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The dangers of misplaced third-party scripts

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The dangers of misplaced third-party scripts


I was recently helping one of my team members diagnose a new prospective customer site to find some low hanging fruit to share with them.

When I checked their home page with our Chrome extension, I found a misplaced canonical tag. We added this type of detection a long time ago when I first encountered the issue.

What is a misplaced SEO tag, you might ask?

Most SEO tags like the title, meta description, canonical, etc. belong in the HTML HEAD. If they get placed in the HTML BODY, Google and other search engines will ignore them.

If you go to the Elements tab, you will find the SEO tags inside the <BODY> tag. But, these tags are supposed to be in the <HEAD>!

Why does something like this happen?

If we check the page using VIEW SOURCE, the canonical tag is placed correctly inside the HTML HEAD (line 56, while the <BODY> is in line 139.).

What is happening here?!

Is this an issue with Google Chrome?

The canonical is also placed in the BODY in Firefox.

We have the same issue with Internet Explorer.

Edge is no exception.

We have the same problem with other browsers.

HTML parsing vs. syntax highlighting

Why is the canonical placed correctly when we check VIEW SOURCE, but not when we check it in the Elements tab?

In order to understand this, I need to introduce a couple of developer concepts: lexical analysis and syntax analysis.

When we load a source page using VIEW SOURCE, the browser automatically color codes programming tokens (HTML tags, HTML comments, etc).

In order to do this, the browser performs basic lexical analysis to break the source page into HTML tokens.

This task is typically performed by a lexer. It is a simple, and low-level task.

All programming language compilers and interpreters use a lexer that can break source text into language tokens.

When we load the source page with the Elements tab, the browser not only does syntax highlighting, but it also builds a DOM tree.

In order to build a DOM tree, it is not enough to know HTML tags and comments from regular text, you also need to know when a tag opens and closes, and their place in the tree hierarchy.

This syntactic analysis requires a parser.

An English spellchecker needs to perform a similar, two-phased analysis of the written text. First, it needs to translate text into nouns, pronouns, adverbs, etc. Then, it needs to apply grammar rules to make sure the part of speech tags are in the right order.

But why are the SEO tags placed in the HTML body?

Parsing HTML from Python

I wrote a Python script to fetch and parse some example pages with errors, find the canonical anywhere in the HTML, and print the DOM path where it was found.

https://gist.github.com/franciscobatista356/bd1fdb71c984ef3d1c6ad736ef6d4d96

After parsing the same page that shows misplaced SEO tags in the HTML Body, I find them correctly placed in the HTML head.

What are we missing?

Invalid tags in the HTML head

Some HTML tags are only valid in the HTML BODY. For example, <DIV> and <SPAN> tags are invalid in the HTML head.

When I looked closely at the HTML HEAD in our example, I found a script with a hardcoded <SPAN>. This means, the script was meant to be placed in the <BODY>, but the user incorrectly placed it in the head. 

Maybe the instructions were not clear, the vendor omitted this information or the user didn’t know how to do this in WordPress.

I tested by moving the script to the BODY but still faced the misplaced canonical issue.

After a bit of trial and error, I found another script that when I moved it to the BODY, the issue disappeared.

While the second script didn’t have any hardcoded invalid tags, it was likely writing one or more to the DOM.

In other words, it was doing it dynamically.

But, why would inserting invalid tags, cause the browser to push the rest of the HTML in the head to the body?

Web browser error tolerance

I created a few example HTML files with the problems I discussed and loaded them in Chrome to show you what happens.

In the first example, I commented out the opening BODY tag. This removes it.

https://gist.github.com/franciscobatista356/95c41ad6be7202023734092cc4c03307

You can see that Chrome added one automatically. 

Now, let’s see what happens if I add a <DIV> inside the HTML HEAD, which is invalid.

https://gist.github.com/franciscobatista356/d9cc6a6fcbe326f8bdbc3f6d2d0eb5ce

This is where it gets interesting. Chrome closed the HTML HEAD early and pushed the rest of the HEAD elements to the body, including our canonical tag and <DIV>.

In other words, Chrome assumed we forgot an opening <BODY> tag!

This should make it clear why misplaced tags in the HEAD can cause our SEO tags to end up in the BODY.

