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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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Business Entrepreneur

What freelancers need to know about new tax form 1099-NEC

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) There’s a new tax form for freelancers, but don’t hyperventilate. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

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Freelancers checking their numbers and writing in notebook to keep track of expenses.

Dear freelancers and workers of the gig economy: You can stop banging your head on your desk. Or your table at a café. Or any hard surface near your couch.

The words “new tax form” are terrible, horrible, no good words for anyone, let alone independent workers. In this case, the “new” form is really a resurrected old one that replaces the 1009-MISC you’ve been getting from clients who’ve paid you more than $600.

And that’s the most important thing you need to know. Make sure your clients have sent you the right form – 1099-NEC – by Feb. 1, 2021. NEC stands for nonemployee compensation.

Of course, there could be all sorts of exceptions and blah-di-blah that might apply to you. Look to Forbes.com for the gritty accounting details, including why this came about.

TL;DR: The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) aims to fight tax fraud by closing the time between when independent contractors can file their returns (Jan. 31) and some employers’ deadlines for submitting their own tax forms to the government (sometimes as late as the end of March). That meant fraudsters could file tax returns and claim a refund before the IRS had time to match up the numbers.

Speaking of matching up numbers: Make sure the number in Box 1 on the 1099-NEC is the same number you have in your records. Paying taxes on money you didn’t earn is what experts call “not good.”

So… you are keeping those records as you collect payment, right? Just a tip: If you’ve been keeping track of invoices, payments, and business expenses on a spreadsheet, you might want to check out the free accounting software Wave.

The IRS is going to release more info about filing requirements later in the year, but it’s always a good idea (for freelancers especially) to get a head start on collecting and adding up the receipts.

You may even minimize your banging-head-on-the-table headaches in 2021.

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Opinion Editorials

Sci-fi alert: Building cities on quantum networks becoming reality

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) The University of Bristol’s Quantum Engineering Tech Lab has created quantum networks that demonstrate the possibilities for future cities.

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Quantum network connections in theoretical city at night time.

The University of Bristol is home to the largest quantum entanglement-based computer network in the world. Its Quantum Engineering Technology Lab, led by Dr. Siddarth Joshi, has been spearheading the development of a method of encryption called Quantum Key Distribution that may soon revolutionize information security.

First, what is quantum computing, exactly? (Giving a concise answer to that question is sort of like nailing jelly to a wall, but here goes…)

Much like a light switch, a conventional computer circuit can only be in one of two states at a time: On (1) or off (0). That’s basically how binary code works – by representing information as a series of discrete on and off signals, or high and low energy states.

Quantum computing makes use of a third kind of state that exists between those two.

Think about it this way: If classical, binary computing models rely on energy states of “yes” and “no” to communicate data, quantum computing introduces a state of “maybe.” This is because at the quantum level, the photons that make up the information in a quantum computer can exist in multiple places (or energy states, if you prefer) at once – a phenomenon known as “entanglement.”

Entangled photons cannot be observed or measured (i.e., tampered with) without changing their state and destroying the information they contain. That means quantum computer networks are virtually hack proof compared to traditional networks.

This is where Dr. Joshi’s team is changing the game. While previous attempts to build a secure quantum computer network have been limited to just two machines, the QET Lab has been able to establish a quantum encrypted network between eight machines over a distance of nearly eleven miles.

As Dr. Joshi puts it, “until now, building a quantum network has entailed huge cost, time, and resource, as well as often compromising on its security which defeats the whole purpose. […] By contrast, the QET Lab’s vision is scalable, relatively cheap and, most important of all, impregnable.”

If it can be successfully scaled up further, quantum encryption has countless potential civic applications, such as providing security for voting machines, WiFi networks, remote banking services, credit card transactions, and more.

In order for an entire population to be able to utilize a quantum network, fiber optic infrastructure must first be made accessible and affordable for everyone to have in their homes. In that sense, quantum cities are still roughly two decades away, posits Dr. Joshi. The technology behind it is very nearly mature, though. A simpler application of quantum encryption is practically right around the corner – think quantum ATMs in as few as five years.

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Tech News

Extend your smart home to the mailbox with the Ring Mailbox Sensor

(TECH NEWS) With the rise of the smart home and mail theft, Amazon’s new Ring product is the perfect addition to protect your letters and packages.

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Ring Mailbox Sensor on the inside of a mailbox door with hand delivering letters.

Smart home enthusiasts worried about the increasing problem of mail theft are getting a new piece of security technology: The new Ring Mailbox Sensor.

Pop the wireless, battery-powered motion sensor in your mailbox, and it will alert you when someone opens the lid or door. You can get a notification in the Ring app on your smartphone and, because Ring is an Amazon company, through any Alexa-enabled device. (So your Ecobee thermostat can tell you you’ve got mail. Cool.)

The sensor’s biggest benefit: You can immediately collect your mail when you get an alert that it’s been delivered. If you’re home.

There’s no camera with live view or speaker for yelling at the thief to drop your stuff, although you can do that with any microphone-enabled cameras near your mailbox.

But if you’ve ringed your home with Ring products, you can set the sensor to turn on Smart Lights or to make the video doorbell or security cameras start recording. If your mailbox is near your front door, however, that will probably already be happening after those devices detect motion. The sensor could be very useful for mailboxes at the end of a long driveway and out of sight of any cameras.

You can preorder the Mailbox Sensor ($29.99) at Ring.com and Amazon.com starting on Oct. 8. To connect the sensor with the doorbell, smart lights, and Alexa devices, you’ll need the Ring Bridge ($49.99).

You may want to keep an eye on Amazon’s new Sidewalk technology, however. Sidewalk is designed to extend the range of your Wi-Fi network. It siphons off a small part of your bandwidth, and that of your neighbors with Amazon-related devices, to create a crowd-sourced neighborhood network.

Amazon has released a list of devices – mostly Echoes and cameras – that will act as bridges themselves, and it’s not yet clear how the Mailbox Sensor will interact with all of that in the future. By the way, if privacy concerns were the first thing that popped into your head when you read that, check out Amazon’s Sidewalk white paper on privacy.

FYI: If your mail is stolen, You should report to the USPS, using their online form. You could report to the police via 311 but know that it’s unlikely officers will pursue the crime.

The best defense against thieves is still a locked mailbox. It’s not fool-proof, of course, but it can make thieves take longer to get at your mail. But if they take the sensor with your mail, or even your whole mailbox, Ring will replace the Mailbox Sensor for free.

You can find out more about the Mailbox Sensor in Ring’s support FAQ.

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