6 Tips on Image SEO

Glen     SEO, SEO Tips

image seoImages as an asset for organic search results and search engine optimization are often overlooked.  Images can drive traffic through image search as well as inclusion in universal search results.

There are actually several dimensions to image optimization that involves better placement in search results, optimization for user experience and in some cases, optimization for easier sharing of images on the social web.

For image SEO, it can be helpful to think of optimizing images like optimizing a tiny webpage within your page. Things like url structure, anchor text and descriptive tagging are factors for optimizing images for search engines, just like regular webpages.

Here are a few tips for optimizing your images to improve their performance on the page and in search.

1. Find the right images

Finding the right kind of image is incredibly important. Great images can add another dimension to an article or page that can encourage people to share the page and create some great backlinks. Research shows that while text is still the first thing seen on the page, the image is what sells the page.

Here are some of the best places to actually find images:

You can also use Google Images to find images for your site, as long as you search with the proper licensing. (They allow you to search Creative Commons and other public licenses.) But you have to be very careful when using images, as if you don’t have the permission to reuse it, companies and sites can take legal action against you.

The general rule of thumb is this: if the image isn’t Creative Common licensed or you didn’t buy or create it, don’t post it.

2. Use the keyword(s) in the file name

Just like keywords in post urls are important for pages, the same is true for images. Using keyword-rich words in your image filename is important for helping search engines determine relevancy. For example, the image above was originally named “iStock_000004221245XSmall.jpg” which doesn’t add much information about this web page. It has been renamed to “image-optimization.jpg”. Of course, most images that are not simply decorative like the one above are literal and connected to the content of the page such as a photo of a product.  If the above image were used in an article about eye color, then the file name should reflect that.

Google suggests that you should place your images in one folder on your site, versus placing them in random folders throughout the site. Another suggestion from Google related to file names or URLs of images is to make sure you use common image filetypes such as JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP.

3. Create descriptive alt text

Alt text or tags are another way that search engines help determine what your image is about. Unlike traditional web content, search engines can’t determine the text content of an image. (Search spiders are pretty smart, but as far as I know they haven’t developed eyes yet.) As a result, search engines need to rely on captions around the image, alt text, file names and other surrounding text. Adding descriptive text in the alt tag helps the search engines determine what the content of the image is.

If an image is used as navigation, ie as a link to another page, be sure to use alt text that is meaningful to the content of the page being linked to.

4. The right anchor text

Anchor text is another important factor in image SEO. If you decide to link to images with text, your anchor text can play a role in how your image is ranked for keywords. Use descriptive anchor text that describes the image.  For example, linking to an image using a generic term like “image” or “photo” or a file name that doesn’t use keywords doesn’t give search engines much meaningful information on what the image is about. Linking to an image with keywords is helpful to search engines as well as people visiting your site.

5. Make sure the image matches the content

The content surrounding the image should be related to all of the things that you’ve optimized thus far: anchor tags, image url, alt tags. When these things align, it helps search engines confirm that you’re not spamming and that the image is of higher quality and relevant.

6. Don’t stuff

This goes for all kinds of SEO, but we’ll say it again just for clarity: don’t keyword stuff when filling out things like image alt text. Your alt text, captions and file names should be short and descriptive, not a long list of keywords. Remember to optimize images for your website visitors. Image SEO is as much about user experience as it is about achieving better search engine rankings.

Additional Resources on Image SEO:

Get up-to-date on Image Search – Video of a presentation by Peter Linsley, Product Manager at Google offering insights into how image search is used, how it works, and how webmasters can optimize their pages for image searchers.

Google Webmaster Central Advice in Images – Following these best practices (as well as webmaster guidelines) will increase the likelihood that your images will be returned in image search results.

If you want to check many of these image SEO tips on your web pages, try this handy image SEO tool.

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  1. I agree, too many tags and keywords will start turning a website into a spam page, and eventually make your business seem less credible. Thanks for the tips!-MikeJ&L Marketing, Inc.

  2. I always like how Top Rank seems to point out that SEO done poorly affects user experience. It's not clear sometimes how certain disciplines overlap (e.g., SEO and usability). Nice work, Glen, on reminding us that all online skills are interconnected.

