Introduction to SEO Image Optimization: How to Make Your Images Searchable

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It seems like marketing for a small business is never over. First you need to have a “web presence”, which means you need to have a website and social media profiles and working emails for everyone on your team. Then, having a website isn’t enough, it has to be a website that is aesthetically pleasing and people can find what they’re looking for. The current mantra for business websites is “more images!” —  people are more likely to glean information from clear, crisp images (sometimes with a few words on them) than from walls of text.

This is solid design theory, as images convey a lot more emotionally than words. And at the end of the day, people buy with their emotions. If your website gives them a pleasant feeling, they’re a lot more likely to buy from you.

But once you have all these images, putting them on your website isn’t enough. You can also use the images to draw people TO your website in the first place… but only if search engines can find them. So here is a guide to SEO image optimization, or how to make your images searchable.


Use Original, Relevant Images

Search engines give priority to original content, so using your own images is a good idea. When it comes to reading images, search engines don’t completely avoid duplicates, but if you use images from other sources, they’re likely to be traced back to the original. Duplicate images are also less likely to draw people to your site, since they’re just as likely to click on someone else’s version rather than yours. So creating your own images is always a good default. You can do this by taking all your own photos, creating graphic images, or adjusting the photos that you’ve bought the rights to. If you plan on using a lot of images on your website or in your social media marketing, it will be worth it to learn how to use Photoshop or another photo editing software.

It’s also best to host the images on your own website, not use apps to pull them from image hosting sites. This way you have complete control and ownership over your marketing material.

Since images are used to communicate a message, it’s obvious that they need to be relevant to your point. On your homepage, you’ll want images that communicate your overall theme and message. On landing pages, you’ll want to use images that correspond with the surrounding words, and match the keywords you want that page to rank for. So if it’s a page for a specific service, your images should involve that service being demonstrated, and be described as such. The surrounding text should also describe that service. This will increase the chances that both your page and your image will rank for the keywords relevant to that service.

Spend time and learn how to use Adobe Photoshop, and always use premium stock images or high-quality free images in your marketing.


Create an Image Sitemap for better SEO image optimization

Search engines can only work with the information you give them. This is why it’s important to create an image sitemap, which is basically a list of all the images on all your pages. This involves a bit of code, but it can be accomplished mostly with some copy-pasting. Google breaks down what a useful image sitemap consists of. You can create an image-specific sitemap, or add image information to your existing sitemap.

There are also extensions and apps that do this for you. Be sure to research any outside app before you download anything or give a third party access to your website.


Size Images Appropriately

Image size is important for a few different reasons. From a user perspective, image size can affect quality. If images are stretched or blurry, the quality will distract from the message. If they’re too small to see clearly, they’re not serving their function.

From a search engine perspective, image size matters mostly in relation to load time. Larger images take longer to load, and load time does affect a search engine’s assessment of your site quality. So don’t put large image files in small containers like product thumbnails, as your site will still have to load the full large image. Instead, compress your images so the file size matches the visual size requirements. You can do this with online tools, or through photo editing software.

You’ll also want image containers to be responsive, changing with screen size to look attractive on both desktop and mobile. If details are too small, mobile versions might be sub-par. This is a lot to consider, but today, responsiveness should be one of the top priorities for your website.

If you use WordPress, be sure to read our tips on how to optimize a WordPress website to reduce the load time of your pages.


Label the Image Informatively

This section has most of the active work when it comes to optimizing images. For every image you put on your site, you’ll need a descriptive filename and alt text. No, don’t just use a filename with random letters and numbers. Describe the image in the filename, utilizing the words you’d like the image (and page) to rank for. Then describe the image in more depth in the alt text. This text will appear instead of your image if there are load issues, so write this to be informative to both people and search engines.

You’ll also want to fill out the title tag, which is not as actively used as alt text, but is another signifier to search engines about what your photo depicts. In Chrome, title tags will appear as a pop-up bar when people hover over your graphic.

For some images, it will be appropriate to have a caption. This is most likely when you need to give someone credit for the photo, or when you need to describe the people, places, or objects depicted. If you write a caption, utilize keywords that are relevant to the image.


Make Images Easy to Share

People are a lot more likely to find your images and site if people they know share it, particularly on social media, so make it easy to share your images. There are apps that allow all of your images to have share buttons on them, and you can often choose which social media platforms are options.

You’ll also want to use Open Graph tags so that when someone links to your page on social media, the image pops up as an option to be included. Open Graph is code, but it is simple code. You can see some tips for using Open Graph here.

Use Sumo to add share buttons and other free tools that will help you grow your website.


Once you establish a process for uploading images on your website, it’s easy to stick to. Establish this protocol from the start so you don’t have to go back and add information and change formatting for hundreds of images in the future. Share any experiences you’ve had with image optimization in the comments!


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