seoHere’s a tip for building traffic to your website: Optimize your images for search engines. Most artists don’t take advantage of this, and all it takes is a little extra effort each time you add an image to your site.

Search engines work mainly off of text and links. Because of this, search engines have a hard time reading images. They can do it, but not effectively in all cases. There are things you can do, however, to help your images show up on the search engines.

Why would I want my Images on the Search Engines? Of the hundreds of millions of searches that are done online each day, about 15% are exclusively for images. Think about that. If you are a painter, photographer, or other image based artist, your work could potentially be seen by hundreds, or thousands of people each day if you know what you’re doing. Copyright issues aside, you want your images to show up where people are looking, so you can attract more customers, gain notoriety, and make more money!

How to Optimize Your Images

Name your files – Most people save their images with file names like “photo1235.jpg.” When they upload the file to their website, whether it be a blog, Flickr, Etsy, Imagekind, or other site, the image file shows up as “,” which doesn’t tell the search engine anything about the photo. Name the file with descriptive text. If you are a wedding photographer, try something like “John-Smith-Wedding-Banquet-Hall-Name.jpg” and you will find your file being read and understood by the search engines.

Use Alternative (Alt) Text – Most sites with a visual editor, like Flickr, WordPress, or Imagekind, allow you to plug Alt text into your photo. If you know what keywords you want to show up for online, then this is the place to plug those keywords. Again, similar to the file naming, you might try Alt=”Los Angeles Wedding Photography Bride & Groom Photo” Limit your description to 50 characters.

Talk about the images on your page – Search engines will often pull information on images from the text around the image. If you are posting an image, make sure you talk about it a little bit. For example, you might post a photo of a wedding dress on your blog, and in the blog post put a paragraph describing who wore the dress, who designed it, and how you shot it.

Bigger & Better is better – Larger images rank better than thumbnails. Google claims that they can check the quality of focus and exposure in photographs and scanned images. In other words, better quality work is recognized by Google. Remember to balance your file sizes. Larger images may rank better, but a slow load time will kill your rankings.

Color, size, and type filters – The search engines are getting smart. If you are selling prints or other products with your images, this is especially important. Make sure you use color (R,G,B, etc) and size specifications (600×400, 150×150, etc) in your image descriptions (on page and alt/file names).

Have a social media presence – Sites like Flickr, Picassa, Imagekind, FolioTwist, Facebook, and Myspace are huge sources of traffic by themselves. People search for images there. Pick one or two of these sites according to your style & genre and create a presence there. Make sure your social media pages point back to your main website so you can let people know you are a professional.

Leave questions or success stories related to image optimizing in the comments below. Have a great day!

Cory Huff works for a search engine marketing firm in Portland, Oregon and also runs the website where he teaches artists of all kinds how to sell art online.

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