Ashley Zeckman

3 Ways to Optimize Images: Search, Social Media & User Experience

Optimize your images for search, social, and a target audience

Optimize Your Images for Better Digital Asset Optimization

From Marketing to PR, digital assets are an essential part of the content used to tell stories and communicate brand messages.  For publishers and public relations professionals, optimizing the images used in news stories and press releases can have an important impact on visibility in search engines.  Images not only add flavor to news content, but they are also an opportunity to extend the reach of your message through image specific search.

Images are essential for both search and social media marketing with growing popularity as a social media asset. Long time image hosting and social network Flickr hosts well over 50 billion images and social media image sharing services like Instagram and Pintrest have exploded in popularity:

To get the most out of your images as marketable digital assets, here are 3 ways you can optimize them for better performance in search, social media and as part of your customers’ user experience.

Optimize Images for Search

To improve rankings of your images, here are 6 tips to make sure images are search engine ready:

File Name. Keywords used in image file names provide very specific information to people and search engines on the topic of the image.  img05.jpg isn’t nearly as useful as image-optimization.jpg

Text Surrounding Image. The text used to describe your image like a caption can help search engines associate the image with keywords used in the surrounding text.

Image Linking.  Links from other pages to your image or the page your image is embedded on can help search engines find the image for crawling and also pass PageRank.

Alt Text.  Adding descriptive text to the image alt attribute is helpful for search engines as well as a usability best practice in situations where images are not shown in a browser such as when a visually impaired person uses a screen reader. However, do not stuff a long string of keywords in the alt text, that will simply dilute the meaning and usefulness.

Image Sitemaps. If you are having difficulty getting your images into a search engine like Google, or you want to show that some images are less important, you can add image specific tags to a sitemap and provide that information to Google.

Focus Keyword Usage. For example, if you are writing a piece on flowers and have an image of a particular type of flower then your keywords should reflect the name of that specific flower.

Zinnia Peppermint Stick

Optimize Images for Social Sharing

Inspiring social shares is important to extend the reach and visibility of image content.  A basic first step is make it as easy as possible for your audience to consume and share your images.

Use Inspiring Images.  I am a strong believer that your content and your images should first be relevant to your audience, and then optimized for search engines.  A good example of news images that have received a lot of social sharing are collections of compelling photos. This group of the most powerful photos of 2011 on BuzzFeed has receive over 45,000 Tweets and 862,000 likes on Facebook.

Use Standard Formats.  While there are many types of images formats to choose from .jpg, .gif, and .png are the most common.  Use images that will be easy to display on any device and you’ll avoid any barriers to sharing or viewing.

Post Images on Multiple Social Media Sharing Sites.  The more relevant places you make your images available the better the chances are that they will be shared.  In addition to social networks like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, popular image hosting and sharing sites include:

Photos of the Egyptian Revolution from Facebook

Optimize Images for User Experience

The human eye can see things that search engines can’t.  Humans can also associate emotion or take action based on the images used in news stories, press releases and web pages.

High Quality.  People will be more likely to spend additional time on an image that is high quality in terms of composition and image resolution.

Maintain Relevancy.  It is even more essential that your imagery is relevant for your audience.  An image that is disconnected from the text will put people off and they will be discouraged to visit again.  An example would be a photo of a cute dog sleeping when your article is about your clients love for cats, or their rocky relationship with their boyfriend.

Don’t Make Them Work Too Hard. While some journalists or PR representatives may lean toward using abstract images, it is important to always keep the end user in mind. An abstract image may be interesting to look at but does it really help you sell your story? Use your web analytics to determine whether abstract or more literal images result in more pageviews and traffic.

Picture of a cute dog sleeping

Bonus Tip: Inspire User Generated Content

An interesting way to gain access to new images is to get your network involved.  Try running a contest on your website or social media network page encouraging potential vendors, clients, or those interested in your brand to create an image for an event or as a promotion. The images used in such a promotion can provide content on your site, inspire sharing and links amongst participants as well as a way to recognize your community.