Now, let’s look at our second case where we don’t have a hardcoded invalid tag, but a script might write one dynamically.

https://gist.github.com/franciscobatista356/b5239152867159ac1876c1a96ad807f0

Here you see that if a script writes an invalid tag in the HTML head, it will cause the browser to close it early as before. We have exactly the same problem!

We didn’t see the problem with our Python parser because lxml (the Python parsing library) doesn’t try to fix HTML errors.

Why do browsers do this?

Browsers need to render pages that our Python script doesn’t need to do. If they try to render before correcting mistakes, the pages would look completely broken.

The web is full of pages that would completely break if web browsers didn’t accommodate for errors.

This article from HTML5Rocks provides a fascinating look inside web browsers and helps explain the behavior we see in our examples.

“The HTML5 specification does define some of these requirements. (WebKit summarizes this nicely in the comment at the beginning of the HTML parser class.)

Unfortunately, we have to handle many HTML documents that are not well-formed, so the parser has to be tolerant about errors.

We have to take care of at least the following error conditions:

The element being added is explicitly forbidden inside some outer tag. In this case, we should close all tags up to the one which forbids the element, and add it afterward.

Please read the full article or at least make sure to read at least the section on “Browser’s Error Tolerance” to get a better context.

How to fix this

Fortunately, fixing this problem is actually very simple. We have two alternatives. A lazy one and a proper one.

The proper fix is to track down scripts that insert invalid HTML tags in the head and move them to the HTML body.

The lazy and quickest fix is to move all SEO tags (and other important tags) before any third party scripts. Preferably, right after the opening <HEAD> tag.

You can see how I do it here.

We still have the same invalid tag and script in the HTML head and the SEO tags are also in the head.

Is this a common problem?

I’ve been seeing this issue happening for many years now, and Patrick Stox has also reported seeing the same problem happening often to enterprise sites.

One of the biggest misconceptions about technical SEO is that you do it once and you are done. That would be the case if the sites didn’t change, users/developers didn’t make mistakes and/or Googlebot behavior didn’t change either.

At the moment that is hardly the case.

I’ve been advocating technical SEOs learn developer skills and I hope this case study illustrates the growing importance of this.

If you enjoyed this tip, make sure to attend my SMX West session on Solving Complex JavaScript Issues And Leveraging Semantic HTML5 next month. Among other things, I will share advanced research on how Googlebot and Bingbot handle script and HTML issues like the ones I mentioned here.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Hamlet Batista is CEO and founder of RankSense, an agile SEO platform for online retailers and manufacturers. He holds U.S. patents on innovative SEO technologies, started doing SEO as a successful affiliate marketer back in 2002, and believes great SEO results should not take 6 months.

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5 Essential Schema Plugins for WordPress

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Julia McCoy


Not all website elements are created equal.

Some matter – and some matter a ton.

So what are your site’s standout elements? Here are five:

  • Customer reviews.
  • Ratings.
  • Product pricing.
  • Recipe ingredients (if your website is about cooking).
  • Your company’s operating hours.

It’s pretty obvious to you how important these elements are to your site.

But how can you make search engines understand that?

The answer is with schema markup and rich snippets.

What Are Schema Markup & Rich Snippets?

Rich snippets are the extra pieces of information that appear around your website’s link.

Schema markup is HTML code used to create rich snippets.

Take a look at this example.

5 Essential Schema Plugins for WordPress

Let’s say you want to buy a Darth Maul toy lightsaber.

You go on Google and type “Star Wars Darth Maul Lightsaber.”

The photo above shows you the results.

As you can see, you don’t only get links to the different websites selling the toy.

You also get a bunch of additional information to help you decide which link to click.

Amazon shows you star ratings and reviews.

Entertainment Earth includes the toy’s price, length, height, and weight.

Valuable pieces of information, right?

These are your rich snippets.

And if you add them to your site, you’ll naturally boost it higher on Google’s SERPs.

How Rich Snippets Boost Your SEO Ranking

Technically, rich snippets don’t directly affect your site’s ranking on Google’s SERPs.

However, they can still get you ranked higher on Google.

For instance, let’s say you want to bake a Black Forest cake for a loved one’s birthday.

You go on Google and type “Black Forest Cake Recipe.”

Here are the results you get:

5 Essential Schema Plugins for WordPress

As a busy cake-lover, which recipe would you most likely click? One that is rated 5 stars and takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to bake? Or one that is rated 4.9 stars and takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to bake?

