image seo optimization

Behind your page title, image captions get read more than full page content.

There is an SEO value to pretty much everything that you do on your website. You may not realize it, but adding images, and doing the accompanying SEO legwork, can help generate loads of traffic from Google Images and other image-based search engines. It’s not enough to just drop a picture on a page. Would you create a page and not title it?? That same regard should be held when talking about images.

Image optimization is simple. It’s a simple practice that’s also simple to accomplish and the results can be through the roof. It’s so beneficial that we here at SunAnt ensure that every image uploaded to any website that we manage for SEO or internet marketing, is optimized.

For the noob, there are four areas of concentration that need to be addressed when concerning yourself with image optimization:
* file name
* file size
* alt text
* descriptions/captions

1) File Name

Very basic. Very easy. Very essential, even if you do nothing else. Just PLEASE name your images, and that means each and every one of them.

Image Naming Best Practices:

  • lower case
  • no spaces in file names, instead use dashes/hyphens (NO underscores “_”)
  • name every image uniquely
  • be descriptive, with on-page SEO in mind (when appropriate)
  • be as concise as possible

Remember, keyword stuffing is a frowned upon activity in the eyes of the search engines, so use keyword-rich names, but don’t just stuff your file names with keywords themselves. This practice should already be in place with your on-page SEO strategies, just carry it over to your file names and also your ALT tags.

Today’s digital cameras and smartphones automatically generate generic file names when you snap a picture. They are numbered sequentially, but will look something like this: IMAGE007.jpg. If you just upload that image to be used on your website, THAT is the name that will carry over and be seen by Google, and who in their right mind searches for products by “IMAGE007”? See where I’m going here?

We need to take a step back and think about how our customers search for our products. What names do they use? What words? What terms? Let’s say for a minute that we’re going to name this awesome Coleman cooler (we all have to keep our beverages cold, right?). How would we start? Answer: with the basics and then expand.

50 qt coleman cooler

How would you name this image file?

  • cooler
  • Coleman cooler
  • 50 qt Coleman cooler
  • 50 qt wheeled Coleman cooler

Turning these thoughts into optimized image names would translate as such –

  • 50-qt-Coleman-cooler.jpg
  • or
  • 50-qt-wheeled-Coleman-cooler.jpg

Remember, the purpose of adding image names is NOT to describe the picture in complete detail. That is what the rest of the page/post content is for. All we want to accomplish is to draw a corollary between the image and the content to establish it’s worth to the rest of the page.

2) File Size

One of Google’s ranking factors in its search algorithm is page speed and load times. With this in mind, DO NOT upload the largest image you can find and then scale it down in your coding. This is really bad practice. What you SHOULD do is make sure your image is high resolution to begin with, and simply upload your images in the actual file size necessary for on-page appearance and nothing bigger. Don’t just upload a 5 megapixel (or higher!) image directly from a camera. Instead, shrink it first before uploading. We recommend a maximum 1200 pixels on a side (height or width), unless it is a special case (backgrounds, wide shots, etc.) When it takes your website longer to load images the entire page speed is noticed and Google takes this as an overall knock on the user experience you are providing to your visitors.

3) Alt Text

Now we’re getting into an area that may not be all too familiar with the general public. ALT tags are recognized and deemed important for W3C compliance. W3C is a worldwide community that has set standards in HTML usage, and from them come these words of wisdom:

“The generic rule for the content of the alt attribute is: use text that fulfills the same function as the image.”
ALT tags have even more value. They are what screen reader software reads aloud in place of the photo. With this being true, they are considered part of accessibility (and a requirement in .Gov websites).

Above all else, we use ALT tags because they get read by the search engine spiders who cannot actually SEE the image itself. It’s because of this that ALT tags inherently add important SEO value.

Alt Text Best Practice: When creating your ALT text, make sure it is relevant to the content on the page, not just pertinent to the image itself.

4) Descriptions/Captions

There’s no connection between adding an image description and direct SEO value. That said, when you decide to deliver the best user experience as possible, it’s the little things that the visitors take away as important. That is where captions fall into play. You wouldn’t believe how many of those little descriptions get read by your visitors. It’s amazing to learn that besides your headline, image captions are often the second most read piece of content on a page. Think about it. An entire page worth of content takes time to consume while consuming a single sentence in a caption literally takes seconds.

Final Thoughts… 

SEO is important, we all know this. Doing the “little” extras can make a world of difference in setting your website apart from your competitors. Going through the process of optimizing your images is one of these extras that can enhance the user experience and get your site placed higher in the SERPS.