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Optimizing the SEO Benefit of Images

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In this session, a member asks how to optimize the SEO benefits of images. We discuss the work involved vs the payoff for putting images in a descriptive subdirectory. We suggest a more time manageable way of giving your images an SEO benefit.

Video Transcript

Rick: Okay so the question that you asked a few days ago was that you heard that there was some SEO benefit out of creating a subdirectory and putting your images in that subdirectory. And I got to tell you, I think that SEO benefit is going to be very very small if there is a SEO benefit to it at all. But the effort will be large. You either have to completely reconfigure the way the Media Library works or you have to manage your images outside of the context of your media library. Now you can do that but I don’t think you’re going to really see a benefit out of that. You’re probably better off having a reasonably descriptive file name and a decent alt text. That’s probably all the further you really need to go with it.

Member: Go ahead.

Rick: So that’s my opinion about it, that if you’re going to spend effort and energy on SEO, that’s probably not the place to do it. You’re probably better off spending your energy on content than you are on programming and futzing around with your image directory.

Member: Is it a good idea in the image directory to put a description for that image as well? Is it anything like in WordPress? And again, I’m still pretty green at this but it seems to me like they ask you the domain of the image and then they ask you, like the description of it. Does it make sense to…

Rick: Well, the reason they give you an opportunity to put a description in there is so that you can figure out what it’s about. I mean, if you look at my media library, I have… God, I don’t know… I’m going to guess 1500 images in my media library. Let’s see what it says, 1800 images in my media library. You know, I could have descriptions in here if I wanted to be able to scroll through here and say to myself, “What is that image? What was I doing with that piece of media?” But that’s the only place that description is going to show up is in your admin screen. It’s not going to show up to Google, for example. So if you have… if we just edit this image for just a second you know, if you’re going to derive some benefit out of your images, you’re going to derive them out of the title because the title is the… it has some SEO benefit as long as it’s not keyword cramming. You’ll derive some benefit out of the alternate text as long as you respect the rationale of the alternate text. The rationale for alternate text is to provide text for screen readers to read to the blind. So as long as your alternate text is descriptive of the image then you can derive some SEO benefit from your alternate text.

You could also, if you had captions around it, you could derive a little bit of SEO benefit from the caption. The description, you’re going to get nothing from because the description is only for admin, your admin screen. It doesn’t matter elsewhere. It’s not seen elsewhere. And then you could… what you were talking about is trying to derive benefit from your file URL. You can see that… you don’t have any control over this file URL. WordPress doesn’t give you any choice here. So if you’re going to use the media library at all, you either have to really jock it around or you have to not use the media library if you want control over the URL of the image.

Member: Okay in the caption area, if I included something in the caption, that shows up right below like the photograph. Is that correct?

Rick: Yeah, it shows up right below the photograph if you have used the media library to insert the image. If you didn’t use the media library to insert the image then it’s not going to show up. So for example, this right here, this image is actually… it only exists for my video sitemap. So this image never shows up on my website. This is just where Google can pull the image when it returns this video from the video sitemap. And…

Member: Say that again. So that’s actually a video. That’s what that image is?

Rick: Well, that image is a thumbnail image for my video sitemap which means it never shows up in my site. So if we Google…how to build an online store using Shopp… you know, this has suddenly become fairly popular so maybe my videos are going to show up there. Okay, let’s look at videos for a second then. Well, I guess none of my videos are showing up on this. But this little image right here, this is a thumbnail image that Google generally is extracting from… well, if it’s from YouTube, they’re just taking it from wherever they take it. But if it’s not one of these online services… these are all YouTube. I’m trying to find some normal self-hosted video here like mine. Let’s see, how to build an online store using Shopp. Obviously, I’m failing here. Just when I want to be able to find one of my videos, I can’t. Let’s see… build an e-commerce site. Okay, here we go. This is one, how to build an e-commerce website using WordPress and Thesis. This little image right here, that is… oh great, they’re using the YouTube version. So that’s not even one of them. Here it is, here’s one, Create an Online Store using WordPress, Shopp and Thesis. Perfect, this is what I was looking for.

So this image right there is an image out of my media library. It’s one of these images that are 240 by 135 and it only exists in my video sitemap. That is it’s only purpose for sitting here is so that Google will pick it up when it shows it up in search results. And if I put a caption around it, if I put a caption here, it wouldn’t show up here because the caption is only going to show up when you have inserted the image into a post or a page using the Media Library. Otherwise, the caption doesn’t show.

Member: Okay so for your sake, for that, all you wanted to do was to give it a place to have it available so when Google did its search, this thumbnail would show up.

Rick: That’s exactly right.

Member: That link is actually just going to go to your Thesis site.

Rick: This link right here links to that page and there we are, right? That’s my… I just clicked on the search results and it links to the page in the video sitemap.

Member: Okay, that’s…

Rick: Anyway, my point really was that… the point of saying all that was that alternate, the title alternate text and caption only are used if you are inserting the image in a post or a page using the media library. So for example, title alternate text and caption don’t show up if you use this image as a Thesis post image, for example. And don’t show up as this one is being used which is as a thumbnail for my video sitemap.

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