One of the first SEO tricks I learned a couple of years ago was how to optimize my images for SEO. Imagery can draw people into your posts, but if you’d just labeled your photo IMG3832.jpg before uploading you’re not doing yourself or your blog any SEO favors.
As humans, we react to a photo much faster than we do several paragraphs of text. We can instantly tell what it is and it can give context to whatever we’re looking at—instantly.
But, Google is not a human. It’s very smart, but it doesn’t “read” an image like we do. So, by optimizing your images for SEO, you’re making it possible for Google to read your image and then pull you into search results too.
When you show up in more search results, Google can better categorize and index your site and also show your site to the right people. Win-win for everyone!
So, how do you do this? It’s pretty simple! And, several of these tips are easy to apply to posts that have already gone live. Just add a few tweaks and you’ve made your post more SEO-friendly.
Here are my best tips for optimizing your images for SEO.
How to Optimize Images for SEO
Do Keyword Research
When I’m working on any blog post, I always like to start with some keyword research. I use SEMRush.com, but you can also use a free platform like UberSuggest to get some ideas of what keyword phrases are trending around the topic you’re writing about.
This is so important and so worth your time in the long run! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found that the keyword I had in mind doesn’t actually have many searches, but just a slight variation of that keyword phrase has tons of searches.
You’ll want to avoid keywords with high competition and thousands upon thousands of searches. As a smaller website, you most likely will not ever rank for a keyword that has 30K monthly searches. I usually aim for keyword phrases closer to the 1000 monthly search range.
Do your research and write down at least 5 to use.
Add Long Tail Keywords to File Names
What is a Long Tail Keyword?
When looking up keywords, what you’re really looking for is long tail keywords, meaning keyword phrases. Most people aren’t going to get on the internet and search for something with a single word. That’s because we know that there is so much content out there and if we search for one word, we’re definitely not going to get the information we’re looking for.
Let’s say you’re looking for dog training. Would you search “dog” and hope that dog training for your specific breed in your city showed up at the top? NO! Of course not, you’d probably search, “dog training Lincoln Park Chicago” or “in house dog training Chicago” for something specific.
That’s why it’s so important that our keywords aren’t single words, but instead their long-tail keyword phrases. It gives more context to your content, lowers the competition and gives you a higher chance of ranking.
How to Use Long Tail Keywords in File Names
Now that you know what a long tail keyword is, how does this apply to your images? One of the easiest tricks is to simply change your image’s file name from IMG983.jpg to something descriptive like, “dog-training-tips-golden-retriever.jpg”. Every image should be labeled with a long tail keyword phrase like this to give it more context.
Make Sure the Image is Relevant
To piggyback off that, all of your images should be relevant! For the file name above, you’d want to be using an image of a golden retriever, maybe someone training one or walking one. Don’t throw a random picture of a toy poodle in there—it doesn’t make sense and HUMANS will look and that and say, “well that’s dumb”, and move onto the next image or post.
Add Keyword-Rich ALT Text
All of your images within your blog post should also contain keyword rich ALT text. When you upload your images in WordPress, you’ll see a box on the right hand side for different fields, one of them being ALT text. This is where you want to drop in a nicely written description of what is in the image.
Since most of my images end up on Pinterest and Pinterest is a visual search engine, I drop the Pinterest description I’ve written in the ALT text box. Not only is it written for humans to easily read, but it’s also packed with keywords that’ll bring in the right kind of traffic. And, it makes my pinning strategy quicker and easier as well!
What you absolutely do NOT want to do here is keyword stuff. Meaning, do not just put a list of all the keywords relevant to your post. You’ll get penalized for that. Instead, this description should be human-friendly and easy to read.
Optimize your Image File Size
When you spend time and/or money taking really nice high-quality images, you want them to look amazing on your site, right? But, uploading hi-res images to your blog post can actually majorly slow your site down because it takes so much more effort for the browser to upload that massive file vs. one that’s been optimized for the web.
I use Lightroom to edit photos and when I export them, I make sure to have the file setting at no larger than 500KB, 72ppi and 1200px wide at the largest. This ensures that all of my photos load quickly, but still look crisp and beautiful on my site.
If you’re not sure how wide your main content area is on your website, read this post to see what your blog’s ideal image size should be.
That’s it! A few simple tweaks that will help your SEO and give your blog a boost in the long run!
P.S. Learn how to write Pinterest descriptions that boost your clicks and traffic here.