Image Optimization for SEO- Things you must do to get higher Google Rankings

Image SEO. Is it boring to do? Yes.

Is it necessary to do? No.

“Do I really HAVE to do it then”?

No, you don’t have to do anything… unless you want higher rankings in Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

If you want that traffic, then here’s what you need to do,


This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended.  For more information visit my disclosure page.

How to optimize images for SEO ( 7 tips for higher rankings in search engines)

Note: I’ve divided this tutorial into two parts.

Part 1 consists of the basic stuff you need to do just to compete in Google Images.

Part 2 is what will allow you to win against those who don’t do image SEO at all; and against those who only do the basic stuff.

Related resource: Want better search engine rankings and more traffic update your website content

PART 1- Basic image optimization techniques (image filenames, alt tags, captions and image file resizing)

#1- Image File-names

This is image SEO 101.

Whenever you’re about to upload a new image or screenshot to your WordPress dashboard, pause for a moment, think, and then write the image file name with SEO in mind. Change it from something meaningless like IMG 1545352.jpg to:

IF it’s an image of a cat- then it is “my-beautiful-feline.jpg”;

choose an image file name with SEO in mind

IF it is Chateau d’If where poor Edmond Dantes was forced to spend 14 years- then it is “Chateau-dif-fortress.jpg”;

use a relevant image file name for SEO friendly images

IF it is a blog post about image SEO – then it is “image-SEO-tips.jpg”

how to optimize images for SEO

Do you get it? Write your image file names so Google knows what they represent. They’re easy to do, and if you use relevant keywords you can rank in Google Images.

#2- Write Descriptive Alt Tags

Alt tags or alt text are little snippets of text that go inside the image.

alt tags are little snippets of text to describe the image

They have two purposes:

  • Essential for vision-impaired people who use screen readers; the device reads them aloud
  • They’re shown when there’s a problem with rendering images (for example, slow/weak internet connection)

Here’s how to write SEO friendly alt tags for your images

First of all, they’re unique in a way, because they help you with your general SEO.

In other words: if you include relevant alt tags, your page will rank better in normal search, and not just in Google Images.

That alone is a reason to use them.

The tips:

a) Use keywords– you knew that one was coming, right? For them to help your SEO you must include relevant keywords.


b) Don’t keyword stuff– And I mean this in two ways.

First, don’t list 10 keywords inside one alt tag. That will look and that is spammy:

Bad alt tag for this post would be “Image SEO, picture SEO, Image SEO optimization, pictures, and SEO, do images help with SEO?”

And all of that inside one image alt tag. See how weird that’d look?

Second, don’t repeat the same keywords across every image in a blog post. That too is spammy and not helpful at all. Remember, their purpose is not SEO. They’re there to describe the image.

And no, I don’t care if you have a perfect keyword in there. Google’s algorithm is trained to spot and punish keyword stuffing.

Trust me,

you don’t want to be on a receiving end of a ranking demotion, especially for the alt attribute which is barely a Google ranking factor.

Thirdmake sure that your first image has the keyword you want to rank for. And for other images, you can describe them and when possible use LSI keywords to boost content relevance a bit.

Finally, as a bonus tip/hack- have an image next to or close to a subheading.


Because, if the subheading has “X” keyword, and the image alt text next to it contains the same keyword, then Google knows that the whole page is relevant to “X” and it’s is going to rank it higher for it.

Here’s Google’s take on it:

Google extracts information about the subject matter of the image from the content of the page, including captions and image titles. Wherever possible, make sure images are placed near relevant text and on pages that are relevant to the image subject matter.

I call this a hack because, if your page is completely relevant to a query, then you won’t need as many backlinks to rank; as compared to some other page that hasn’t worked on boosting their relevance.

Less backlinks= less hassle for you:)

#3- Image caption

Here’s the simple truth:

Image captions have no SEO value per se. They don’t help with rankings one iota.

However, they can boost your business in other ways.

Picture this:

You’re an affiliate for, for example, Wealthy Affiliate. You’re a member of theirs, you had great success with their training methods. And you want to pass on the knowledge and opportunity to others. Because you know most folks have no idea what WA is.

So you wrote a helpful review and to get people to notice you put a banner inside of your blog post.

All nice and well so far. But, there’s a problem.

As time passes, you notice people don’t click. They see the image, you can see that with your heatmap software, they even hover their mouses over the image- but they don’t click.

What to do?

If you’ve been paying attention so far, you know the answer. Add an image caption that says something like “click on the photo to learn about affiliate marketing and how it can change your life”!

Would it work?

I don’t know (I’m being honest here)

I haven’t tested this myself so I don’t know if it’d work. But I’ve read a few studies that show that image captions get read all the time. Much more than the actual body of the post.

So it’s worth the shot and if it works- more money for you.

If it doesn’t- oh well, c’est la vie:)

check out wealthy affiliate
Click the banner to learn about affiliate marketing – it will change your life!

