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Your SEO Guide to Image Optimization

Updated on September 25, 2023
Posted on June 10, 2018 by Brent Wildman

Your SEO Guide to Image Optimization

Image optimization is often treated as an afterthought for SEO, which is exactly why you need to master it. Effective SEO isn’t just about optimizing your site; it’s about optimizing in ways that your competitors haven’t covered. Doing this will give you an edge in organic search. In that respect, image optimization is a great place to start.

Use this guide to check each image on your page and ensure that your image SEO is up to par.

Descriptive “tags”

Start by making sure every image you publish is optimized to include the following descriptions:

  • File name
  • Title tag
  • Alt tag
  • Meta description

These descriptions are the primary way your images will communicate with search crawlers, as well as be an important part of providing a good UX to each viewer. So make sure you have these bases covered. In particular, the alt and title attribute texts are important parts of Google’s SEO ranking algorithms. Google extracts as much information as it can from these tags, so the more descriptive and focused your tags, the better off you’ll be.

Compress images

Uncompressed images can create significant drag on your website, particularly if your site is media rich. There are plenty of free online compression tools out there these days, so there’s no excuse for this one. Make sure every image you upload is compressed to minimize page load time as much as possible.


Sitemaps are a way to give Google’s crawlers additional information about the content of your website. You can provide additional image details as well as ensure that every image URL you include is indexed by Google. Read Google’s rundown of image sitemaps here.

Social markups

Of course, you also have to consider social media in your image strategy. By including social media metadata in your images, you optimize your images for sharing across each of the major social channels. These can get complicated, but here’s a brief rundown of a few options:

  • Facebook Open Graph to optimize how content appears in the Timeline.
  • Twitter Cards are similar to Open Graph, but they can make an even bigger impact as most Twitter users don’t optimize their metadata for posts.
  • org markup for Google+ is another option for optimization.

Know why you’re using them

This one relates more to the UX than SEO proper, but as we know, the two are closely tied. Make sure your images serve specific purposes on your site. Images are great ways to complement your text, provide visual cues, highlight data, or illustrate complicated concepts, but you shouldn’t include them just to have them.

Custom images

We get it. Compared to custom images, stock images are cheaper, easier to find, and faster to implement. That’s why everyone uses them—and it’s why you shouldn’t. Custom images are the best way to guarantee that your images serve your content and support your brand goals. If you can’t make your own, consider customizing your stock images in a free photo editing tool.

Keep the UX in mind

With all that said, remember that the UX is at the heart of every change you make to your site. Even if users will never see your image’s title tag, for example, its optimization is crucial to your on-site SEO strategy—and thus, whether or not users will find your page. Keep the big picture in mind as you make these changes and remember the cardinal rule of SEO: Optimize for humans, not computers.

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