Sharing to social media, comic forums and funny reels is one way to get exposure, but there’s a simple, local step to take that makes your comics searchable by keyword. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and refers to the practice of making internet content more searchable. You won’t get a great amount of traffic by optimizing images that have no visible accompanying text (which is what this article will help you do), but it’s better than nothing. So, here, have this article about SEO for comics.
SEO for comic images
There are a number of steps to take in order to optimize your comic image for search. They are:
- Conduct keyword research
- Choose a file type
- Create a file name
- Include alt text
- Build inbound links
- On page optimization
Assuming that your comic is alone on the page, you won’t have to worry about anything else. If you plan on including text below your image, then you’re going to want to optimize that content for search as well by splicing in whatever keyword you decide to use. More text means more searchability. But we’re talking comics, so who’s going to read it?
I’m going to address each of these steps one by one.
1.) Keyword research for comics
All SEO begins with keyword research. “Keywords” or “keyword phrases” are the words that people will type into a search engine like Google in order to get a list of relevant results. SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page, and by targeting a certain keyword, you’re hoping to get on the first page for that search query.
If you want to target certain keywords, you should not be thinking about single, standalone words, but phrases. You’re never going to get your page ranked for the word “comic”, for example. You will definitely get ranked for “comic about a guy with a hammer for a nose”.
This long keyword falls into the dominion of what SEO professionals call the “longtail”, which refers to the long end of the spectrum of search queries that encompasses all such multi-word queries. There might not be a lot of density per query, but there are a hell of a lot more long queries than short, one word queries.
So, keyword research for comics. How important is it?
Not very, in my experience. The best you can do, really, is to help people find your comic when they only have memory to go on. So, for example, you make a comic about a guy with a hammer for a nose. If you optimize your comic for something clever like “hammertime comic”, then your comic will show up on SERPs that include the query “hammertime + comic”. But someone who saw that hammer nose comic will search exactly that: “that comic about the guy with a hammer for a nose”. So your job is to make sure that when someone is looking for that comic, they’ll find it (ie, optimize for “comic about hammer nose guy”).
If you don’t want to optimize your comic to help people find it, but instead want to optimize it so that people discover your comic, then you’ll want to conduct keyword research. The best tool is the Google Adwords Keyword Planner. First create your comic, then try to think of words or phrases that people who might enjoy seeing your comic would search. Look at this screenshot of the Adwords dash:
The first option will help you come up with ideas for new keywords based on a keyword or phrase that you supply. You can filter the suggestions that you get by country and language, too.
The second option is for if you already have a list of keyword ideas, and you want to see how much traffic and competition they receive. A keyword with high competition means it’ll be hard to rank for. SEO for comics means some competition. The keywords with more traffic are the ones you should be choosing. So just to illustrate the subtle differences that can exist between different words, have a look at this:
Once you have the best keyword or keyword phrase for your purposes, you can decide on a file name.
2.) Choose a file type for your comics
The file type of your comic is important mainly for the loading speed of your page. If your page is slow, the Google overlord takes account and it can hurt your SERP rankings. So you want to use a losslessly compressed format like JPG. PNGs are too heavy, and will slow your site down. “Losslessly” means that an image format compresses the data without losing pixel quality in what we see. So if you want to optimize your comic, start by using compressed image file types.
Oh, and that goes for everything else that appears on the comic page: title image, social media buttons, share buttons, background, etc. Use lightweight file types globally. If you have a website that uses hover effects, make sure you’re using CSS sprites and not database queries.
3.) Creating a file name for your comic image
The file name refers to the file itself that you choose to upload. “comic34234.jpg” is a file name. It’s a bad file name. You might be tempted to name your comic files by date, for your own reference. But once you upload the file and use it on a webpage, the Google spider will crawl it and it will be public. It reads the file name, and takes into account any words it finds there. So, to find “comic 34234.jpg“, I would have to query Google images for “comic34234.jpg“.
