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7 SEO Essentials for Every Visual Marketer in 2018

Marketers know they need to produce visual content, but many have failed to update their SEO strategies to ensure the success of their visual assets.

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BY Amy Balliett - 21 Jun 2018

7 SEO Essentials for Every Visual Marketer in 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Visual content is more relevant in 2018 than ever before.

82 percent of people prefer videos over regular social posts from brands, according to a survey conducted by LiveStream and New York magazine. But plenty of us don't know how to approach SEO for content that search engine algorithms still have a limited ability to analyze.

Visuals get 94 percent more views than text, according to a study from MDG Advertising, but many visual campaigns still fall flat. Quality and usefulness are key for creating visual content -- from motion graphics and interactive pages to infographics and social media assets -- that outperforms all those other visuals flooding the web. Once you've designed custom, high-quality visuals, your next step is to re-envision your SEO for a visual world.

Here are seven essential SEO strategies you need to implement today:

1. Write 300 words summarizing your visual content.

It doesn't matter where you place it on the page, but you need to write a description of what your visual content depicts in order to help out search engine crawlers. Yoast SEO's website recommends writing at least 300 words. Just remember, use SEO best practices when you're writing this description: pick a relevant keyword but don't overuse it, and deploy links wisely.

2. Don't overstuff your alt tags.

We all know SEO crawlers read alt tags -- so we tend to go overboard with them. Some marketers overload their alt tags with every target keyword for their site, regardless of their relevance to the image. In a word, don't.

The first purpose of alt tags is to help the visually impaired know what the image is showing, so don't make it a jumble of random words. Add a short and simple description of the visual content in your alt tag -- and keep it six words or less.

3. Keep file sizes small.

You don't want an oversized image to hinder your load time. While recommendations on the best image sizes for web vary, part of it depends on how and where the content will be displayed on your website.

A header image, of course, needs larger dimensions than a thumbnail. DPI, or dots per inch, will be irrelevant, though -- screens generally work fine with images at 72 or 96 DPI.

4. Take advantage of metadata and file-naming.

Most agree that Google does indeed read image metadata, though the debate continues on exactly how this is done. EXIF data -- data coming from the camera -- can include an image description, and according to Cognitive SEO, is probably used by Google to rank your visual content. Spend some time optimizing this data.

Other metadata that we know affects ranking is file names. A strong file name will include one or more of your target keywords (whichever ones are relevant to the image at hand).

5. Nix the stock assets.

When was the last time you went to a corporate home page and found a stock photo of, say, a professional-looking man with his arms crossed? It might have been a nice photo, but it looked cheap.

Photos, icons, and illustrations that are custom-made for your page help consumers who are doing image searches know something about you before they even click through. Stock photos tell them little or nothing, and what's more, they're the kinds of photos web searchers will roll their eyes at and refuse to click.

6. Get your file types right, and use with caution.

JPEGs are usually the best for maintaining image quality, color value, and resolution. What's more, if you edit the image right, you can keep file sizes small.

But be cautious -- since JPEGs use lossy data compression, you can lose quality with a shoddy editing job. PNGs are better when you need a transparent background, and GIFs are great for small animations, such as social snippets to promote a longer motion graphic.

7. Include visual content in your sitemap.

Sitemaps help search engines understand the content of your site better. That's why you should include every piece of visual content on your site -- from infographics to interactive content -- in your sitemap.

For motion graphics and videos, Kissmetrics recommends including a title and description, a thumbnail URL, a play page URL, and a raw video file URL. For static content, include image location, a caption, and a title and description. Such WordPress plugins as Yoast SEO or Google XML Sitemap for Images will automatically include your visual content in a sitemap.

Great visual content deserves great SEO. Implement these strategies immediately to take your engagement and traffic to the next level.

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