What are SEO Best Practices when using GIFs?

by Federica Rustico

12 min read
Last Updated: May 26, 2023

For all newcomers to the blog, let me introduce you to the world of animated images. GIFs, which stand for "Graphics Interchange Format," are ingrained in the culture of the internet and can be seen everywhere from TikTok’s videos to Stories on Instagram. They’re also very much used in email marketing and as reactions on messaging apps. An animated GIF is a sort of media file that can be incorporated into personal messages as well as public information online. If you're wondering like the rest of us is it's supposed to be pronounced as "jif" or "gif," it seems like both ways work. But if you want to start a debate online, prepare for the argument to get heated! If you do a quick search online, you’ll surely stumble upon a wide variety of GIFs from all around the world on Google Images or on Giphy, a.k.a. the largest GIF search engine out there. Google describes GIFs as "a lossless format for image files that supports both animated and static images". GIFs can convey feelings or circumstances in a format that is lighthearted and more interesting to the viewer. But how can you make sure Google won't penalize you for using them? Let's go over some of the most important SEO best practices when using GIFs.

How does Google crawl GIFs?

It appears that Google reads GIFs in the same way that it reads all other photos; the main difference is that more emphasis is placed on the capability of searching for and sharing GIFs through Google Images. So how does this happen, exactly? Google crawls GIFs by scanning the HTML or JavaScript code associated with the GIF, looking for keywords and phrases relevant to the GIF's content. It also looks for references to the GIF in other websites and social media posts. Google then uses the information collected from the crawl to index the GIF in its search engine.

What are SEO best practices when using GIFs?

Utilizing the various Google Image Optimization strategies is the best way to guarantee that your GIFs will be scanned, parsed, and indexed. In other words, you need to ensure it is properly optimized for search engines. First, you need to ensure that the title of your GIF accurately reflects its content. You should also include relevant keywords in the title and description of your GIF. Additionally, make sure to include captions, tags, and comments that also contain relevant keywords. Lastly, make sure to link your GIF to other relevant content and post it on social media platforms. By following these steps, your GIF will be more likely to be ranked on Google.

Are GIFs a good or bad thing for SEO?

GIFs have the potential to be beneficial for SEO in the same way that any carefully created images have the potential to be beneficial for SEO; specifically, they have the ability to increase clicks and keep visitors engaged on a website. It is possible to share GIFs, and a GIF that is well-branded and easy to share can live for a significant amount of time on the web. People enjoy GIFs, and using them into content can help break up lengthy pieces and make material more relatable.

But can they be bad for SEO? GIFs don't hurt SEO as long as you incorporate them in the right way and don't let them cause your site to load more slowly than it already is. When used excessively or as a replacement for text, GIFs might have a negative impact on search engine optimization. Accessibility may be compromised as a result, so care must be taken to ensure that GIFs adhere to all applicable standards.

Optimizing your GIFs

Optimizing your GIFs is essential in order for them to show up on search results. In order to do so, you need to personalize the filenames of your GIFs, use only original GIFs, and most importantly, make sure your alt-text is well written for both humans and search engines (I know this sounds crazy but there's a difference)! You can guarantee that Google is exactly aware where your GIFs are located by adding them to your image sitemap. According to Google, adding photos to sitemaps through the use of image tags is a recommended practice. Make sure the filenames and alt text are descriptive, and check to see that the GIFs fit in well with the text around them.If you want your GIF to do well in Google Images' search results, you should optimize its placement by placing it at the top of the page and in close proximity to text that is relevant to the image. Your GIFs ought to load quickly, have a responsive interface, and have solid URL structures.

Best practices according to Google

Google uses alt tags, descriptive file names, relevant image contexts, image captions, and associated links to understand what GIFs are actually all about. Which is exactly why we strongly advise you to implement Google's best practice recommendations. But know that they also recommend doing some things that can actually go against the whole experience of GIFs. 

For instance, the best practice recommendations that Google has established for publishing images, such as GIF files, state that on-image text should not be included because it would not be indexed. Even if it provides additional background, this additional context is likely to be forgotten. Including captions that are descriptive can help you get over this obstacle. When trying to figure out what a GIF is about, users and Google rely on the restricted alt descriptions that are provided. Google also considers the file names and other parts of the page's context. If the alternative text you employ is cohesive with the rest of your material and is written with accessibility in mind, then Google will be able to find and use your GIFs.

GIF performance and essential web components

Yes, GIFs are awesome but they can also negatively impact the performance of your website due to their file size. So it’s essential to keep your GIFs as light as possible because Google is placing more and more emphasis on Core Web Vitals as a ranking criteria. There are several different approaches that can be taken to boost performance. 

What are SEO best practices when using GIFs?

How to compress your GIFs

There are a few different approaches you can take in order to quicken the pace of your GIFs. You can expedite the loading time of your web page by using image compression websites or Adobe Photoshop to cleanly lower the file size of your GIFs. There are two types of compressions:

​​The best GIF compression websites

There are many online GIF compressors as well as programs that you can download to compress your GIFs. Here are 7 websites where you can compress your GIFs:  

1. Ezgif: Ezgif is an online GIF compressor that allows users to adjust the size and quality of their GIFs. It also offers various tools for creating GIFs, such as a GIF maker and editor, as well as a GIF optimizer. 

2. Gifgit: Gifgit is a free GIF compressor that allows users to quickly compress and optimize GIFs. It also provides users with a variety of options, such as adjusting the file size, frame rate, and the number of colors. 

3. CompressGIF: CompressGIF is an online GIF compressor that can reduce the size of GIFs by up to 90%. It also provides users with the ability to adjust the quality, size and frame rate of the GIF. 

4. TinyPNG: TinyPNG is an online image compressor that can also be used to compress GIFs. It offers users the ability to adjust the quality and size of their GIFs, as well as the ability to convert GIFs to other formats. 

