Are You Using Images Right?

You can find plenty of advice about blogging online, and especially how blogging needs to tie into SEO, but how do you know what advice to follow and which to ignore? It seems like everyone has an opinion, but sometimes instead of concentrating on some advanced SEO strategy or a theory of blogging, sometimes the best thing you can do is go back to basics and make sure you’re getting the most out of what you’re already doing. One area that it’s always good to check up on is how you’re using images.

First, make sure they’re legal!
One major mistake that many bloggers make is not using images that they actually have legal rights to. There’s a lot of confusion over “fair use laws” versus infringing on the copyright of photographers. There’s a very simple rule when it comes to deciding whether or not to use a picture on a blog post or your website: if in doubt, leave it out.

Fair use laws do not protect you from being sued if you violate someone’s copyright. This is why you should look for photos that explicitly state they are public domain or creative commons, and you should still link back to that page where you got them from. Most creative commons license photographs require recognition of the photo source or a link back, anyway, so you’re protecting yourself by doing so.

Never use a photo that isn’t clearly labeled as creative commons or public domain without the photographer’s explicit permission. Even if you credit the photographer by name, even if your website doesn’t directly make you a profit, even if you link back to the original source, you can still get sued for copyright infringement and those fines can be quite expensive even before figuring in legal fees.

Careful with those alt tags
Having a simple alt tag to label each photo on a website or blog is a good idea. In fact, that’s proper SEO and can help your traffic if some of the images get picked up by Google images or other similar programs. However there’s a right way to do alt tags, and a wrong way. A proper alt tag is short, to the point, and only a few words. The tag should describe exactly what the picture is about, not be keyword stuffed, and definitely not be a long list of keywords. Not only will these not help rank you, but updates to Google’s Penguin algorithm has made this type of offense one that could get you bounced right off the front page of the rankings.

Quality of the pictures matters
Low quality, low resolution, and pixelated images are all considered major red flags by Google and not only do those not help a blog post, but they will actually hurt your ranking. It’s better to have no pictures than bad pictures, but with all the options available online, your ability to take pictures with most cell phones, or how inexpensive a wide variety of online photography memberships are, there’s really no excuse not to find the perfect picture for whatever it is you’re looking for. Only use high quality images. Your blog will look better, readers will thank you, and the SEO results will be undeniable.

Should I link pictures?
There’s a split argument over this one, and the final answer could be “it depends.” Every website and blog is going to have different results, and what is a problem for one site might not be for another. The reason this question comes up most often is because many affiliate marketers figured out that if the picture was linked directly to the product they were selling the conversion rate was much higher. However, although Google doesn’t necessarily frown on this practice, they didn’t like it, either.

Anyone who is still going to use this practice of directly linking a picture to an affiliate offer need to make sure they use the rel=”nofollow” tag so search engine spiders don’t acknowledge the affiliate link and don’t follow it, both of which could be potentially harmful to your SEO efforts. Another alternative for websites looking to sell through clickable pictures is having the picture and right under it having a link that says “Click here to learn more” or “Click here to see the listing” or anything along those lines. This keeps the picture from being seen as a redirect while still providing the option and means for making sales on the website.

While the results have been mixed, many websites have gone with not linking pictures, assuming in the future this could be one of the next changes that Google rolls out with an update. At this point that is all assumption, and it is worth noting that linking a picture back to its original source seems to have no negative SEO impact at all.

You can have more than one picture a post
Finally, it’s worth noting that there is no rule or guideline anywhere saying you can only have one picture a post. If you have a particularly long post then breaking it up in several places with a picture can be a great idea. This is especially true of any type of list format where having one picture per list point makes a lot of sense in most cases.

This also gives you more opportunities for alt tags on more pictures, all of which can be found on a Google image search or create other methods of traffic to help people find your website or blog. A series of good pictures also allows you to write in the captions and show off your humor, knowledge, or simply double down on accrediting photos to protect yourself. When done right, there is no downside!

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