Image SEO Fundamentals: File Names, Alt Text, and More

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Images are a critical part of any successful website. They break up text, add visual interest, and help convey information more engagingly. But images can do more than just look pretty – they can also drive significant traffic to your site through Google Images and other image search engines.

This is where image SEO comes in. By optimizing your images for search, you can significantly boost your site’s visibility and organic traffic. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about image SEO in 2024 to get your images ranking at the top of Google Images and beyond.

Why Image SEO Matters

Images are a huge part of the modern web. According to HTTP Archive, images make up an average of 21% of a webpage’s total weight. And with the rise of visual social media and the increasing popularity of image search, optimizing your images is more important than ever.

Some key reasons why image SEO should be a priority:

  • Google Images is the second largest search engine after Google web search. Ranking well in image search can drive significant traffic to your site.
  • Images make content more engaging and memorable. People are 80% more likely to read content with relevant images and 64% more likely to remember it.
  • Image SEO is often overlooked, so optimizing your images can give you an edge over competitors.
  • Images can rank for long-tail keywords that your pages may not rank for, expanding your reach.
  • Google uses image SEO signals like file names, alt text, and captions to understand and rank images.

So in summary, image SEO is a powerful way to drive more traffic, engage users, and get your content discovered in search. Let’s dive into how to do it.

Image SEO Checklist

Here’s a step-by-step checklist for optimizing your images for search engines:

  1. Use relevant, high-quality images that add value to your content. Avoid generic stock photos when possible.
  2. Choose descriptive, keyword-rich file names for your images, like “red-leather-shoes.jpg” instead of “IMG_1234.jpg”.
  3. Resize and compress images to reduce file size and improve page load speed. Aim for file sizes under 100KB.
  4. Include alt text that describes the image in a few concise, keyword-rich words. This helps search engines and screen readers understand the image.
  5. Specify image dimensions using the width and height attributes in the HTML <img> tag.
  6. Use the srcset attribute to provide multiple image sources for different screen sizes, enabling the browser to choose the best one.
  7. Add structured data markup to your images, like ImageObject schema, to provide more context to search engines.
  8. Include your images in your XML sitemap to help search engines discover and index them.
  9. Serve images via a CDN (content delivery network) for faster global delivery.
  10. Use the WebP image format when possible for smaller file sizes than JPEG or PNG.
  11. Avoid keyword stuffing in alt text – keep it natural and descriptive.
  12. Create unique images like infographics, screenshots, and product photos when you can.
  13. Add captions to images to provide additional context and improve scalability.
  14. Optimize images for mobile by using responsive srcset and sizes attributes.
  15. Stay up-to-date on the latest image SEO best practices as search algorithms evolve.

Let’s dive deeper into some of these key image SEO tactics.

Choosing the Right Images

The first step in image SEO is selecting the right images to include on your pages. Relevant, high-quality images that add value to your content will perform best in search.

Some tips for choosing great images:

  • Use original photos or custom graphics when possible, rather than generic stock photos. Unique images stand out and provide more value.
  • Make sure images are relevant to the surrounding text and topic of the page. Avoid putting random images just for the sake of having them.
  • Choose images that are visually appealing and engaging. Bright, colorful, and interesting images tend to perform better.
  • Consider the intent behind the search query. For example, for an informational query, an explanatory diagram may be more useful than a photo.
  • Aim for a good balance of images and text on the page. Too many images can be distracting, but too few miss an opportunity.

The right images can make your content more compelling, memorable, and discoverable in search. But they need to be optimized to perform their best.

Optimizing Image File Names

The file name of your image is one of the first things search engines look at to understand what it depicts. Use descriptive, keyword-rich file names to give them a clear idea.

Some best practices for image file names:

  • Use hyphens to separate words, not underscores or spaces. For example: “red-leather-shoes.jpg”
  • Include your target keyword or a close variation in the file name when relevant. But avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Keep file names concise but descriptive. Aim for 4-5 words max.
  • Use all lowercase letters to avoid confusion.
  • Avoid generic names like “image1.jpg” or “pic456.png”. Be specific.
  • Use the actual name of the item in the image if applicable, like “eiffel-tower.jpg”.

Descriptive file names provide a strong relevance signal to search engines and can help your images rank better for your target keywords. Just don’t overdo it.

Optimizing Image Alt Text

Alt text (alternative text) is one of the most important image SEO factors. It provides a textual description of the image that search engines and screen readers can understand.