Naturally, you’d choose the first option.

The star rating, votes, and description (all rich snippets) encourage you to go to livforcake.com for your recipe.

This is how your rich snippets increase your click-through rate.

And the higher your click-through rate, the more likely Google will notice you.

So how do you add rich snippets to your site?

The Top 5 Schema Plugins for WordPress

The great news is if you’re using WordPress, you don’t have to touch a single line of code.

Simply choose a schema plugin, and creating rich snippets will be easy.

Here are the top five marketers love.

1. Schema Pro

5 Essential Schema Plugins for WordPress

Schema Pro makes adding rich snippets to your site fast and easy.

In a matter of minutes, you can add your preferred configurations to all your pages and posts.

Schema Pro supports 13 useful schema types. These are:

  • Reviews (music, movies, products, books, etc.).
  • Services.
  • Recipes (you can create your own attractive schema rich card that’ll boost your click-through rate).
  • Software applications (add reviews and star ratings to give your applications a boost).
  • Video objects.
  • Books.
  • People.
  • Products (give searchers detailed information on what you’re selling).
  • Local businesses.
  • Articles (news, blogs, etc.).
  • Courses.
  • Job postings.
  • Events.

Price: $79/month or $249/lifetime

2. All in One Schema Rich Snippets

5 Essential Schema Plugins for WordPress

All in One Schema Rich Snippets is one of the simplest plugins you can find for schema markup.

Although it’s simple, it provides you with snippets for reviews, ratings, events, articles, and software applications.

One great thing about this plugin is you can use it for free.

It doesn’t have a ton of fancy designs to select from, but it does have the basics you need for rich snippets on your site.

The downside of using this plugin is it doesn’t support automation.

You’ll have to add schema markup to each page of your site manually.

What’s interesting about All in One Schema Rich Snippets is it’s made by the same maker as Schema Pro.

In fact, its dashboard heavily advertises Schema Pro.

So how to choose between the two?

Use Schema Pro if you’re running a bigger online business.

The price will be worth it for the automation, unique designs, and schema markup support for local businesses.

If you’re just starting out and want to try something for free?

Go with All in One Schema Rich Snippets.

Price: Free

3. Schema and Structured Data for WP & AMP

5 Essential Schema Plugins for WordPress

Schema and Structured Data for WP & AMP supports 33 schema types.

Three unique ones include:

  • How To (list the steps in your how-to article to be featured in your rich snippets)
  • Q&A (if your article is in a question and answer format, you can feature the most relevant questions and answers in your rich snippets)
  • Audio object (add details about audio you upload like date of upload, length, etc. to your rich snippets)

The best part? If the schema type you’re looking for isn’t part of the 33 this plugin offers, you can request a customized type!

Here are other features this plugin offers:

  • Reviews pulled from over 75 sites.
  • Your own customized review rating boxes with schema markup.
  • Compatibility with other schema plugins like SEO Pressor and WP SEO Schema.

Price: Personal: $99, Webmaster: $149, Freelancer: $299, Agency: $499

4. WP Review Plugin

5 Essential Schema Plugins for WordPress

If you run an ecommerce site, WP Review is a good plugin option for you.

This is because its main focus is increasing your consumer interaction with product and service ratings and reviews.

If you’re a blogger, this plugin is also great because you can use it to rank and rate tools, software, recipes, or anything else you review.

Here are the top features you’ll get with WP Review:

  • Rating systems using points, percentage, or stars.
  • Unlimited color changes for individual reviews.
  • Lightweight, won’t slow your site down.
  • Supported by most WordPress themes (both free and paid).
  • 2 templates for review boxes to choose from.

WP review is easy to install and configure, making schema markup simple for the least tech-savvy person.

Price: Personal (one site): $49/year or $236/lifetime, Developer (more than one site): $149/year or $596/lifetime, Agency (affiliate marketer): $299/year or $1,196/lifetime.

5. WP SEO Structured Data Schema

5 Essential Schema Plugins for WordPress

WP SEO Structured Data Schema is a free plugin that contains all the basics you need for schema markup and rich snippets.

It supports schema types including organizations, local businesses, videos, events, and ratings.

You can also add geo coordinates, people’s names, logos, business descriptions, working hours, and more.

