It’s All in the Photos – The Impact of Image SEO

March 18, 2021

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Did you know that you’re missing out on better search rankings if you’re not optimizing your images for SEO?

Whether you write articles for an online magazine, are a full-time blogger, or are a business looking for opportunities to improve your rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs), you’ll find yourself asking if your article needs an image or not.

The answer is “yes.”

In all fields of SEO — restaurant SEO, chiropractor SEO, healthcare SEO, SEO real estate —images bring articles to life and optimize your website for search engines and users. Google can read images and improve your rankings, and consumers are more likely to view articles illustrated with photos.  

If you haven’t optimized your images yet, you’re missing out on lucrative marketing opportunities.

man working on a laptop

Introducing image SEO

Image SEO is the process of optimizing images on your website, so it’s easier for search engines to find and ”read,” consequently improving the rankings and visibility of your content in Google and other search engines. Image SEO includes elements, like load time, image size, and image type, as well as the optimization of keywords and alt texts in your image file names.

Image SEO is often an overlooked element of on-page SEO, but that doesn’t mean it does not matter. If you disregard optimization, poor image SEO can negatively impact your page’s ability to rise in the index, earn valuable backlinks, and drive valuable organic traffic.

Also, keep in mind that image search has become increasingly important in the previous years. In 2018, Google removed the “view image” button from its search results, which encouraged more users to visit the website to view the image instead. This small change resulted in a 37 percent increase in site visitors for most websites.

Recently, Google Images also revamped its interface with new metadata, filters, and attribution. These new filters show that Google knows the attributes of an image, as well as how the image fits the content’s context.

Rule of thumb: always use images

Google is all about user experience today, which is why your content should be written and designed with the user in mind. In the case of images, properly-placed and implemented photos can help readers better understand and appreciate your article. If you need to “spice up” 1000 dull words, make your social media posts more enticing, or emphasize your words via a data flow diagram, images will do their job.

It’s a simple recommendation: add photos to all of your articles to improve your content. What’s more, visual search is becoming more important. Google’s vision of the future emphasizes this development. And as discussed above, quality visual content can give you a nice bit of traffic.

Man writing in a Notebook

Finding the best image for your content

When it comes to your content, it’s always better to use original photos (like the ones you took yourself) compared to stock photos.

For instance, if you’re writing about your company’s team, the page needs photos of your actual team, not stock photos of random people.

Also, your article must have a photo relevant to its subject. If you’re adding images just to get brownie points from content analysis plug-ins, you’re doing it wrong.

Your photos should reflect the topic of the content or must have illustration purposes within the content. Don’t forget to add the photo near relevant texts, too. For instance, if you have an image that you’re trying to rank, keep that near the top of the page. The image should not appear out of place.

a Team of people

Image format and compression

If you’re new to image SEO, one of the most pressing questions is “How do you determine the best image format to use on your website?” You have many options: JPG, PNG, and GIF, among others. Each format has its set of pros and cons in terms of quality, file size, and compression.

Here’s what you need to know about these image compressions and formats:

  • The most commonly used image format, JPGs are full-color photos that have 24 bits of memory to each pixel. This photo format is great for making smaller-size files, as well as photographs. A con of JPG is its loose data compression. Depending on your image’s settings, the photo’s quality can suffer a bit. JPG does not support transparency, isn’t good for images with sharp images or text images, and can’t be animated.
  • GIFs are bitmap image formats that display indexed-color images and graphics in HTML documents. A major perk of using this image format is it preserves transparency. This means you can upload GIFs over colored backgrounds minus the unpleasant image borders. GIFs are also ideal for simple art and small file size, like animations and logos. On the other hand, the file sizes for GIFs are large, which is not good for photographs.
  • Referred to as the modern alternative to GIFs and JPG, PNGs are used when downloading or editing photos from Adobe Photoshop. This image format supports more colors compared to GIFs. They are also ideal for small images and logos since they can handle transparency well. On the con side, PNGs cannot handle animation and are not supported by all web browsers.

Best image SEO practices

If you are new to image SEO or need guidance, follow these steps to add SEO-friendly images to your web content.

  • Add at least one image. The best practice for image SEO is to upload at least one graphic or image on the page. Images show search engines that your web page is engaging and offers valuable content to searchers. Since photos make content easier to understand and scan, it’s more likely to be read or even shared.
  • Use a compressor to reduce image sizes. Website speed has the biggest impact on image SEO’s ability to help your page rank and gain traffic. It’s an important factor; site speed will not only impact the user’s ability to move from one web page to another; it’s an active ranking factor, too. If your pages load slowly, Google will not rank them well. Use PageSpeed Insights for an in-depth assessment of the elements that could be hindering your page’s loading speed.

Big and Small tiger

Improperly-sized images are often the culprits behind slow-loading pages. Since page speed and SEO are closely connected, image compression is an important factor of image SEO.

  • Scale images to improve page load times. Page load time is an important factor to consider your website’s SEO of value. Using larger images affect the user experience, causing Google to penalize your website ranking. Sizing an image can make a difference between a quick-loading page and a slow-loading one quickly abandoned by users. With image sizing, make sure that the actual size and the display size of the images are close; otherwise, you’ll be damaging the site speed if you upload unnecessarily large images.
  • Choose high-quality images. Images will be more interesting and engaging to web visitors if they are high-quality. If you can, create a custom graphic that is unique to your website so you can stand out in the image searches. Keep in mind: many users click through images to view the image on your website. So, publish content with optimized images to gain higher website traffic.
  • Use appropriate image file sizes. Large images slow down website load times. Instead of giving your users a bad experience (which results in poor long-term SEO results), resize your image files.

crowd of people

Pairing images with words

  • Add and optimize the image alt tag. Image alt tags help SEO. Search crawlers read and understand words despite not being able to see photos. Alt tags, also known as “alt descriptions” and “alt attributes,” help search crawlers process images without seeing them. It tells search engines what the image is about. Apart from helping with SEO, image alt tags also help your audience. Some users turned off their image displays, use a screen reader due to visual impairment, or have browsers that are unable to load images due to a weak Internet connection. Image alt tags tell the reader what the image is.
  • Include image structured data. Adding structured data to your pages help search engines display photos in better quality. Although Google doesn’t guarantee better rankings with structured data, it can flesh out your listings in the Image Search. For example, if your website has recipes and you add structured data to your photos, Google can add badges to your photos, showing crawlers that a certain photo belongs to a recipe.
  • Add the target keyword to the image title and image file name. Create SEO-friendly images by adding the target keyword in the image title and image file name. The title is another tag that describes and identifies the image whereas the file name is another label or tag connected to the image. For the best image SEO practices, use the same target keyword for your image title and image alt tag.

man writing on paper

The bottom line

Optimizing your images for SEO is the best place to start when you want to improve your user experience and SERP rankings. Use these steps to get started. If you need further help, get in touch with an SEO expert.

About the author

Itamar Gero is the founder and CEO of, a white label SEO company and digital marketing solutions provider that empowers agencies—and their local business clientele—all over the world. When he isn’t working, he’s traveling the world, meditating, or dreaming (in code).

Itamar Gero

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