Image SEO 101: Optimize Your Images For Better Rankings

image SEO tips

If you aren’t optimizing each and every image on your website, you’re leaving TONS of untapped traffic on the table. Google, Yahoo and Bing have their own image search engines that ranks pictures on the internet for specific keywords and phrases. When an image from your website shows up for a high-traffic keyword, you’ll reap the benefits of more visitors checking out your site.

But how exactly do you optimize images for better search engine rankings? And what’s the best file format to save web-based images? To learn the answers to these questions and more, keep reading.

Why Image Optimization Is Important

Of course, optimizing your images may also benefit your website’s ranking. Search engine bots will notice the text on a page correlates to the image. In turn, they place greater trust and authority on the page, increasing the chances of it ranking well for its target keywords. Webmasters who take the time the time to optimize their images typically experience better rankings and more traffic. Image optimization is just one of the many factors which weigh into a website’s search engine ranking. And while it may not hold as much value as text, it’s still a key part of building a successful, well-optimized website.

Search engine bots aren’t able to determine what an online image depicts the same way we can. If a picture of a dog is uploaded to a website without any additional information, search engines are clueless as to what it depicts. Humans are able to identify images in less than a second, but search engines don’t have this luxury (not yet, at least). Adding relevant keyword-rich data, however, helps search engine bots make better, more accurate decisions when ranking images.

Optimizing your images will also translates into a better experience for your visitors. For instance, you can place a caption on your images to convey facts, data or short sentences related to it. This creates a smoother, more enjoyable experience for visitors.

File Name

Proper image SEO begins with the right name. If you’re uploading images with a generic name like image1234.jpg or a series of random characters, search engines will have a harder time indexing and ranking them appropriately. Instead, give your images a name that’s relevant to what they depict.

If you’re uploading an image of a dog swimming in the lake, then perhaps you could name it dog-swimming-lake.jpg. It only takes a couple seconds to rename an image, but doing so will offer a helping hand to search engines when they attempt to rank it. Just right click on the image file, select ‘Rename,’ and enter the desired name.

Alt Text

The single most important SEO element for images is alt text. When a visitor hovers over an image, their browser will display the alt text. But adding this element to your images is beneficial to both visitors and search engines. Google, Bing and Yahoo place a good deal of ranking ‘weight’ on alt text when determine which keywords to rank them for.

You can add alt text to your images by using the ‘alt’ HTML tag, such as <img src=”dog-swimming-lake.jpg” alt=”Dog Swimming In a Lake” />. Can you guess which keywords this image will rank? Assuming your other on-page SEO elements are correct, there’s a good chance it will rank for keywords like “dog swimming” and “dog swimming in lake.”

Tips on Choosing Alt Text For Images:

  • Keep them relevant to the image (obvious, I know).
  • Avoid keyword stuffing
  • Write your alt text for visitors, not search engines.
  • Limit alt text to a single sentence.


Although it doesn’t hold as much weight as file name or alt text, captions will also play a role in ranking images. The caption will appear directly under your image, allowing you to convey important information along with the image. Some webmasters open their images in a Photoshop or some other editing program to add facts or statistics related to the image, but this isn’t the best practice in terms of SEO. Any text that’s added to an image through a photo editing program isn’t readable by search engines; therefore, it’s not going to help your images rank higher.

Captions aren’t always necessary for images, though. Only use them when you are trying to convey key facts or information about the image to your visitors. Going overboard with your captions could hurt its design and function.

Image Size

Yet another SEO element for images that shouldn’t be overlooked is file size. Uploading huge, graphic-rich images to your size will increase its load time. And having a slow website may lower its search engine rankings. You can read through our previous post for tips on how to speed up a slow-loading website, but one key step is to minimize your image file size.