Price: Free

How to Find the Schema Plugin for WordPress That Fits You

Schema markup and rich snippets are essential to your site SEO.

They make your site look attractive.

They encourage people to click your link.

They help you stand out in the sea of other websites.

So how can you choose the one that’s right for you?

It’s simple.

All you must do is determine your needs.

Do you have a simple site that doesn’t require detailed rich snippets? Go for a free, user-friendly plugin.

Are you an affiliate marketer with five websites and blogs? An investment in a plugin with the latest features will be worthwhile.

As soon as you’ve chosen and installed the right plugin, you’re ready to use a powerful tool that’ll make your click-through rate soar.

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Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, December 2019



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9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search & Tracking

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John Lincoln


If you want your website to load quickly on a mobile platform, you should make use of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology.

Fortunately, that’s easy to do if you’re using WordPress because there are quite a few AMP plugins available.

Even better: many of them are free.

You will, however, need to invest some time to configure them properly. You might even need to make some design tweaks.

Still, it’s worth the effort if Google rewards your site with a top rank in mobile search.

Quick note, before you try any of these AMP plugins for WordPress, make sure you:

  • Create a backup version of your website.
  • Ensure it works in your hosting environment.
  • Make sure it matches your goals for the site.
  • Have a developer on hand to make sure it can be configured properly.
  • Make sure it works with your theme.

Here are some of the best AMP plugins for WordPress in the market.

1. The Official AMP Plugin for WordPress

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

If you’re unsure which plugin to choose from in this list, you almost certainly can’t go wrong with the one that’s designed by the official AMP project.

Here are some of its capabilities:

  • Support for core themes: The plugin is compatible with the “core” themes (such as Twenty Twenty).
  • Compatibility tool: Sometimes, it’s not possible to automate AMP markup insertion. When that happens, the plugin will show which components are causing problems so you can address them manually.
  • CSS tree-shaking: The tool will remove unused cascading style sheets (CSS) so you can stay under the AMP-mandated 50k limit.
  • AMP Stories: While still in beta as of this writing, the plugin enables you to create, edit, and publish AMP Stories.

You can also configure the tool to follow one of three template modes:

  • Standard: Use the AMP plugin for your entire site. There’s no need to separate AMP and non-AMP content.
  • Reader: Shows pages with a simplified design that meets AMP standards. Each page has a canonical URL as well as an AMP URL.
  • Transitional: Delivers AMP and non-AMP experiences with the same look and feel.

The plugin also receives frequent updates. If you’re someone who’s into always getting “the latest and greatest,” that’s another argument in its favor.

2. AMP for WP – Accelerated Mobile Pages

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

One of the more highly rated options in this list is the AMP for WP plugin.

Yes, it even has a better average rating than the one produced by the official AMP project.

AMP for WP also offers a rich feature set that includes:

  • AdSense support.
  • Contact Form 7 support.
  • Email opt-in support.
  • Call To Action support.

In other words, if you want to transform your website into something resembling a mobile app and use it for digital marketing, this plugin might be your best bet.

The tool also plays nicely with some of the more popular WordPress SEO plugins, including Yoast SEO, All in One SEO, SEOPress, Rank Math, and The SEO Framework.

Additionally, AMP for WP also integrates with WooCommerce. If you’re selling products online, that feature alone can give you a nice competitive advantage.

The developers of the plugin offer premium support if you’d need a hand getting things up and running.

3. Schema & Structured Data for WP & AMP

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

How would you like to add markup to your pages so that they appear as rich snippets in search results?

If so, then have a look at the Schema & Structured Data for WP & AMP plugin.

Please note: this option isn’t an AMP plugin per se. However, it supports AMP. That’s the important takeaway here.

The tool also supports 33 different schema types, including blog posts, news articles, local business details, recipes, products, and videos.

If the schema type you want to use isn’t supported, the developers say that you can request it and they’ll add it for you.

The tool even supports conditional display fields, so you get to decide which posts, pages, or other content gets marked up.

You can even import markup data from other schema plugins, including SEO Pressor and WP SEO Schema.

The premium version of the tool enables you to add reviews and offers priority support.

4. PWA for WP & AMP

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

If you’d like to transform your website into a progressive web app (PWA), take a look at the PWA for WP & AMP plugin.