I would recommend that going forward you try to optimize more of your image content and other digital assets.  Many press release distribution services allow users to upload images to their press releases.  If you are a journalist be sure to include optimized images in your column. If you’re a retailer, make sure your product images are easy for Google to access and consider supplying an image sitemap. The next time you upload an image to a social media site, think about using relevant keywords in the file name, in the description and alt text.

The possibilities for image asset optimization are endless and I hope that the tips I have provided show you that some small adjustments to your image optimization can improve search visibility, social sharing and a better user experience for your community.

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Ashley Zeckman About Ashley Zeckman

Ashley Zeckman is the Senior Director of Digital Strategy for TopRank Marketing. In addition to finding innovative ways to showcase the exceptional work of her team, she is also responsible for creating digital marketing programs that drive customer acquisition and growth for the agency. Her background includes expertise in everything from content marketing strategy to branding, account management and social media.

Outside of her role at TopRank Online Marketing, Ashley prides herself on being a great home chef, painter, prankster and dog mom.


  1. Food for thought, until now not really considered specifically optimizing images other than basic alt tags. Then got sidetracked and spent the next 10 mins going through the most powerful photos of 2011… right, time to draw up a plan!

    • Steve glad to hear that you’re putting together an optimization plan. I also find myself getting sidetracked by good images or content quite frequently. But hopefully they provided some inspiration!

  2. Yes, It is.. Images are not indexable by search engine. And it can only be index through putting an attribute text to the images. Thanks for sharing anyway and I know that this is a good source of information and a helpful tips to everyone.  

  3. Avatar synthiea d'souza says

    Images add riches to your content, and make readers ready to
    read a long article. And they have great SEO value also!

  4. Great post I really appreciate. Here are very extra ordinary step about how to images for the search, social media and user experience. I like the Focus keyword usage point and it’s mostly affect on your keyword. If you are writing about cricket and have an image of a particular type of cricket. Then your keyword should definitely reflect on name of the cricket. Thanks for nice information.

    • Thank you for reading. Basic best practices that are not too difficult to implement can often be looked over. I’m glad that you found this article useful.

  5. Great article.  I feel like there are so
    many software options to choose from every day.  Right now I can’t get
    through a day without: Facebook, Google, Twitter, Skype and Bizodo (form
    builder, project management and CRM in one;  I
    know there are other ones too that are great but sometimes I feel like software

  6. Thanks for reading Mark. I think that SEO blogs may not be as concerned with optimizing for users or sharing as we are. We want to make images easy to discover, easy to consume, and easy to share. This cannot be accomplished if you are optimizing strictly for SEO. Have a good weekend!

  7. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Here you can find a post by Telecomenzi and Galati

  8. a lot of this i have heard before, but the great thing is now its in one place!!! so for that i thank you! good post!



  10. Avatar Jacks hobs says

    Very impressive blog about Optimize Images for Search. Images  Optimization will really help your websites to serve quality experience to users as well as search engines.

    BigCommerce Developer | BigCommerce Designer | Hire BigCommerce Developer

    • Jack, I’m glad that you found the information useful. Don’t forget…If it can be searched it can be optimized.

  11. Avatar Adrienne Ervay says

    This was a great post pertaining the Image Optimization. Too
    often bloggers are concerned with their overall article, forgetting that there
    is another great tool to drive traffic to their website or message. I also
    appreciated you going beyond simple search optimization. As an aspiring writer
    myself, I definitely plan on using your tips for social sharing optimization
    and user experience optimization with my future posts. Thanks for the

  12. Very good post, exactly what I needed. People usually write about optimizing text, but images are also very important part of our posts. 🙂 When I added some pictures on one of my WordPress blogs, many posts got better positions in SERP and I decided to use images as often as I can!

  13. Great blog post — as a teacher in a primary school with many teachers who are new to the idea of a “Wholesale silver jewelry ” this could be very helpful for them to get their heads around the concept.Cheers!