One common SEO question at Wikia is about the impact images have on rankings. Search engine algorithms are not public and most look at hundreds of unique factors, but correlation studies have shown pages that include properly tagged, relevant images often rank higher than pages that do not.
Google and other search engines are getting better at understanding the relationship between images and other on-page content, but search bots cannot understand the images themselves. Happily there are some steps we can take to help the search engines out.
File names should be as descriptive as possible; James Bond-Thunderball-Jetpack.jpg is better for SEO than img012.jpg. When the image is used on an article page, the caption can include even more details (e.g. “Sean Connery flies a jetpack as James Bond in the 1965 film Thunderball.”)
On Wikia, MediaWiki markup sets the HTML source code for the page, so our file names also become the “alt” or “alternate” attribute for images that do not load. This best practice also aids blind and visually impaired users who use screen readers to access our communities. Contributors override the automated alt tag using “alt=” in the markup for the image in source mode.
Descriptions in the summary/description section of the file page provide more keyword content for the search bots and appear in search results as the meta description—the short description of a page that appears beneath a link in search.
Meta descriptions are not factored into modern search algorithms; rather, this tag acts as the "advertising copy" for a link and improving it can bring more visitors to a page.
Creating pages of relevant images can be great for SEO, but galleries must have enough content on them to provide value to users. Pages upon pages of images alone could bring penalties for thin, low-quality content.
In order to make a basic image gallery a quality page, each page should be about a single topic (e.g."James Bond Gadget Images"), and each image needs a detailed name and description. To users and search bots find these pages, add links to and from relevant pages (e.g. Gadget gallery page linked to and from a "Gadgets" article page).
- Check the Pages Without Images report in Special:Insights and add images to the pages that still need them.
- Conduct an audit of the image names and descriptions on existing file pages.
- Be sure to add text and relevant links to pages that have image sliders and galleries or image-based navigation.
I love to chat about page design and search engine algorithms, so feel free to ask questions and suggest topics for future blog posts in the comments or on my message wall.
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