Use the tool to take your user experience up a notch with the latest and greatest web tech bells and whistles.

For starters, and most importantly for this article, the plugin offers full AMP support.

It also comes with UTM tracking, multi-site support, and a cache expiration option.

PWA for WP & AMP also offers a service worker feature that optimizes your website. That translates to faster load times for visitors.

And maybe best of all: the tool includes offline support. Visitors can load the site in a jiffy even when they aren’t connected to WiFi.

The premium version of PWA for WP & AMP gives you access to a loading icon library, calls to action, and data analytics.

5. Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

If you have the Yoast SEO plugin and the Official AMP Plugin for WordPress then you’re going to need the Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP plugin as well.

Why? Because it’s the “glue” that enables the two plugins to work together.

It also gives you an easy way to customize your AMP content.

Additionally, Glue adds rudimental styling so you can retain at least a little bit of the site’s look and feel for AMP visitors.

It’s developed by the same developer who created the Yoast SEO plugin.

6. AMP WP – Google AMP for WordPress

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

This one appears to be a fairly new entry in the library of AMP plugins. As of now, it’s only got a thousand active installations.

Still, the AMP WP plugin demonstrates promise. According to the product description, you can get as much as a 5x faster load with the tool.

Also, the developer claims that it’s 100% compatible with Yoast SEO.

Here are a few other features you get with the plugin:

  • GDPR support (for Europe).
  • Slider support.
  • Related posts view.
  • Support for third-party analytics (like Google Analytics).
  • Ability configure AMP for specific taxonomies (tags and categories).
  • Optional sticky header.
  • Image lightboxes.

7. weeblrAMP CE

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

The weeblrAMP plugin goes beyond what other plugins offer by empowering you to create a nearly complete AMP version of your entire site.

Additionally, weeblrAMP integrates with numerous other tools, including:

  • Disqus
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Facebook pixel
  • Yoast SEO
  • Jetpack
  • WooCommerce
  • Contact Form 7
  • Gravity Forms

Also, the plugin also enables you to fully customize the AMP experience with template overrides.

As of now, weeblrAMP only has 700 active installs. However, it’s got a 4.5-star rating.

8. AMP It Up!

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

AMP It Up! bills itself as another “set it and forget it” plugin. All you have to do is install and activate it and you’ve magically got an AMP-compliant website.

Truth be told, though, nothing is that simple. Especially in web development.

You’re going to have to do some manual configuration.

The tool offers support for:

  • GDPR
  • HTTPS
  • Google Analytics
  • YouTube
  • BrightCove

You can even add your own custom JavaScript to your AMP-enabled website. That gives you some flexibility with the functionality.

Additionally, AMP It Up! automatically adds social share buttons to your pages. You won’t have to fish around for another plugin for that purpose.

Also, the tool will automatically convert content with several pictures into an AMP-compliant carousel.

AMP It Up! only has a few hundred installs at this point but it’s got a 4-star rating.

9. AMP Stories for WordPress

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

Want a way to create fast-loading full-screen content on the web?

You can use AMP Stories to get website visitors more engaged with your brand.

And yes, they’re just like Instagram Stories.

You can include images, animations, videos, audio, and text in your own AMP Stories.

If you like the idea of using AMP Stories, you should take a look at the AMP Stories for WordPress plugin. It enables you to create a Story by just filling out a form on a post.

The tool also enables you to include a URL on your Story. That can come in handy if you want to redirect people to another part of your site (for example, to place an order).

The pro version of AMP Stories for WordPress includes bookend management, support for extra content at the end of Stories, and Facebook integration.

The tool currently enjoys a 5-star rating.

Wrapping It Up

In this mobile era, you need a website that loads quickly on mobile devices.

Fortunately, that’s easy to do with AMP.

What isn’t so easy is to manually implement AMP technology on your website.

However, if you’re using WordPress, there are plenty of plugins that will do it for you.

If you haven’t already added AMP support to your WordPress site, why not grab one of the plugins listed here and get the ball rolling today?

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, December 2019



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11 Important Image SEO Tips You Need to Know

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Anna Crowe


Think about the last time you uploaded an image to your website. Chances are you downloaded it from a stock photography site, uploaded it to the backend of your site, and then inserted it to the page.

This makes a shining example of image optimization, right? Not quite.

