SEO. Search Engine Optimization. It's a mystery to so many people and often billed as the Holy Grail of blogging. It promises you a quick route to high rankings, lots of traffic, a bigger community around your site, and, lets face it... all that can mean more money if you monetize your blog.
But solid SEO really has far more to do with following the basic principles of sound, user accessible, web design than it does with fancy algorithms, crazy long lists of vaguely related keywords, or linking to everyone under the sun.
Does that mean you need to be a web designer? Not at all!
In my first instalment of SEO 101 I'm going to show you 2 simple things you can do with your blog photos that will make your posts much more SEO friendly.
Give Your Photographs a Meaningful Title
Do you upload your photos to your blog with titles like "IMG367-8"? Stop! Name your photo before uploading it with a short name that describes the image. "Cherries" is much more search engine friendly than the name your camera assigns.
As you can see here in WordPress, I have uploaded the file with the name cherries.jpg. This is important for those of you using Blogger because Blogger doesn't give you a chance to change the title once it's uploaded so it's best to do it beforehand. WordPress also gives you a title field that you can change - it will automatically default to the uploaded file's name. If you renamed it before uploading, you won't need to change it here.
Using the Alt Tag
As you can see in the screen shot above, WordPress allows you to fill in an Alternate Text field - use it! This is where you can give a more descriptive, but still brief, explanation of the photo.
Don't think your blog has a lot readers using assistive technologies? Maybe not. (but you'd probably be surprised by how many do). But, by filling it in and making your blog more accessible, you are unwittingly focusing on one of the key principals of good web design: semantic design.
Without going into a long lesson in web design, semantic design is when page content (the text and information) is completely separated from style and design (the images, designs and colours that bring it to life and make it pretty). By using the Alt tag, which is what the Alternate Text field fills in behind the scenes, you are separating your content from the visuals. Think of it as if you had to write your entire post without using a photo to illustrate anything.
Blogger makes it a little harder for you to do this, which is very unfortunate given that Google owns them and they are such a popular blogging platform. But it can still be done!
When you upload a photo to blogger, you'll see something like this:
You'll need to click on the Edit HTML tab where you'll see some HTML code. Don't be frightened! This is easy, I promise!
Once you're looking at the HTML, you will want to find the opening img tag. Right after img you'll want to insert your alt text, just like this:
alt="bowl of cherries next to a coaster with cherries painted on it"
It's important that you surround your description with quotations. Here it is in action:
That's all you have to do. Don't delete anything, just add in the little piece of code after the img tag but before the border tag. Easy Peasy!
When your site is indexed by google bots, the bots don't see your photos. But they DO read your alt tag where you have described the scene. And they really like it when that's filled in! It gives them more information about your site and they are better able to index it. And that in turn will help your Search Engine Ranking. So fill in those Alternate Text fields! Not only will you improve your SEO, but you will instantly make your site more accessible compliant. A two for one!
SEO 101: Using Photos to Improve Your Food Blog's SEO was written by Melissa Hartfiel, FBC co-founder and author of the food blog Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach. She is a web and graphic designer, photographer and the resident FBC geek. Melissa lives just outside of Vancouver, BC. Twitter: @mhchipmunk