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Optimizing Images for SEO

It is possible that you think of images as a means of decoration, and the best way to fill unattractive empty space on your page. Perhaps you use images to build your brand.

Nonetheless, you likely don’t think of images as a means of SEO optimization—but, they are. And optimizing your images is one of the simpler, and effective SEO choices you can make.

First and foremost: did you know that Google can find and identify an image based on its file name? Google isn’t quite sophisticated enough to see an image as it is, and property identify it—yet. The file name is part of the data Google examines when searching for an image. Say, for instance, you have a photo of a panda. Rather than staying with the generic, pre-assigned file name, change the file name to something like “cute-panda-photo.jpg”—an easy name that clearly identifies what the photo is about.

When posting a photo to your site, you will often see an “alt text” box. Don’t ignore this box! Google has clearly communicated the importance of filling in the box. Essentially, alt text is what appears when the photo can’t be seen by the individual, or their connection is slow enough to show the text before the photo appears—it’s highly likely that you’ve seen something like this yourself.

Alt TextAlt text looks something like this (seen on the left). As you can see, the photo hasn’t yet loaded, or the viewer doesn’t have access to the photo. Whether or not the photo loads, the alt text is still underlying, Google can detect it, and will label it as “meaningful content”, which boosts your page. Keyword-loading your alt text and image title works about as well as keyword-loading a page’s content—it doesn’t, and Google won’t do you any favors for doing so.

Even if your page loads too quickly for the viewer to see your alt text, Google stills sees the alt text rather than the image


This is also very useful for local SEO campaigns, as you can easily name your images “Monterey-car-mechanics.jpg”, or “Salt-Lake-City-Dry-Cleaning.jpg”, and use your alt text to explain what location-specific event is happening in the photo (“Salt Lake City dry cleaner cleans white shirt”).

Now to title tags. This is where keywords do matter, but it is also where keyword-jamming can still be harmful. Plug in a specific search term, keyword, or a small and concise explanation. Unlike your alt text, this text is meant to be seen—if a visitor hovers over the photo with their mouse, this is the text they will see.

Keep it concise a meaningful, and throw in a keyword if you can afford it. If your page is targeting “cute pandas” as one of your keywords, the best title tag would likely be “cute panda eating”. It includes a keyword, but still means something to your visitor.

Finally, caption your photo—but do so conservatively. Photo captions can look messy or cluttered if they aren’t concise. Photo captions have been shown to grab the eye of those just scanning the page, which may decrease your “bounce rate”, or the rate at which some bounces on and off your page. Unsurprisingly, Google also scans this text for “meaningful content”. If you must throw in a keyword, do so naturally. An ideal caption for your cute panda page would be “a cute panda enjoys a delicious stick of bamboo!”

These simple tricks are effective for any kind of webpage, from local car mechanics to a self-made page on pandas, and everything in-between. By using your keywords sparingly and focusing on meaningful tags, file names, headers, and captions, you can see a boost in your SEO scores, as Google notices every little change you make.

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