You’ve added a giant bowling ball weight to your site that’s slowing down the page speed. And, search engines can’t read your images without alt text.

Let’s change that.

Over 20% of all U.S. web searches happen on Google Images, according to 2018 data from Jumpshot.

SEO amateurs and pros alike know that optimizing images for your website is notoriously worth the time spent.

Dan Morgan at WebSpection got one of his photos to rank #1 in Google Images for “best person in Cardiff” in less than four days by optimizing his image.

And, Robbie Richards generated 150,732 visits by adding image alt tags, compressing images, and a few other SEO tricks.

Without proper image optimization, you’re wasting a valuable SEO asset.

It’s like the search engines are giving away Oreos and milk for free. But, you only take the Oreo. When in reality, the Oreo is way better dunked in milk.

Image optimization creates many advantages such as better user experience, faster page load times, and additional ranking opportunities. And, it’s becoming an increasingly more important role.

As Matt Southern pointed out, Gary Illyes’ statement on image search in a recent Reddit chat:

“We simply know that media search is way too ignored for what it’s capable doing for publishers so we’re throwing more engineers at it as well as more outreach.”

But which factors are most important to ensure your images are findable and don’t slow down your site?

Here are 11 important image optimization tips you need to know.

1. Choose the Right Format

Decoding all the various image format can feel like your first time ordering at Taco Bell. But, before you can start adding images to your site, you want to make sure you’ve chosen the best file type.

While there are many image formats to choose from, the PNG and JPEG are the most common for the web.

  • PNG: Produces better quality images, but comes with a larger file size.
  • JPEG: You may lose image quality, but you can adjust the quality level to find a good balance.

For me, PNG is the unsung hero of image formatting. Typically, I only use JPEGs for bigger, more visual images taken by a true photographer. But, for my daily use, PNG is the way to go.

2. Compress Your Images

Yep, hell hath no fury like a bloated web page after uploading an image that’s not compressed.

Search engines will look at your web page like you might look at a big vat of Crisco: You can’t seriously be considering putting that on you your website, right?

According to HTTP Archive, images make up on average 21% of a total webpage’s weight.

That’s why I highly recommend compressing your images before uploading to your site. You can do this in Photoshop or you can use a tool like TinyPNG. TingPNG also has a WordPress plugin you can use too.

However, I prefer WP Smush as my WordPress plugin. It reduces the image file size without removing the quality. Whatever plugin you use, make sure to find one that compresses the images externally on their servers. It reduces the load on your own site.

Increasingly.com improved website speed by 33% / 2 seconds by compressing images.

I mean, there’s just something sexy about faster page speed when after you compress your images.

If you’re unsure how your images are affecting your page speed, I recommend using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

3. Create Unique Images

You want your photos to pop on your site. If you fill your website with stock imagery, you’ll look unoriginal – like thousands of other sites that don’t stand out.

Too many websites are cluttered with the same generic stock photos.

Think about a corporate website, a consulting firm, a business that prides itself on customer service. All these websites use virtually the same looking stock image of a businessman smiling.

I’m sure you’ve seen one that looks like this:

common business man stock image

While you may have your stock images perfectly optimized, it won’t have the same impact or potential SEO benefits as an original, high-quality image.

The more original pictures you have, the better experience for the user and the better your odds are of ranking on relevant searches.

4. Beware of Copyright

Regardless of the image files you choose to use, make sure there’s no copyright conflict.

The Postal Service is paying $3.5 million in an image copyright lawsuit. And, Sketchers got sued for $2.5 million.

If Getty, Shutterstock, DepositFiles, or some other stock photo provider owns an image you use, and you don’t have a license to use it, then you’re risking an expensive lawsuit.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), you could be issued a notice if you have violated any copyright issues. If the owner of a piece of content sees their content on your website, they can issue a DMCA Takedown which you must comply with.

Google Images allows you to filter results based on those available for reuse. And, Mindy Weinstein shares 41 different websites to find free images.

5. Customize Image File Names

When it comes to SEO, creating descriptive, keyword-rich file names is absolutely crucial.

Not customizing your image file name is like getting a burrito with nothing in it. It just plain sucks.

Image file names alert Google and other search engine crawlers as to the subject matter of the image.

Typically, file names will look like “IMG_722019” or something similar. That’s like ordering from a menu in a different language. It doesn’t help Google.