5. Gif Compressor: Gif Compressor is a free online GIF compressor that allows users to quickly optimize their GIFs. It offers a wide range of options, such as adjusting the quality, size and frame rate of the GIF. 

6. ImageOptim: ImageOptim is an image compression tool that can also be used for GIF compression. It provides users with the ability to quickly optimize and compress GIFs, as well as the ability to adjust the quality and size of the GIF.

Pay attention, it isn’t at easy as it seems

Ok, I know I made it sound easy but you need to pay attention to the whole process in order to get it right. Let's spend a moment reviewing the process that Googlebot uses to crawl websites. Keep in mind that the performance of a website could suffer significantly if it has an excessive amount of different types of dynamic content than it would if the website lacked these different types of material. In other words, if a website is composed of thousands of GIFs, it has the potential to have a long loading time. This is the case regardless of whether or not the GIFs are displayed with information. A website's search engine rankings can suffer if its pages take a long time to load.

In order to keep page loading times as short as possible while still providing a more interesting and dynamic presentation of page content, owners and operators of websites need to strike a balance between the competing interests of users and search engines. Even while the loading time of a page can be affected by a variety of elements that are located on the site itself, the most common solution to the problem of GIF content is for developers to decrease the size of the images. Depending on the structure of the website, there are a few different approaches to decrease the size of the images that are displayed there.

GZIP compression

A method that can reduce the size of photographs by up to 70% without affecting their quality, either by compressing them or expanding them. Your website's web host is the one who will need to put this strategy into action on their servers. To determine whether or not your website has been "GZipped" by your web host, you can perform this test.

Image optimization

Using the "Save for Web" function of Photoshop can be of assistance in reducing the size of an image. The quality of the image will decrease along with the size of the image; as a result, developers need to discover the optimal balance between the size of the image and its quality. When it comes to reducing picture sizes, developers that rely on HTML (like those behind WordPress sites) don't actually free up more space on the server.

On the other hand, a web browser will still need to load the original picture size before it can reload the image and resize it to the dimensions that you have specified for it. If you choose a GIF format for your images rather than one of the other, larger picture formats, you will be doing both your website and the search engines a favor.

Avoid issues with accessibility

Accessibility is a topic that is receiving a lot of attention, and it is intertwined with search engine optimization (SEO). Good SEO techniques tend to help accessibility, and vice versa. Accessibility is the practice of making sure that a website and its content is accessible to all users, regardless of any issues they may have. This includes making sure that the website is designed, developed and tested to be compatible with all types of assistive technologies (such as screen readers) and web browsers. Accessibility also means that the website should be easy to navigate, understand and use. By making sure your website is accessible, you can improve your SEO rankings and reach a wider audience. 

In the case of GIFs, they recommend configuring animated GIF images so that they cease blinking after a predetermined number of times and do so within five seconds. 

New image formats

If you ever tried to save a picture from Google to your computer, you’ll remember that in the past it was as easy as hitting “save image as” to get the picture in the downloads section of your desktop. But now, most of the time you’ll try to do that, you’ll notice that the picture isn’t actually saved, and it’s in a format called WebP. That’s because Google has started advocating for next-generation image formats and one of the most important ones is called WebP, and it has the capability of reducing the file size of photos while keeping their original quality. WebP can be created with or without data loss. In other words, this makes it ideal for web use, as it can help reduce page loading times and improve user experience. Additionally, WebP supports animation and transparency, allowing for more creative and dynamic uses. Finally, WebP is an open-source format, meaning it is free for anyone to use. This makes it an attractive choice for web developers, as they can use the format without worrying about incurring licensing fees.

What are SEO best practices when using GIFs?

For informational sake, other formats Google is advocating for are BPG (Better Portable Graphics), and AVIF (AV1 Image File Format). BPG is a newer format that is similar to WebP, but is optimized for higher resolution images. AVIF is an image format based on the AV1 video codec and is gaining traction for its better compression results than other formats.

Wrapping up

GIF material has the ability to improve interaction on a particular post or piece of content, provided that it is used correctly and in the appropriate context. Because they are beneficial to users, GIFs have the potential to drive more people to your website. A collective "thumbs up" is being given to Google as a result of all of these elements working together. If, on the other hand, you've gone GIF crazy, you need to make sure that Google can still index your material as well as it could if it didn't contain any GIF content at all. This can be accomplished by providing Google with as much information as is possible regarding the content. You also need to check to see whether or not the existence of GIFs on your website has slowed down the rate at which pages load. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an effective technique to optimize GIFs?

GIFs can be optimized in a number of ways, one of which is through compression. To compress data, two approaches are typically employed:

- Lossy compression: is when a GIF is compressed and the quality is decreased a bit (in a way that viewers won't notice) in order to make it load faster. The quality of the GIF will suffer, but your web page will load much more quickly as a result. 

- Lossless compression: when you use lossless optimization, no pixels, colors, or information are lost in the process. However, the speed is not as fast as it is with files that have been optimized with lossy compression.

How do you optimize GIFs without losing quality?

1. Resize the GIF to the desired size - this can help reduce the file size by removing unnecessary pixels.

2. Reduce the number of colors - this can be done by removing unused colors, reducing the color depth, or dithering the image.

3. Reduce the number of frames - this can be done by removing unnecessary frames or combining multiple frames into a single frame.

4. Use lossy compression - this can help reduce the file size while still maintaining a good level of quality.

5. Enable GIF optimization - many programs offer GIF optimization settings that can be enabled to further reduce the file size.

How do you keep the quality of a GIF?

Select the "Standard" option from the compression menu if you want the original quality of your GIFs to be preserved. The size of the resulting GIF would be decreased while the animation would be preserved.