To date none of the posts on this blog have contained pictures. Why? Frankly there is not good reason for it whatsoever. In fact it is really inexcusable, lazy, and nearly guarantees that I do not get anybody reading much, if any of what I write.
Pictures speak a thousand words as the saying goes. It is true, but not the whole story. If you realise that good Search Engine Optimisation is not purely about search engines, then you have to look beyond text on a page.
Search engines love text. That is how I got away with not putting any pictures into previous blog posts. To a search engine a text only site is a sort of nirvana. To real live humans, a site without pictures is boring, uninteresting, bland, heavy…… in short, it is not going to hold the attention of the average web surfer.
What sort of pictures should I use?
You need to captivate your audience. Your pictures should be relevant to the text on the page. They should also draw your readers to the page. The rules for pictures online are no different to the rules for pictures in magazines. Go into a newsagent and look at the magazine rack. You will be met with row after row of faces looking back at you. The reason is that people love to look at people. I used an eye as the picture for this post to prove a point. The human eye is about the most universally alluring image you can use. Female eyes in particular. This is because men are not as drawn by other mens eyes, yet women do not blank other women in the same way. We all crave eye contact – even online.
But that is not the end of our story. Pictures are all very well for people, but what about those search engines? This is an area where many many web publishers fall down, all through not following W3C standards.
All images must include an alt attribute!
The alt attribute is where you get to tell the search engines what your picture is of. Search engines can’t see pictures, they can only read the text that is attributed to them. By leaving out the alt attribute, you are putting a blindfold over any search engine that crawls your site. That’s plain stupid!
In the case of this post the alt text is the same as the picture title. The line starts with the words “using pictures” which is the same as the blog post title. In other words I have just managed to get some keywords into the page again without being spammy. The alt text is descriptive. It gives an idea of what the picture is about. It could be better, it could say “picture of a single female eye”, but that would not work as a caption. This post is all about people, search engines come second (but they still receive all the attention they need).
Even the file name of the picture is “eye-picture.jpg”, lest there be any confusion.
Choose your pictures wisely. A few more minutes sourcing your pictures could make quite a difference to your site. Try to use your own pictures (or make up your own if you are a dab hand at photoshop). That way you are serving up original content which is a good idea.
How many pictures? Well this post could have done with at least one more picture. That should give you an idea. A lot of surfers will only look at pictures and captions. They will only read the text if the caption of the picture gets their attention. If you have got this far, then the picture did its job!
The other benefit of pictures is that they get indexed by Google images. It gives another route in to your website that you have worked so hard on. It’s all about using pictures to drive traffic, keep interest and in the case of original and eye catching pictures, get links.