Here’s how to write effective alt text:

  • Keep it concise but descriptive, ideally under 125 characters.
  • Include your target keyword if relevant, but avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Focus on accurately describing the contents of the image. Don’t just repeat the file name.
  • Use natural language that reads well in context. Avoid excessive repetition.
  • If the image is purely decorative, leave the alt text empty or use alt="". Don’t describe a decorative image.
  • For complex images like charts or diagrams, provide a more detailed description of the key information conveyed.
  • For images containing text, include that text in the alt attribute.

Good alt text helps search engines understand your images and provides an accessible alternative for users who can’t see the images. It’s a crucial part of image SEO.

Optimizing Image Captions and Titles

While not as important as file names and alt text, image captions, and title attributes can also provide helpful context to search engines and users.

Image captions are the text that appears below an image. They are read 300% more than body copy on average, so they’re a great place to provide additional information about the image and its relevance to the page content.

Image title attributes are the text that appears when you hover over an image. They provide a tooltip-style description of the image. While less visible than captions, title attributes are still a useful way to provide more context.

Some tips for optimizing captions and titles:

  • Use captions to provide additional details about the image that aren’t in the alt text or body copy.
  • Keep captions concise but descriptive, ideally 1-2 sentences max.
  • For title attributes, use a short, catchy description that complements the alt text.
  • Include your target keyword in captions and titles when relevant, but avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Make sure captions and titles are relevant and add value. Don’t just repeat the alt text.

While not as critical as other image SEO factors, captions and titles can provide a nice boost by giving search engines and users more context about your images.

Optimizing Image Size and Format

Image file size is a critical factor in page speed and user experience. Large, unoptimized images can significantly slow down your site, hurting both SEO and conversion rates.

Some tips for optimizing image size:

  • Use a compression tool to reduce file size without sacrificing quality. Aim for under 100KB per image.
  • Choose the right image format for the job. JPEG is best for photos, PNG for graphics with transparent backgrounds, and WebP for the smallest file sizes.
  • Scale images to the exact size they will be displayed on the page, no larger. Oversized images waste bandwidth.
  • Use the srcset attribute to provide multiple image sources for different screen sizes, allowing browsers to choose the best one.
  • Serve images via a CDN for faster global delivery.

In addition to file size, make sure your images are the right dimensions for the layout. Specify the width and height attributes in the HTML to prevent layout shifting.

Optimizing image size and format is crucial for fast page loads and a smooth user experience. It’s also a direct Google ranking factor.

Optimizing the Page Content

The final piece of the image SEO puzzle is optimizing the page content that your images appear on. The text and HTML around your images provide important context to search engines.

Some tips for optimizing the page content:

  • Update the page title to include your target keyword.
  • Amend the page URL to include your target keyword (or a close variation).
  • Surround your image with relevant text that supports the image content. This provides important context.
  • Use semantic SEO by including related keywords and phrases that support the main topic.
  • Make sure your images are placed near relevant text and on pages that are topically relevant to the image subject matter.

The key is to provide as much relevant context as possible to search engines. Use your target keyword in the title and URL, surround images with supporting text, and leverage semantic SEO to paint a clear picture of what your images depict and the pages they belong to.

Tracking Image SEO Performance

To measure the success of your image SEO efforts, you’ll need to track some key metrics:

  • Impressions and clicks from Google Images and other image search engines
  • Referral traffic from image searches to your website
  • Image search rankings for your target keywords
  • Image engagement metrics like time on page and bounce rate

You can find some of this data in Google Search Console under the “Performance” report. Look for the “Image” tab to see impressions and clicks from the image search.

Google Analytics can also provide insights into referral traffic from image search engines and engagement metrics for pages with images.

Monitoring these metrics over time will show you which images are performing best in search and where you may need to optimize further. Use this data to refine your image SEO strategy.

Optimize Your Images with Guerrilla Local’s SEO Expertise

Guerrilla Local, a leading web design and SEO company in Dubai offers comprehensive solutions to optimize your images for search engines. Our team of experts uses cutting-edge strategies and tools to ensure your images rank higher in Google Images and other image search engines, driving more targeted traffic to your website. By choosing relevant, high-quality images, using descriptive file names, optimizing alt text, and leveraging other key image SEO tactics, we can help you boost your online visibility, engage users, and stay ahead of the competition.

Trust Guerrilla Local to elevate your image optimization game and take your digital marketing to the next level. Contact us today to learn more about our SEO services in Dubai and how we can help you achieve your goals.


Images are a powerful tool for driving traffic, engaging users, and boosting your SEO. By following the image SEO best practices outlined in this guide, you can get your images ranking at the top of Google Images and beyond.

Remember, image SEO is an ongoing process. Stay up-to-date on the latest trends, monitor your performance, and continually optimize your images and pages. With a little effort, your images can become a key part of your overall SEO strategy.