March 13, 2023

Robin Gillham

Picture Perfect SEO: How to Optimize Your Photos for Better Rankings

Photo: Designecologist

Image use enhances any article. Strong, well-used photographs draw attention to the written words. Far more people will read an article with a good photo than one that has no supporting image.

Photos used on websites also contribute to how search engines read and rank pages. You can improve the SEO of any website by optimizing every photo and making them more attractive to search engine bots.

In this article you’ll learn how to:

  • Best format your photos for SEO
  • The importance of careful file naming
  • Making the most of image Alt text
  • Sizing and compression images for performance
  • Image context and SEO
Photo: Designecologist

Format your photos for SEO

Picking an image file format to use on your website is a big deal because it has an impact on both user experience and SEO performance.

There are two image file formats widely used on websites. These are .jpg and .png. Other formats are used, but these two are generally preferred because they are more practical for photographs.

Both of these formats are compressed. The more you compress an image, the smaller the file size becomes, and the faster it loads to the web page. There’s no ideal formula for compressing photos for online usage. The level of detail and color in a photo impacts the file size when compressed.

Jpg is the most commonly used file format for photos online. One reason for this is that this file format produces better quality and smaller file sizes.

The png file format allows for transparency to be included in images. The jpg file format lacks this ability. Transparency is more commonly used in graphics files and photos used as graphics. This is one reason they are not favored so much by photographers.

It’s possible to format and save images in other formats and have them uploaded to the web. But there are disadvantages. GIF images are popular for simple animations. But have limitations for displaying high-resolution photos. SVG files are ideal for vector graphics, but not suited for use with photos. WebP is a newer image file format. It does produce high-quality images and smaller file sizes than jpg or png formats but is not universally supported by all web browsers.

All the main image editing programs, like Photoshop and Lightroom, provide tools to help format images for internet usage.

Photo: Christian Wiediger

The importance of careful file naming

Keyword-rich file names are critical to image SEO. Make use of the image file name to alert search engine crawlers as to the subject matter of the photo. If the file name does not match the image content, you’re not communicating to the bots as well as you could.

About the worst thing you can do with an image file name is leave it untouched. This means whatever file naming protocol your camera uses produces the name of the photo. This is often an unuseful string of letters and numbers that tells you, or the search bots, anything helpful about the photo.

Likewise, if you download an image from a stock website to use, make sure to rename the image with SEO in mind. The image below had the file name “glenn-carstens-peters-npxXWgQ33ZQ-unsplash”. This provides helpful information about the image creator and where it came from. It does nothing to help SEO. Renaming the photo something like “Hands typing on a laptop keyboard” is descriptive and adds context. This simple change affects the SEO of the image in a positive way.

Photo: Glenn Carstens-Peters

When you come to upload and name photos you use on your website, aim to provide useful information to the search crawlers. Best concise and descriptive and use relevant keywords as often as possible.

Making the most of image Alt text for image SEO

The Alt text should be descriptive of the image content. This text, also known as Alt tags or Alt descriptions, helps screen reading tools often used by people who are visually impaired.

This information ideally communicates the content of the photo. Being as descriptive and concise as possible is challenging. You don’t want to write an essay on every photograph you use on your website.

It’s important to use keyword-rich, descriptive language. This will inform viewers and search crawlers about the content of the photograph. This not only helps with site SEO but provides actual people with a better experience when they visit your website.

Alt text can be added using image editing software or, in some cases, when the image is uploaded to a website. For example, by uploading an image to a WordPress website, you can easily add the Alt text to a photo once it’s in the media library.

The Alt text feature is there primarily to help visually impaired users. Make the most of it by keeping your text brief and as descriptive of the photo as possible. As you write your text, imagine that you’re describing the photo to someone who cannot see it. This will not only achieve the purpose of the Alt tag but also inform search engine bots as to the content of the image.

Photo: Bench Accounting

Sizing and compression images for performance

Getting your photos optimized for size and dimension is essential for image SEO. Bloated images with large file sizes that are too big to fit on a webpage are a waste of space. They will also hinder good placement in web searches.

There are two key aspects to sizing and compressing photos. It’s not only about the file size. You must consider the image dimensions and ensure these are also optimized. You don’t want visitors to your photography website to leave because your photos take too long to load.

If the width of your photo exceeds the maximum most people will view it at, you’re wasting space and slowing page load time. Search engines take these things seriously so you need to pay good attention to them.

Using a photo that’s too narrow can cause problems with the viewer experience. Uploading a very small image can work okay when viewed on a mobile device. But if the same image is enlarged on a computer monitor it can look blurry because it’s been enlarged to more than 100% of its dimensions. I generally upload my images with a width of 2500 pixels. I find this provides good quality without compromising size. Most people are not viewing websites on monitors that support higher-resolution images than this.

For best photo SEO aim to keep your file sizes as small as practical, without quality loss. The more compression you add to an image, the more likely it is your photo quality deteriorates. This can have a negative impact on how people enjoy your website as well as on how the search engines rank it. For the best image compression results manage the process manually and check there’s no quality lost in the final image.

Photo: Mimi Thian

Image context and SEO

One aspect of image SEO that is often overlooked is adding context. Tying the photo to the text on the page helps search engines make more sense of it.

You can add written context by captioning the photos you use on your website. You can also refer to photos in the body text of the page.

For example, describing the content of the image below as having a small dog wearing glasses reading from a digital tablet, helps the on-page SEO. Obviously, the more relevant the photo is to the general text on the page, the more the search crawlers will like it.

Photo: Cookie the Pom

Google tells us that providing good context for the photos we use helps the search engine understand the relevance of the photos. Google, and other search engines, aim to provide users with the most helpful information possible. The more we can add relevance and context, the better our search results become.

Don’t get carried away with this though. Providing too much text with the aim of making an image more relevant to the search engines could cause people to become disinterested in your content. Let the photo do its job and use concise text to help with contextualization.

Photo: Nicolas Ladino Silva

Conclusion on how to optimize your photos for better SEO rankings

It’s easy to overlook the importance of image SEO. There’s much more to good image SEO than many people are aware of and know how to use well. Each time you’re uploading photos to your website, or providing them to your site development team, make sure you’ve done your part.

Choose the most appropriate file type. Don’t leave this to chance that your web developer will do this task efficiently. Even if they do, remember that the more times you resize and recompress a jpg file, the more the image quality deteriorates. It’s best to make a well-sized image directly from the original file.

Name your photos intentionally. Never leave the file name your camera allocated to pictures as what you upload online. This is always going to be detrimental to SEO.

Make thoughtful use of Alt text. Write as though you are describing the photo to someone who you’re talking to on the telephone. What is the most relevant information you can give about this image?

Don’t rush image sizing and compression. Once you’ve resized and compressed, open the image again and view it at 100% magnification. How does it look? This is more important than the image size because no one visiting a photography website wants to see blurry images.

Whenever it’s practical, aim to contextualize the images you use on your website. Take time to think about relevant information you can use in the body text. Also, consider image captions that will enhance both the viewer experience and search results.

Optimizing your photos using these techniques will help improve your website’s SEO performance. Every little bit helps!

Robin Gillham

Robin is a resident case manager at Pixsy, working directly with our creators and photographers to help them enforce their rights. Robin is a hobby photographer with a keen interest in time-lapse.

Start monitoring your images today

Free to sign up

24/7 image monitoring online

Powerful dashboard & tools

Send takedown notices worldwide

Get compensated for stolen images