Do you want your images to appear in the search results? Then you need to be optimising your images for search.  Search engine optimisation may be about words and text and links, but it is also about other types of content.

Google, of course, offers the ability to search specifically for images, and also delivers images as part of its web search results.  It can be a highly valuable way of driving visitors to your website. Images of your products, pictures of your services, photos of your staff can all drive quality visitors to your website from the search engines.

So, what steps do you need to take to optimise your images for SEO?

First, check to see what images from your site that Google is already indexing. Go to Google’s Image Search and in the search box type in Google will display all the images from your site in the index.

What you’re checking for is that all of your images are indeed being crawled, and that they have a chance to be ranking in the search results.

Indexed images on Google - image optimisation

How to Optimize Your Images for the Search Engines

Now that you know what images Google is indexing, here are the steps to further optimise your images:

Give your image a keyword rich file name

If you have a picture of a blue widget on your site, then name the image file blue-widget.jpg. Consider putting dashes between the keywords in the file name. Notice the image at the top of this posting is

Use an image format that Google indexes

Google only considers the following formats to be images: JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, and SVG as well as newer image formats like JPEG-XR and WebP.  We recommend using either JPEG, GIF or PNG as these are best for optimisation. The JPEG format are most commonly supported and can keep the file size down.

Use the ALT tags effectively

This means adding a descriptive text to the “alternative text” field for the images on your website and this helps to tell the search engines what your picture is about and will help you rank better in the search results. The alt tag needs to contain the key phrase you are optimising your page for, and this is good for not only search engines but also for the users on your site. This text will also show when there are issues with the image rendering on the site, and for screen readers for users who are visually impaired – so it’s essential to have it in place. The ALT tag appears in the HTML on your website as part of the image information:

Example of an ALT tag for an image

Examples of Good Alt Tags

You want to make sure that your Alt tag has relevant keywords and isn’t too broad.

Bad: <img src=”widget.jpg” alt=”blue widget”/>

Good: <img src=”widget.jpg” alt=”large blue widget with green spots”/>

Embed the image in a relevant web page

The context of the image within an appropriate page is another strong SEO signal.Place keyword rich text immediately before and after the image, putting the image into context on the page. Indeed, the entire page should be optimised for the phrase the image is targeting.

Create internal and external links to the image

Links to  images tell the search engines about the content and its relative importance. Descriptive and relevant anchor text in your links is useful, and provides a better user experience. For example, here is an example of keyword rich anchor text going to an image:  Digital Marketing Map

Include image attributes in your sitemap

You can provide additional information for Google and the other search engines in your sitemap.  Learn about image attributes in sitemaps here.

Image Optimising for improved site speed

When adding images to your website you need to be aware that the size of your image effects the loading speed of your website. Large high quality images may look great, but they can reduce load time of your site. The key is to keep the file size as small as you can but maintain good image quality. There are some useful tools that can do this for you, such as Compress JPEG, and by doing this you can maintain a high quality image.

How to optimise your images in your CMS

When uploading an image in your CMS, such as WordPress, there are a number of fields that you need to complete in order to optimise your image thoroughly.

  • Image Title – The title is the name of the image file and features in the optional HTML title attribute.
  • Image Caption – To improve the user experience a caption can help the user understand your image better and will sit underneath your image.
  • Image Alt text – As discussed previously, the phrase that you insert here tells Google what your image is about and can improve your rankings.
  • Image description – Often webmasters ignore this field allows you to write a longer description of your image and is show in the attachment page for your image.

Image Licencing

Image licencing is important to consider if you are not using your own images. See this blog post of how to find free images and this post for 14 websites with free stock images.

Images and Social Media

Images are a great way to boost social shares on your website, adding social share buttons to your website means that your images can be shared across the web. Pinterest have their ‘Pin it’ button which allows for anyone to pin any image on a website to their Pinterest account.


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