  3. Avatar dual sim phones says

    Adding descriptive text in the alt tag helps the search engines determine what the content of the image is

  4. Yeah the normal seo factors are congruent with how a human would use a website, and its funny how so many people dont have their fundamentals covered.

  5. Image SEO is as much about user experience as it is about achieving better search engine rankings.

  6. So True VEry NYc INFo Thanks … image Seo DOes mAtters

  7. Avatar Jamie Barclay says

    As a beginner to this industry, tips on doing SEO will be greatly appreciated. The fact Image SEO might be one of the great way to drive traffic to our new site and your topic helped me understand that putting too much of keyword might turn our site in a spam site. Probably I will choose best keywords that might drive great topic to our site.

  8. Nice short & sweet list. I agree with the last one. “Don’t Stuff” when you said descriptive list will started using all related keywords as Alt Text.

  9. As far as I can tell, all of these image SEO tips & tricks are nessesery for good image ranking.

  10. I think Title has 70 word count limit and description having 160 to 170 word limit. anything beyond that, can be viewed as spam only. you can find some common SEO tips from google on Social Media Guide.

  11. To be honest: I don't believe in the alt-attribute thing. I have neglected that for years and ranked exceedingly well on image search with my blogs.I think alt-attributes are treated similarly to meta kewords and noscript-tags.

  12. Generally, it is not advisable to add too many images in a website, but when images are absolutely necessary, there arises the need for image optimization and of course the author has shared some good points related to image optimization.

  13. Great tips just started with SEO with images for my new blog. Only a few are ranking at the moment but there has been some traffic coming from then. Goes to show you learning it and spending the extra minute or two to optimize it is well worth the time in the long run.

  14. Very useful tips. Most of them I've already put in practice and I must say that it really works. Other soultions for sure I will test on my blog.

  15. All the tips are very useful.If you want your image SEO ranking high then you nust go for the tips which are beautifully explained in this post.
    Great post..!!

  16. Nice Article thank you for sharing.
    I was looking to know if .PNG images hurt SEO in any way though. I get that it’s suggested to use JPG so I guess PNG images won’t help, but would they in any way negatively impact your seo? Which is better, 50 .PNG images on a page or none at all?

  17. Good optimization of image plays a small role in seo…but very useful and helpful for seo…

  18. Fantastic tips on using images in your seo. I am thinking about writing a short blog post about this on my blog, linking back to your post. Would that be ok?

  19. Thanks for this good article
    We can mention that sometimes when you can't describe an image you have just to write alt=” “

  20. Avatar crockstar says

    Thanks a lot for sharing these! Particularly appreciate the “Don't stuff” policy- I see this abused FAR too often.

  21. Avatar Julie Mellors says

    Interesting article but how about an addition to number one. Get great unique images that reflect your business/organisation's need. Hire a photographer

    • Good idea Julie. However, not every company can afford or knows where to find a good photographer. I've had good luck asking other business people and associates.

  22. Many images have Creative Commons licenses, but require attribution. How do you handle these cases?

  23. Thanks for this good article
    We can mention that sometimes when you can't describe an image you have just to write

  24. Avatar diannewhite says

    Optimizing an image is very useful for bloggers, especially those who write themes about fashion, travel, photography, beauty and wellness and everything that relates to the most popular hobbies of people. Using the right image encourages people to share the page to other users, in effect, create back links. In addition, putting the right keywords in the file name will also help search engine determine relevancy to the site's content. Most definitely, these techniques will effectively make the site appear in Google Search thus generate leads.

  25. well echoing what julie says get a photographer it will make your site unique relevant and interesting. which surley is the best way to increase visits. and lee most buisiness's can afford it they just dont want to and its really not difficult to find one .if you cant then maybe you shouldnt be running a company.. you only reap what you sow.. cheap sites with generic amateur photos get what they deserve.

  26. Nice info, Is it possible to get an image gallery without much text ranked highly?

    • Sam, text is the basis for search. If there isn’t much text on the page with the images, then you’ll need to provide text via the alt text img attribute, title attribute and anchor text of links to the page.

  27. Glen, that's an awesome article! There's not a lot of attention usually paid to SEOing different media types. Thanks again!

  28. Great and useful article! Thanks a lot!

  29. actually yes, i looking so long for Image seo optimization tips