Image and Photo SEO Tips

When it comes to SEO, images tend to be neglected. Although web designers, photographers and graphic designers can spend hours sourcing and creating the perfect pictures for your site, it’s important to remember that looks aren’t everything.

Don’t use images in headings or anchor tag text. These positions on a page have large SEO weightings, so they should be used for relevant descriptions featuring keywords which are more effectively indexed.

Your site’s textual content is paramount to SEO, but images hold influence too. It is important that you tell Google and other search engines as much as you can with your images so they are indexed relevantly and your site scores bonus SEO points. You can do this through alt text and file names, which are fairly easy to optimise.

Alt text

Alt (short for “alternate”) text is a textual description of an image. It is a HTML tag which looks like this:

<img alt=“Google penguin update – penguin wearing Google name badge” 


 If you are using WordPress or a similar CMS, you will be given a simple box to add your alt text in when you upload each image to the library:

entering alt text wordpress

Alt text is used to describe an image for visitors which are visually impaired and using specialist software, or visitors using a platform which doesn’t support your images. It is also used by search engine crawlers to determine the content of an image, as they cannot yet  “see” images and photographs. Failing to include alt text is poor SEO practice.

Alt attributes should be as short as possible, no more than 140 characters in length, and contain the most relevant keywords at the start. Since Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, it’s more important than ever not to stuff keywords unnaturally into your alt text, as this is considered spammy.

Image file name

Relevant and Optimised

File names remain one of the most important features to optimise when managing a site’s images.  Rather than leaving an image name as it is – which will look something like “Edit1”, “Img12000337” or “iStock_00000372033.jpg” – each image should be given a relevant descriptive name to add value to your site. Generally, this will be a straightforward and literal description of the image, usually containing a keyword. Don’t use stop words such as “the”, “a”, “she” or “at” in your file name. These words are ignored by Google or other search engines, and will add no value. This is a good example of a basic image file name:

ImageGoogle spam

File name: “google-spam-update”

But sometimes you may need to describe the concept of an image instead, particularly if the message the image conveys is somewhat abstract:

ImageGoogle spam update Source: namestartswithj89

File name: “google-spam-update”


Using keywords in image names can help optimise your site, but since Google is cracking down on over optimised sites, it’s more important than ever not to overdo it. Just as you shouldn’t stuff your anchor texts full of keywords, you shouldn’t over optimise your image names (“google-spam-update-search-engine-optimisation-internet-marketing-seo-online- ranking”).  And don’t use keywords in every single file name:

ImageGoogle spam updateSource: Foxtongue

File name: “google-spam-update”


Your file names also need to be unique to your site. If you have numerous similar photos – if you own an e-commerce store of Engelbert Humperdinck merchandise, for example – you can use numbers to distinguish between them: “engelbert-humperdinck- pinup-poster-1” and “engelbert-humperdinck-pinup-poster-2”.


Image names, once uploaded, become URLs, so can’t contain spaces. The minus sign can create a space-between-words, making it easier for humans and search engines to read thanlongjoinedupsentences. Don’t mistakenly use underscores, plus signs, or CamelCasing to distinguish between words; these won’t be recognised by search engines and they won’t be able index your keywords.

Surrounding text

The text around an image is often overlooked when considering image optimisation, but it is considered by search engines. Your images should be relevant to your page content.

Sizing and Format

Consider page load speed, as this also impacts your SEO. Large, high resolution images will slow your load time right down, so compressing and minimising photographs and graphics is an important part of website design. This doesn’t mean making every image on your site very, very little, it just means that, if an image is only going to be displayed on screen at 300×400, the image file only needs to be 300×400. Some programmes like Photoshop offer automatic resize-for-web saving options, but if you do not have these tools aim for 72 pixels per inch (72 ppi/dpi), providing they look acceptable at this resolution.

JPEG, GIF and PNG are the image formats used online. JPEGs are most common as they support the most colours and resolutions and are suitable for photographs. Colours can be recognised by Google and Bing, and they allow you to carry out image searches by colour. This is of more use for image sourcing and design rather than optimisation, however.


OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. This works like Facebook’s creepy face recognition software( which scans an image for faces), but scans and recognises letters, numbers and other characters in images instead. SEOs have always avoided text within image files like the plague, but text within your image files can now be recognised by certain pieces of software, which search engines are likely to use to index soon (if they aren’t already). This type of text still isn’t read as easily or as universally as pure text, however, so important text embedded in images should be avoided where possible, as Google itself advises in its Content Guidelines. Alt text and file names are much easier to effectively optimise.

Following these image guidelines will improve your site’s SEO and increase the likelihood of your images being returned in image search results. If you do not want any of your images to be crawled by Google’s robots, you can include an instruction for this in your robots.txt file.

File names, alt text and changing image sizes are easy ways to optimise your site’s images. For more information on optimising your whole site, contact KPI.

About Kadie Dobson

Kadie is a member of the web marketing team at KPI. She is a Journalism graduate of John Moores University. Email: Google+
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