key points can be logged in real time and accessed before the meeting.

This makes projects more agile and helps to increase critical success factors.

With instantaneous sharing of minutes, you can collaborate and share minutes of the meeting, key result areas, and action points. This is also done in real time and is shared with colleagues to make sure that each person is on the same page.

Finally, by assigning actions and keeping track of projects helps to ensure data integrity and provides accountability to each team member. Automated reminders are available so that you can spend your time on the more valuable tasks first.

In addition, StandupMeet also offers: project wised meeting, customized meeting types, organized agendas, shareable meeting minutes, accountability, reminders to ensure time is being appropriately applied, recurring meetings, conflict-free meeting scheduling, locations, automated follow ups, automatically tracked action points, and flexibility across time zones.

This can save time and increase productivity for on-site workers and can also be beneficial for teams that are remote.

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