The keywords that you researched should appear in the file name. That, or the most likely description of the comic. So, using my hammer nose comic example, my file name could be: “hammer-nose-comic.jpg“. I might not be on first page SERPs for that query, but in Images I sure as hell will. A quick example. I made a Once I Dreamed comic about peeing during sleep. I chose to optimize the image for Image Search descriptively. The file name is “once-i-dreamed-peeing-in-sleep.jpg” So if someone wants to find that comic about dreaming peeing in your sleep, here’s the SERP, and my comic at #2 (number one is rage >:(, but funny all the same):
I want to mention that so far I’m only talking about ranking your comic images based on what you can do from your own website. In the section below called “Inbound links”, I’ll explain how important it is to distribute your comic.
4.) Give your comic ALT text
The ALT tag refers to “alternative text“. This is the text that appears when images are disabled. This text is important mainly for screen readers, which are used by computer users with disabilities or who are incapacitated in some way. Blind people, for example, will depend on the ALT tag. You might think that blind people would never read a comic. But if you make your comic’s alt tags hilarious, you’ll find a new follower base in the blind, perhaps. SEO for comics will bring in followers one way or another.
ALT tags are also important for SEO. Optimizing your comic images means creating an alt tag that includes you keyword phrase. If you don’t care about making the alt text creative, then you can copy the keyword verbatim: “hammer nose comic”.
Where does the ALT tag go? Well, it’s HTML. If you use WordPress, the image editor gives you a alternative text field to fill out. If you use other editors that lack this, then maybe you can still edit the html. All images show up in HTML like this: <img src=”filename.jpg”>. The alt tag is simply: <img src=”filename.jpg” alt=”alt text goes here”>.
It’s important to differentiate between alt and title tags. “Title” can appear in an img tag in the same way as alt. Title text is what you see when you hover over the image. There’s only one comic I can think of that has used title text to advance his hilariousness: XKCD. SEO is not concerned with title text, as far as popular opinion goes.
5.) Creating inbound links
The internet is a web. Google decides which pages appear at the top of SERPs based on popularity and keywords. They measure popularity by measuring external and internal inbound links. External inbound links are links from other website domains to yours. Internal inbound links are links from your own website.
If in the end I decide to name my hammer nose comic “comic34234.jpg“, my comic still might appear at the top of SERPs for the query “hammer nose comic” if other websites link to that comic page using those keywords: hammer nose comic. So you can see the power of links.
You can control the internal inbound links. From somewhere on your site, it may be good to link to your comic page using the keywords for that comic.
6.) Optimizing the page on which a comic appears
So far, I’ve been talking about optimizing the image file itself. But every image has to be housed on an HTML webpage. Every HTML webpage has a title, meta description, and on-page title. If the keyword that you choose appears in all of these, then your page and comic is optimized the best it can be.
The title is what appears on the SERP, and on the tab in your browser. In the HTML code, it is the text that appears between the <title></title> tag. The example below uses the peeing comic as an example, so as you can see I decided not to use the keywords. Why? Like I said, SEO hasn’t really helped the comics as much as it might help a blog rank for keywords (*wink*)
The meta description is what appears on the SERP as the black text. Sometimes google grabs text that you never put in your meta description, like in the example above.
On page title
The on page title appears in the <h1></h1> tags. On Things in Squares, I’ve hidden the title from view, but that’s not to say that it’s not there. Google can still read it. This is “black hat” SEO, meaning you can get penalized for it. Where you can see the title on my comics is in the archive, so as you can see they are not generally optimized for keyword searches, but rather they’re optimized for engagement.
That’s pretty much all there is to say about SEO for comics. Any questions just put them in the comments here. I felt like writing about SEO for comics because I know about it, but really, it doesn’t matter nearly as much as just producing funny stuff. They say content is king.
Here are some other articles:
- Getting a comic on the front page of imgur
- Where to publish your webcomic
- How to draw a webcomic or not
- Choosing a web host for comics websites
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