Photos are an integral part of your travel blog. They add depth to your chosen topic and not to mention can work at filling your posting schedule if you are running short on time (that’s the excuse we use isn’t it). This is more a best practices post than a specific tech post but I’ve seen this done so often I wanted to have a little rant today because you really are missing out on good search traffic and I want to help you.
By default my digital camera saves files in a format that looks like this “P1050801.JPG”. Your camera most likely saves it in a similar in comprehensible format I’m sure. If only our cameras were smart enough to know what you were taking a picture of and name it accordingly I’d never have to write this post.
With that file most of you budding travel bloggers simple upload it straight away and hit the publish button. It’s at this point that you have added extra load time to your blog as well as lost out on valuable search traffic.
Forget your current regime of adding photos to your blog, here is the process I go through when uploading a photo to my blog that most people don’t do.
- Resize photos to reduce file size
- Save picture to suitable named file
- Upload and fill out details on WordPress
Resizing a Photo
This is key as it saves you from uploading a 3MB file that can instantly slow down your blog load time for each and every visitor. The process varies depending on both the computer you use (Windows vs Mac) and the software you actually manage your photos with. I’m far from a pro so I suffice with using iPhoto on my Mac to handle my photo collection. I could also use Picasa (free software) which runs on both Mac and Windows or many other alternatives. Even the software that come with your camera should be capable of this task.
In a sense resizing a photo is shrinking it down from poster size to something closer to what will appear on your blog. As a general rule I normally size my photos down to 640×480 (medium setting on export from iPhoto) which is a little larger than what my blog can display. This will take the standard 3-5MB file down to something under 100KB which is what you want to be looking for. You can also reduce the quality of the photo slightly which drops the size down and only the experts will pick it out. Combine this with the plugin Smush.It I mentioned on my simple speed up your blog tips to reduce the size even more.
The only concession here is if you are serious about your photography and are posting large full screen images for maximum impact. I don’t need to explain the details to you folk as you probably can recommend some tips of your own for everyone here.
Saving Your Pictures
This is so simple I don’t know why everybody isn’t doing it. Before you upload your stunning shot of you on a beach in Australia or capturing that beautiful Tuscan sunset just stop for a second. Click on that horrible filename (remember P1050801.JPG) and hit RENAME, please for the love of god hit RENAME (I’m sure you kill a fairly or something every time you don’t do this).
In a couple of words that photo of you in Australia becomes RelaxingOnBondiBeach.jpg and that sunset becomes BeautifulTuscanSunset.jpg. Which do you think google will love you more for?
You see the big Google beast is smart and it uses these descriptive file names and indexes them for later. This way when little Jimmy searches for photos of people relaxing on Bondi Beach he finds your photo and your blog. Who on earth searches for P1050801? It’s a basic SEO principle, name your pictures like you would your post titles, Get It?
Also make sure to not include spaces in the photo names. It adds extra HTML characters to the name which can in some instances cause problems.
Uploading Photos to WordPress
I’m sure most of you know how to upload photos to WordPress but what I’ve seen so so so many of you not do is fill out all of the details correctly. For reference here is a photo I uploaded to theaussienomad.com recently.
Default settings require you to fill out the Title attribute but so many people enter some generic text that might as well not be there. Either use the same keyword rich name you gave the file in the last section to keep everything uniform across your site or vary it slightly. Looking at that picture I could have been more specific on the title but as it was my header picture it loses some of its effectiveness.
What so many people leave empty however is the Alternative Text field. This is just as important because if your photo fails to load for some reason this is the text that will appear to describe the image. It is also a key factor in making your website as accessible as possible to everyone. I say this because screen readers for the blind will use the ALT Text to help explain what the photo is to them. So in this field using a short sentence describe the photo for your readers.
Don’t forget Google either they read this bit of text as well to help people find your photos.
These three easy steps can not only help improve the load time of your blog but also open you up to an enormous amount of search traffic. As a travel blogger you are in the driving seat with amazing photos from all over the world that people are jumping over themselves searching for on a daily basis. Make their task easy and spoon feed Google exactly what they are searching.
It really is a hidden amount of traffic that so few travel bloggers pay enough attention too. Oh and this isn’t just limited to new bloggers either folks no no, some of my favourite blogs I follow have great photos from all over the world are they worst at this. Featured photos that would take your breath away are missing out on extra search traffic because they didn’t take the 2 minutes to name their files correctly.
Why go to all the trouble of writing the perfect post that will be a hit with Google and then let yourself down with those couple of photos that add the extra oomph to your piece. If you don’t believe me watch your search traffic after you start doing this, I bet you start seeing hits from google image search and other similar sites more and more over time.