Change the file name from the default to help the search engines understand your image and improve your SEO value.

This involves a bit of work, depending on how extensive your media library is, but changing the default image name is always a good idea. Let’s take this image of chocolate for example:

dark chocolate coffee flavored bar

I could name it simply “chocolate” but if you sell chocolate on your website, potentially every image can be named “chocolate-1,” “chocolate-2,” and so on.

I named this image “dark-chocolate-coffee” to let users and search engines understand the image.

6. Write SEO-Friendly Alt Text

Alt tags are a text alternative to images when a browser can’t properly render them. Similar to the title, the alt attribute is used to describe the contents of an image file.

When the image won’t load, you’ll get an image box with the alt tag present in the top left corner. Make sure they fit with the image and make the picture relevant.

Paying attention to alt tags is also beneficial to the overall on-page SEO strategy. You want to make sure that all other optimization areas are in place, but if the image fails to load for any reason, users will see what the image is supposed to be.

Plus, adding appropriate alt tags to the images on your website can help your website achieve better rankings in the search engines by associating keywords with images. Even Google has remarked on the value of alt text in images.

It provides Google with useful information about the subject matter of the image. We use this information to help determine the best image to return for a user’s query.

Alt text is required under the American Disabilities Act for individuals who are unable to view images themselves. A descriptive alt text can alert users exactly what is in the photo. For example, say you have a picture of chocolate on your website.

The alt text could read:

<img src=”chocolate-1.jpg” alt=”chocolate”/>

However, a better alternative text that describes the image would read:

<img src=”chocolate-1.jpg” alt=”dark chocolate coffee flavored bar”/>

Alt text is viewable in the cached text version of the page, aiding in its benefit to both users and the search engines. For further SEO value, the alt text can act as the anchor text of an internal link when the image links to a different page on the site.

7. Think About the Image File Structure

In 2018, Google updated its Image Guidelines. One of the major updates they revealed was that they use the file path and file name to rank images.

Repeat: The file path and file name is an actual ranking factor.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce brand with multiple products, instead of placing all your product images into a generic /media/ folder, I would recommend structuring your subfolders to more category related topics like /shorts/ or /denim/.

8. Make Your Page Title & Description

Google also revealed that it uses your page title and description as part of its image search algorithm.

The Google support page states:

“Google Images automatically generates a title and snippet to best explain each result and how it relates to the user query… We use a number of different sources for this information, including descriptive information in the title, and meta tags.”

All of your basic on-page SEO factors like meta data, header tags, copy on the page, structured data, etc. affects the way Google ranks your images.

It’s like putting all your toppings on your burrito. It tastes way better with guac. So, make sure to add the guac for improving image rankings.

9. Define Your Dimensions

If you’re using AMP or PWAs, you are required to define your image dimensions in the source code.

However, if you’re not using either, it’s still a best practice to define the width and height. It provides a better user experience.

Plus, it allows the browsers to size the image before the CSS is loaded. This stops the page from jumping when it loads.

10. Make Your Images Mobile-Friendly

Oh, mobile SEO. At its worst, it can give you a high bounce rate and low conversions. But, at its best, it can give you more ranking power and better user engagement.

Problem is, how do you optimize your images for the mobile-first index?

You create responsive images. This means the image will scale with the size of the site whether the user is using desktop or mobile. It adjusts to the size of the device.

11. Add Images to Your Sitemap

Whether you’re adding your images to your sitemap or creating a new sitemap for images, you want images somewhere in your sitemaps.

Having your images in a sitemap greatly increases the chances of search engines crawling and indexing your images. Thus, results in more site traffic.

If you’re using WordPress, Yoast offers a sitemap solution in their plugin.

Image Optimization Key Takeaways

So, before you begin uploading your image to your site, make sure to follow the image optimization rituals from above.

The most important thing is to make sure the image and alternative text are relevant to the page. Other key takeaways:

  • Choose the right file format. PNGs are my favorite for screenshots.
  • Reduce file size for faster page load speed.
  • Make sure your on-page SEO elements (meta data, structured data, etc.) pair with your image.
  • For crawlability, create an image sitemap or make sure your images are featured in your sitemap.

Optimizing images are no joke. With advancements in voice search technology, media is a growing importance and your entire site will benefit from taking the steps above.

Happy optimizing!


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots taken by author



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