How to Optimize Images for SEO: A Step-by-Step Guide

October 22, 2022

By Vince Laliberte, Swiss Army Knife

If you were to ask 10 SEO professionals what “step 1” is for optimizing a website, you’d get a few different answers. A few of the answers you might get might revolve around H1s and H2s, meta descriptions, content and blogging, and backlinking. One topic that would certainly come up would be the use of images and, more importantly, image optimization.

Ultimately, Google’s mission is to give a positive experience to everyone typing in a search query. A good experience means finding the best answer and finding it as quickly as possible. As the old saying goes, “an image is worth a thousand words.” Well, that is true for SEO as well. Good content is improved by relevant imagery. When the content is richer, better, and more compelling, Google will rank it higher.

But how do you optimize images for SEO? Don’t worry, we’ll answer that question and more in this step-by-step guide. We’ll also give you some tips on using images effectively on your website or blog. So let’s get started!

Why Use Images?

Images are important for SEO because search engines, like Google, recognize the value of quality images. Not only do they help break up text and make your content more visually appealing, but they also give you another opportunity to insert relevant keywords into your page which can help improve your SEO ranking. In addition, well-optimized images can also help speed up your website which is important since site speed is now a ranking factor for SEO.

All images should be relevant to your content

Every image should be highly relevant to your content. Irrelevant images can actually hurt your SEO. So if you’re writing about a specific topic, make sure the images you’re using relate to that topic. If you’re thinking that this seems like an obvious tip, you’re right. As you can imagine, some people try their best to use images for the sake of having them, and ultimately end up adding imagery that is hurting their rankings.

Image Relevancy Tip

Every year, search engines put more and more focus into image and video search results. Surely you’ve noticed they are often at the top of organic search results? When posting content consider your image as THE organic search result of a search query and ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. Would the user who typed in that query be satisfied with your image as the search result?
  2. Would that user see your image and be compelled to click on it to see your content?

If the answer  to either of these questions is no, find a more relevant image.👍

Compressing Your Images

Make sure your images are compressed. Images that are too small can appear blurry, reducing the quality of your content while image files that are too large can hurt your SEO because they slow down your website which, as we mentioned before, is now a ranking factor for SEO. In addition, large image files can also eat up bandwidth which can cost you money if you’re on a paid hosting plan. So how do you know which size is the right size for your images?

A general rule of thumb is that your image file should be no larger than 100kb. Fortunately, there are a number of free tools available that make it easy to compress your images without losing quality. A fantastic one that we use at Taction is ImageSmaller. Among the dozens of options for compression this one tends to be as close to lossless as possible, can handle large file sizes (up to 50 MB), and it can handle all of the most common image filetypes (PNG, JPG, JPEG, GIF, and TIFF).

Name Your Images

This one catches a lot of people off-guard but yes, the filename matters! One of the most common SEO mistakes people make is not naming their images correctly. When adding an image to your website, always name it something relevant to the topic you’re writing about as this will help improve your SEO ranking. For example, if you’re writing a blog post about “How to Make a Delicious Chocolate Cake,” don’t name your image “Chocolate-Cake-IMG2345.” Instead, try something like “Delicious-Chocolate-Cake-Recipe.jpg.” See the difference? The first option tells Google absolutely nothing about what’s in the image while the second one provides valuable information that can help improve your SEO ranking.

Add Alt Text and Image Captions

This is the most common SEO tip in regards to image optimization, but there are quite a bit of misconceptions to it. Always add alt text and image captions. Alt text is the text that appears in place of an image if the image can’t be displayed for some reason. It’s also what appears when you hover your mouse over an image. Image captions are the short pieces of text that appear below an image. Both alt text and image captions give you another opportunity to insert relevant keywords into your page which can help improve your SEO ranking.

Google also uses this information to help make your website more accessible to people with visual impairments as the alt text is read aloud by screen readers. When adding alt text and image captions, try to keep them short, descriptive, and keyword-rich. And always make sure they accurately describe what’s in the image. Don’t try to stuff keywords into your alt text or image caption just for the sake of SEO as this will only hurt your ranking. It should sound natural! The alt text for an image of chocolate cake should be something like “A delicious chocolate cake on a white plate with a fork.” A bad example of alt text for that same image would be “Our original recipe chocolate cake dessert gluten-free soy-free food no sugar added.”

The SEO of your images is important, but ultimately you want your website to be enjoyable and easy to use for all visitors. Don’t get so caught up in optimizing your images that you forget the most important part – providing valuable content that helps your readers! Ultimately, Google’s #1 rule is to focus on the user’s needs and if you need help along the way, there are plenty of free SEO tools and resources available online.

Format Your Images

The final SEO tip for images is to format them correctly. The two most common image formats are JPEG and PNG. When deciding which format to use, it really depends on the type of image you’re using. For example, if you have a photo with a lot of detail or color, a JPEG is usually the best option as it offers a high level of detail and compression without sacrificing quality. On the other hand, if you have an image with fewer colors like a logo, text-based image, or line drawing, a PNG would be the better choice as it produces sharper images with less file size.

BONUS SEO TIP: Use Google’s Image Search

Google’s image search is a great way to find relevant, high-quality images for your website. Just make sure you have permission to use every image! When searching for an image, make sure you’re in the “All sizes” tab and then click on “Large.” This will ensure that the images you select are of good quality and large enough to be used on your website. In addition, Google also offers a handy “reverse image search” feature where you can upload an image from your computer to find similar images elsewhere on the web. This is a great way to find websites that may be using one of your images without giving you credit.

Looking for images to use on your site?

Here are websites you can use to find images that suit your needs:

  • Unsplash: A large selection of high-quality, royalty-free images.
  • Pexels: A fantastic selection of royalty-free images and videos shared directly by creators.
  • Canva: A user-friendly graphic design tool that lets you create your own professional designs and also has a library of stock photos, videos, sounds, graphics, and other elements.

We hope you found this blog post helpful in your SEO journey! If you have questions about image optimization and SEO send us an email and we’ll be happy to help!

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