Don’t Leave Your Images in the Dark: Image and Video Sitemaps

You might think that adding a video or picture to your website is as simple as uploading the file. However, in most cases, search engines cannot find this type of content without proper indexing, potentially limiting the amount of organic traffic your site receives.

Indexing Images and Videos

As a website owner, therefore, it is important to understand why video and images on your site require proper indexing text to allow search engine crawlers to detect them. These search engine web crawlers still depend on text to rate a web site for relevance. To determine the relevancy of media content, the crawlers search the “alt” and “title” attributes that are associated with it. You can optimize this information, just as you can optimize your site’s ordinary text. Similar basic techniques can help you ensure that both your site’s visitors and search engine crawlers can optimally understand and access your site’s media content.

With picture and video elements, the best approach is generally to use text that humans can read easily. The first tactic is to name the media in a way that includes a basic description of its content. For example, for a picture about horse training in Delaware, instead of “ds293512.jpg,” switch the title to “horse-racing-training-local-delaware.jpg.” After you upload the picture, its URL will be more likely to be properly indexed by search engine crawlers. With the renamed title, the URL will look more like this: http://sampletitle.com/horse-racing-training-local-delaware.jpg.

This will allow the image to be indexed with relevant terms that a visitor could enter into a search engine, such as “horse training,” “horse racing,” “Delaware,” or some combination of the three, all of which result in the page being ranked more highly and attracting more organic traffic.

How This Can Impact Your Page Rank

The web crawlers for Google Images and similar programs will be able to read these .jpg titles to help determine when a page on your site is relevant to a keyword search. The way Google Images ranks images is by the alt attribute, which is considered the primary characteristic of the image — the primary attribute that allows the search engine to understand and rank it. Its impact is similar to that of ordinary HTML tags in a document. An image’s alt attributes must also be grammatically correct to rank highly, and just as with a text post, a video or picture with alt attributes that have been artificially keyword stuffed will not be ranked very highly. Of course, this type of search engine optimization strategy is always a bad idea, no matter what the specific type of content involved.

Specific Issues for Indexing Videos

Many of these indexing principles apply to both video and pictures, with a few exceptions. Web crawlers will analyze the video’s metadata along with details from its host. For example, if the video is being streamed on YouTube or Vimeo, the metadata signals for that service can have a major effect on the page’s search engine ranking. Therefore, creating titles and tags that captures the attention of anyone interested in the content of the video is the best way to approach search engine optimization of this type of media content.

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