People are naturally attracted to images. According to Rand Fishkin’s analysis, a third of all searches performed in Google are for images and 12.5% of SERPs show Image Pack results. Let’s see how to improve our image SEO with some basic, very simple, tips and best practices.

You can figure out if image SEO is actually something you should be doing by checking Google itself for any given keyword you are interested in. If at the top, often together with the ad result, you see the image block with a few photos in there, then it’s worth trying to rank here. Google, in fact, is only going to show that image block if and when the searchers actually click on the images frequently, or if any people search directly on Google Images for that term.

Many people who are contractors or decorators, remodelers, hotel owners or craft sellers find that image search is something that people do as research before they choose them. When you optimise images correctly, you elevate the overall SEO of a page or a post. Images can really contribute to the Search Engine Optimisation of a page or a blog post so that it can actually rank better.

The rankings elements for Google images are actually quite broad, but they’re not complicated. Make sure you create some guidelines for content creators/publishers on your site, who add images on your pages so that they will remember to pay attention to (at least, the most important ones) of the below mentioned criteria.

Some important criteria for image SEO:

  1. The image file name
  2. The alt attribute on the image. Alt attributes are meant for visually impaired people, but it does seem to help a little bit, maybe, with Image Search SEO and web results SEO too. We’ve seen far too many keywords stuffed alt attributes, which now don’t help SEO anymore. If you want to provide a really natural alt description, imagine that it will be used by a program designed for “reading” and describing pictures to people who can’t see them. Explain in brief what the picture is about to someone who can’t see it and you’ll have an alt description that is natural enough. To add alt attribute in an image, select it in the Media Library and add it as shown in this screenshot.

    How to use an alt attribute in an image
    How to use an alt attribute in an image
  3. The image caption. The caption may actually be more important than the alt attribute when it comes to Image Search rankings. Just pay attention that it gets displayed: some themes don’t and in that case, it would be something that’s written in the code but not displayed, which could trigger Google bad memories of the “invisible text”, one of the oldest black-hat SEO tricks with which people tied to manipulate it. Google may penalise you quickly as a reaction.
  4. Surrounding text content. Google checks if the text above and below and around the images has relevance with the meaning expressed (keywords included) by the picture. This is one of the reasons, why galleries of images don’t rank so well: there’s very little relevant content surrounding them. In many cases, there are tons of images all on one page, when what Google is looking for is just one or two that are hyper-relevant to the particular topic: this is the reason why most of the images which rank well in Google Image Search are the ones that are the premier image on that particular page.
  5. The page title.
  6. The URL that it’s hosted on. We know the keyword in the domain name doesn’t have that primary importance as a ranking factor that led them to be sold for crazy amounts of money, but it still matters, at least for some sites which are not so new and began their ranking/trust/authority history when it was still a more important factor.
  7. Image engagement and popularity. Very important. For Google RankBrain‘s intentions of providing Google users with very relevant and useful content, engagement and popularity, what people scroll to, what they click on, what they click through to, matters as a good sign of relevance. Once again, quality wins. In this case, quality is having very high-quality, highly interesting, highly relevant images, which provide something useful and important to the search intent of that page. You can read more about this in our article on the unicorn marketing theory. For this very same reason, the embeds of the image (if it appears on many different websites and pages, and it’s been embedded multiple times) seems to have a positive impact on ranking, too.
  8. The images dimensions matter. Google Image Search generally ranks sort of 16 by 9, 4 by 3 and rarely shows very weird image dimensions, very horizontal or very vertical ones. Also remember that image dimensions are very important for optimising the loading speed of your page, which is something we will talk about very soon. Don’t upload a full image if it’s going to be displayed only of a certain size. Google will have to load it entirely every time it loads the page, just for resizing it later and rending it the size you established. This can slow down pages we’ve seen A LOT. And page speed does matter as a ranking criterion A LOT. So just resize and upload an image you want to add in a page of the exact size it will be needed for appearing there.
  9. Image size. Google is generally not looking for very small images but they don’t even usually show gigantic ones, also because they slow down web pages so much that they should be avoided. After you’ve resized an image, try working on its quality, if decreasing it a little bit won’t negatively affect the resulting look that it will have on a screen. You can also use a plenty of image compression tools which reduce the weight of it, without touching its quality.
  10. Web page ranking factors. If a page ranks well, also images from it may rank in the first few images results (but the reverse isn’t always true).
  11. Image relevance and visual match. Google seems to finally be able to detect it. So don’t try and play tricks: a picture won’t probably show for words not relevant to its real content.

We hope that this guide helps you have a clear path to image SEO; if you think you’d like to know more or to get advice, don’t hesitate to contact us!