Image optimization is one of those things that falls under the “best practices” heading for Webmasters of all shapes, sizes, and knowledge levels. Simply put, if you are truly running your site the right way, then image optimization is a de facto benefit.

What, then, is the proper way to construct an image reference in XHTML, and what aspects of this help in Google’s image search?

Every standards-compliant, Google-sensitive image reference should contain 5 key items:

1. A src attribute specifying the URL of the image
2. A width declaration in which the width of the image is specified in pixels
3. A height declaration in which the height of the image is specified in pixels
4. An alt attribute that describes the content of the image—this is the #1 element of image-oriented SEO
5. A title attribute that contains text to be displayed when the user hovers his/her mouse over the image

Yellow hot air balloon

Yellow hot air balloonFor this example, we’ll use the image of a yellow hot air balloon at right, which is 220 pixels wide by 212 pixels high.

When we apply the five key items from above with the elements from our example image, we end up with an XHTML image reference that looks something like this:

<img src="http://mysite.com/yellow_hot_air_balloon.jpg"
width="220" height="212" alt="Yellow hot air balloon"
title="Yellow hot air balloon" />

That’s all there is to it! If you’re not accustomed to providing anything more than a src URL with your images, then you are probably slightly dismayed over the additional work that you’ll have to put in here in order to optimize your images.

All I can say to you is this—the benefits from running a Website with fully standards-compliant markup are amazing, and image optimization is one of those things that produces extremely tangible results. You would be wise to do this sooner rather than later.

A Final Word on Google Image Search

Based on my search results from the past few months, I have every reason to believe that Google places a premium on two things when ranking images in its results:

1. the alt attribute of the image
2. the context of the page and the relevance of the alt attribute thereto

Of course, there are other factors that influence how high your images will rank, but I believe that these two are the most important.

Finally, if you’ve been running your site for six months or more, then I guarantee you’ll see some pretty dramatic results from implementing this type of image optimization. And of course, I really appreciate you stopping by to read this, but don’t you have some coding to do? :)

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