Everyone and their mother tells you how to optimize your website or blog for a keyword, but how many share with you how to rank images? Images are pretty important, because a lot of people look for images on a subject and find articles on the subject on accident. It can add up to a good amount of traffic, and I know I get a lot of people visiting my articles from Google image search.
Here is my top 6 list of how to optimize your images for Google image search.
#1) File Name: Be Descriptive
I know you have the urge to upload the DCS483920434.JPG straight from your camera, but don’t. What you name your file plays a major role in how it gets ranked and what keywords it shows up in on Google image search.
Naming conventions that use dashes or hyphens instead of underscores also work better. For example my-awesome-image.jpg is cleaner than my_awesome_image.png. For one, the underscore isn’t even a character in the human language. Two, it’s a lot easier to read for human eyes. Google can honestly probably read underscore images fine, but it’s a good practice to use hyphens instead of spaces.
Remember, NO SPACES!! Your image name should be your keyword, with no spaces, using hyphens instead. Lower case letters are also preferable.
#2) File Type: PNG, JPG or GIF
Believe it or not, your image file format matters. The less technically-inclined of us don’t really think about file types, because these days everything reads everything. People don’t realize that when they take a picture on their phone or their camera, they are creating a very specific type of image.
The file types that Google recommends are PNG, JPG and GIF in the order. PNG images support transparency and are superior to most JPG files. JPG files can compress multi-colored images very well, which make them great for cameras and the like. GIF file are amazing at compression, but tend to lose clarity.
Image file types matter, and the more relevant you are to Google, the more likely your image will show up in searches.
#3) File Size: Keep it Low
Yes, size does matter. Regardless of what your girlfriend told you, larger size makes a difference; but not how you might expect. With Google, bigger images are bad for business. Its one thing to have a big version of an image, and a small version, but it is quite another when they are several megabytes apart in terms of size.
Any time you search an image on Google, you’ll notice without a doubt that precedence is given to the smaller images. That is because they can be searched and referenced faster, not to mention downloaded on to your computer so you can see them faster. Google knows that people hate dial-up speeds these days, and if their search resembled that, they would lose people.
Keep your images as small as they can be. Remember, not size as in dimensions (width and height), were talking about size as in storage capacity. A good rule of thumb is to try and upload images less than 1MB if you can.
#4) ALT Tag: Describe your Image
Everyone has probably heard of an ALT tag before, but how many actually use it? “ALT” stands for “Alternate Text” and basically means the text that will show up in the browser temporarily before the image loads, or permanently if the image fails to load completely.
ALT text was designed for the earlier browsers that had trouble looking at images, so its not of much functional use these days. IN certain browsers it is the text that shows up if you hover your mouse over an image, but sometimes that text is the title (see #4).
Even though ALT text is outdated as far as functional use, it still is one of the main things that tells Google what your image is about. If you leave it blank, it’s like giving Google a blank keyword sheet.
#5) TITLE Tag: Give Your Image a Title
The TITLE tag is probably one of the most overlooked image tags on the internet. The title of an image isn’t anything super confusing or crazy; it’s just what it sounds like: an image title.
Depending on the browser, the TITLE tag may show up in the little box when you hover over an image, or sometimes it’s the ALT tag. Many optimizers make the ALT and TITLE tags read the exact same way because of this, but from a functional perspective this isn’t really effective.
In an ideal world, the ALT tag should read as a description of the actual image, whereas the TITLE tag should read as the image title.
#6) Keyword Proximity: Surround Your Image with Keywords
This is one of those tribal secrets when it comes to search engine optimization, because very few seem to understand it. How keyword proximity works is simple: the words you use that surround the image also hold weight into what Google thinks that word is about; it’s not just about the image. This is especially true when the ALT and TITLE tags are left blank, which they often are.
Google is smart, and we know that. You don’t make billions of dollars on accident. Over the years Google has adapted its search techniques to not only read what on the image, but what kinds of things surround the image, and that’s what keyword proximity is.
Keep that in mind when you are writing paragraphs next to an image, because what you say plays a big role in how that image will be ranked.
#7) Anchor Text: Be Descriptive
When you link to an image directly, the anchor text you use actually gets passed on to Google and lets Google know what the image is about. Even if you embed the image on one page, and link to the image on another, Google is smart enough to know that it is the same image.
So what exactly is anchor text? Well lets say I had a link like this: Click Here. In this case, the “Click Here” is the anchor text. Every time you link to an image, remember this, because a term like ‘Click Here’ doesn’t add any value to Google. Instead, its better do do something like this: Here’s an image about brilliance at its finest.
#8) The Images Folder: Keep Them in One Place
Sounds simple, but all of your images should be in one folder, not scattered around your working directory. If you use a system like, then you’re set because most content management systems do that anyway. If on the other hand your site is static HTML, its all too easy to scatter your images about, especially if you’re a sloppy coder.
Back in my web developer days, on my own sites and my client sites, I tended to do whatever was easier. I got lazy, and it actually made a difference in how Google saw images. Don’t make the same mistake, and if you higher a web developer, don’t let him make it. Its pretty common these days to have an images folder, but it never hurts to double check.
#9) The Sitemap: Tell Google Where They Are
Last but not least, you have to make Google’s job easy. See, the Googlebot finds websites, and it scans those websites for links. It follows all of those links and goes to pages with more links. Then it does it again, in an endless loop, forever.
Sometimes though, images are live online, but they are not linked to in any of your content. At the very least, you need to list them in an XML sitemap. For sure link them if you can though. Even if they are linked though, they can be deep within the maze of a dungeon called your website, so its best to list them outright for Google. A sitemap is like a giant spreadsheet that tells Google where every file in your site is at, and its a good practice to list all of your images.
Now get out there and optimize your images! And dont forget to ask any questions you have in the comments!