How to Optimize Images for Better Search Engine Rankings

image optimization seo

You are already optimizing your site for search engines, right? But I bet you aren’t optimizing your images for search traffic!

I know, Google image search only gets a half a percent of Google’s overall traffic. But due to blended search results, images actually get a lot more traffic than that half a percent.

Unlike before, when you search for terms like “golden gate bridge” now, you actually see images of the Golden Gate Bridge on the search listings page. For this reason, it’s important to optimize your images for search engines.

Here’s how you can make your images search engine friendly:

Alt tags

Because search engines can’t read images, you need to use alt tags to help describe your image.

Golden Gate Bridge covered by fog

If you have an image of the Golden Gate Bridge during a foggy day, your alt tag should read something like this:

Alt=”Golden Gate Bridge covered by fog”

Here is what the full image code should look like:

<img src=”https://www.quicksprout.com/foggygoldengatebridge.jpg” alt=”Golden Gate Bridge covered by fog” />

The key to creating good alt tags consists of three points:

  • Image needs a proper description, without keyword stuffing.
  • It should be keyword rich.
  • It needs to be short and to the point.

Long descriptions

Similar to an alt tag, there is also a longdesc attribute. It was first created to help the visually impaired understand images. If you happen to have an image of the Golden Gate Bridge on a foggy day, there are many more words that can be used to describe it than the alt tag we used in the above example.

From the color to the height of the bridge to what the fog looks like, there are a lot of elements to the picture. In this case, to describe the image, you may want to include text on a page that explains in full detail what the image is all about.

Here,  you would use a longdesc, and within it, you would include the URL that explains the image in details.

<img src=”https://www.quicksprout.com/foggygoldengatebridge.jpg” alt=”Golden Gate Bridge covered by fog” longdesc=”https://www.quicksprout.com/imageseo.html” />

File name

Using the same Golden Gate Bridge example, let’s talk about the file name. You want your image file name to be describing the image. Because there are billions of images out there, you don’t want to use a generic image file name like “goldengatebridge.jpg”.

Instead, you want to use something a bit more descriptive; for example, “foggygoldengatebridge.jpg”. That image file name does a much better job at describing the image than a generic name would do. Plus, the generic name would make it tough for the image to compete in the rankings.

File size

There are two aspects to an image file size. The first is the dimensions of the image, and the second is how much storage space the image requires.

When optimizing an image, you want the dimensions to be as big as possible, yet you want the storage space to be as small as possible. Through programs like Skitch, you can adjust the dimensions, while keeping the storage size small through compression.

Best of all, programs like Skitch will help you maintain the quality of the image as you don’t want to compress it so much that the image doesn’t look good anymore.

EXIF data

EXIF stands for exchangeable image file format, which allows you to add various types of meta data to the actual image file. In other words, it will be embedded in the image itself, so wherever it goes, the meta data goes with it.

EXIF data is even more detailed than the alt tag and long description. It carries data such as:

  • Whether the flash was on or off when the picture was taken.
  • With what type of camera the image was taken.
  • The aperture speed that was used.
  • Date and time the picture was taken.
  • The image’s height and width.

The EXIF data also covers another 20 or 30 facts about the image, but I won’t bore you with them. What you need to do is consider modifying it and adding a detailed description of your image along with your website name to the data.

Rich snippets

Unlike other image optimization tips, this one tags an image to your website or business. That way if you have one image that is highly related to your business, it will show up when someone Googles your business.

neil patel quick sprout search

For example, when you Google “Neil Patel”, you’ll see a picture of me tied to the Quick Sprout listing. This is very useful because it will increase your click through rate.

You can read this article by Google to get a better understanding of how to implement it, and you can use this tool to test if you implemented it right.

Anchor text

Just like ranking a web page, you can increase your image rankings by building links to it. The richer the link anchor text, the higher the image will typically rank.

So, if I want to rank that image of the Golden Gate Bridge for “Golden Gate Bridge”, I would build links with the anchor text “Golden Gate Bridge”. And just like with normal link building, you also want to rotate the anchor text because having anchor text that is too rich can hurt your rankings.

If you want to build links to your images, check out the following link building articles:

Content

When you place an image on your website, make sure you wrap content around it. From the text underneath or above the image to the title tag of the page, and even the headings, the more the text is related to the image the better off you are.

Don’t spam everything with keywords, but sprinkle them in when it makes sense.

GEO locations

Last, but not least, if you are looking to rank your images for localized keywords, make sure you do all of the things above, but also add local keywords to everything.

For example, if your business is located in the San Francisco region, you could have called that Golden Gate Bridge image file:

sanfranciscogoldengatebridge.jpg

And for the alt tag, you could have used “San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge covered by fog” instead of “Golden Gate Bridge covered by fog”.

Conclusion

If you are already optimizing your images for image search, you probably are doing so through alt tags and image file names. But you probably aren’t using the advance tactics such as using GEO location and rich snippets or even modifying EXIF data.

A lot of those tactics won’t have a huge impact on your image rankings on their own, but if you combine them all, you should see an increase in rankings.