Image SEO for Beginners – 5 Steps to Getting It Right


Digital magazine on a tablet

Images support reader engagement and comprehension–not to mention an opportunity to strengthen your content for search.


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And, that may hold true…if you’re a hominid. But, if you want to succeed online, you’ll need to speak to search engines, too—and that means making image SEO part of your pre-launch routine.

New to search engine optimization (SEO)? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, set your Pepto aside. We’ll help you get up-to-speed.


Getting web images right

Images are critical to the success of your web pages and blog posts for a whole host of reasons.

For starters, engaging images increase the stickiness of your page—meaning, visitors are more likely to feel rewarded by your content and continue reading.

Further, images support reader comprehension. This is particularly important when tackling complex concepts which lend themselves well to visual representations.

And, this is all great stuff because, in the end, it’s people you’re trying to reach.

Of course, you need to get that great content of yours in front of the right eyeballs first.

Enter SEO.

If you deliver high quality, authoritative content—and you help search engines determine that your content offers real value—they’ll be more likely to serve up your pages in response to relevant user searches.

Now, there are a lot of factors that impact your search results page rankings—and how you treat your images are certainly among them.


Your step-by-step guide to image SEO

You’ve crafted your killer web copy. You’ve wrapped your insightful blog post.

What’s next? Optimizing images for SEO.

Let’s get started.


1) Optimize your images for the web

If you’ve ever waited…and waited…and waited for your web browser to load a webpage, then you already understand how critical load times are to the user experience.

And, that’s why search engines consider them an important SEO factor.

How do you get it right?

  • Reduce the file size and dimensions of your images with photo editing software (we use Photoshop’s Save for Web & Devices feature, but you can try this online resizing tool or these easy-to-use photo editing software options, too)
  • Run YSlow when everything has been populated and filter by “Images” to see if you need to put your page on a diet


2) Search optimize your image filenames

You can signal the subject of your images to search engines when you assign search-friendly image filenames. (Unfortunately, we often come across Image1.jpgs in media libraries and these are lost opportunities.)

You’ll get a leg-up when you follow these filename guidelines:

  • Describe the subject of your image
  • Use your target keyword phrase or a related phrase
  • Create filenames that are 2-4 words long

For example: surly-brewery-minneapolis.jpg or guilty-dog-hambone.png.


3) Don’t forget your image alt tags

What’s an image alt tag?

This is an alternative text description of your image that supports web accessibility for all users.

For example, the visually-impaired may use screen readers to browse the web, and those with very low bandwidth might turn images off in their web browsers to improve load times.

If alt tags have been applied to your images, this copy will be read—or displayed—in place of the images. And, search engines will consider these data points when determining the relevancy of your content.

alt tag field for image SEO

Using WordPress? Click on your image within the media library or edit your image from your page or post to access the image alt tag field.


When loading images to your media library, be doubly sure to include alt tags that follow these best practices:

  • Inform the user of the image content
  • Be concise—ideally 2-4 words
  • Include your target keyword phrase or a related phrase
  • Avoid redundancy

There’s a caveat here: If your image is simply a decorative background image and doesn’t provide any real information, you may leave the alt tag field blank.


4) Carefully consider image placement

Where you choose to place your images on the page sends an important signal to search engines, as well.

When your image with search-optimized filename and alt tag is surrounded by related page copy (especially if it references the same keyword phrase), you tip the search engine ranking scales in your favor.


5) Harness captions for image SEO

search optimized image caption

An Ogilvy study found users read captions 300% more frequently than body copy. They’re also an important part of image SEO.


Captions, like headers and bullet lists, are easily scanned by your readers. What’s more, they support content comprehension.

And, as search engines want to provide quality, easily understood content, they’re an opportunity to beef up your SEO, as well.

So, keep these tips in mind when you write your image captions:

  • Use them to drive home key points in adjacent content
  • Keep your copy clear and concise
  • Roll in your target keyword phrase or a related keyword


Make image SEO a standard part of your content creation process

Technology is rapidly evolving and, in the future, search engines may increasingly use image recognition technologies to assign meaning to the image files you publish. Until then, add these simple image SEO tasks to your pre-launch list and harness every conceivable opportunity to make your content clear, rich, and relevant.