#4- reduce the weight of your images – so they don’t slow you down big time

Image file size is the biggest culprit to a slow-loading website.

And I think everyone knows by now that the users crave, no they demand speed.

They will outright leave if your website is too slow.

site speed is important

There are two ways to deal with this, and which one is right for you depends on whether you’re a proud owner of a self-hosted WordPress blog, or you’re renting a free website.

a) (self-hosted blog)

We WP users have it easy. We have plugins for everything, including resizing images.

Now, if you’re strapped for cash and don’t want to pay, I recommend you at least install WP Smush. It’s a free plugin (with premium tier) that’ll automatically resize your images as you add them. Trust me, I’ve used it for a while and it was very decent.

wp smush image compression and optimization

How to use it?

Simple, just install it from your WP dashboard and let it do its thing. No setting up is needed.

“And what If I want to resize the images I already have in my image library”

Good question:)

Just click: “Plugins/installed plugins/Smush/Bulk Optimize”

The other plugin is EWWW Image Optimizer.

It’s also a free plugin that does the same job as WPSmushit. But it’s their paid option that is more interesting. What I like is that with them, you pay by the image.

And it’s very, very cheap.

ewww image optimizer for SEO friendly images

b) You own a free site

Free properties are great. They cost nothing and come with the basics you need.

  • Security,
  • fast hosting,
  • and no hassle in setting it up whatsoever.

But they’re also severely limited in certain areas, one of which is adding new plugins.

In other words, if you have a free site- forget about the easy/fast methods from above.

But all is not lost!

Introducing PicResize

It’s a free tool that helps you resize bulky images. And it works great!

I know since I’ve been using it for a long time. Because at the beginning of my blogging journey I couldn’t afford premium plugins for my WordPress site.

How to resize images with Pic Resize (tutorial)

Note– as a showcase, I’ll use one of my branded properties.

What is a branded property?

It’s usually a one or two-page website built with one of the free web builders. Its purpose is not to rank, or even to send link juice (because those links are extremely weak).

Its purpose is simply to exist and be yours – and tell Google that you are a true brand.

And we know how Google loves brands.

Anyway. This property has one image of me but it weighs a hefty 1.2 MB.

image file size too large

I admit it. I was lazy and didn’t want to bother. But now I have to do it. For your sake! Thank me in the comments below:)

Now I’m going to run it through PicResize.

Pay attention and look at the images.

Step 1– Go to

Step 2– Upload the image

picresize free picture resizing tool

step 3- set the configurations.

Here are mine:

picresize best settings seo image optimizer

Step 4- save the image

Step 5- upload to site your resized image. Don’t forget to include keywords in your image file name!

And that is it. The image is now lighter; the site is faster.

And you now know how to resize images, even on free websites.

#5- Remove EXIF data

What is it?

Exchangeable Image File Format. It’s info encoded within the image. You cannot see it but it’s there and it’s slowing your site’s load time

EXIF data is things like:

  • aperture,
  • shutter speed,
  • white balance,
  • date and time,
  • lens type,
  • ISO speed,
  • focal length,
  • camera model,
  • GPS coordinates,
  • and much more.

This data is used by professional photographers to help them make better images in the future, but to you- it’s useless.

Luckily, removing it is really easy.

Just go to this online tool.

Upload the image you want to “clean” and press go.

verexif -exif data remove tool

Note– EXIF data might be a small ranking factor for Google Images. Google is a bit murky about that. So if you really want to rank in Google Image Search, you should probably leave it there.

YouTube video

PART 2- Image optimization- advanced stuff (page caching and content delivery networks)

This is the stuff that will make a difference for you in the long run. Make sure you only do this after you’ve taken care of the basics first!

Use browser caching

Use what?

Browser caching is when you visit a page once, for example, this guide you are reading now; then you leave but decide to check in again tomorrow to check up on something.

Well, the second time you visit, you’re going to be served much, much faster.

That’s because images make up the bulk of any page’s weight, and all images from this post are already temporarily stored on your computer. So when you load the page, you actually download (from hosting servers) only the post’s basic HTML, while images come from your computer’s cache.

here’s what Google says about it”

HTTP caching can speed up your page load time on repeat visits.

When a browser requests a resource, the server providing the resource can tell the browser how long it should temporarily store or “cache” the resource. For any subsequent request for that resource, the browser uses its local copy, rather than going to the network to get it.

How to enable browser caching to make your website faster?

It’s surprisingly simple.

Just install W3 Total Cache and it works out of the box, no complicated settings or anything.

Note: W3 Total Cache actually has a tonne of options to tinker with, but for most websites, default settings are fine. I suggest you don’t touch anything unless you know what you want and know what you’re doing.

w3 totalcache plugin

Use a CDN

CDN’s (Content Delivery Network) are special servers scattered across the globe. Their purpose is to host your website data, especially images. Why is that?

For speed, of course.

For example:

let’s say you host with Wealthy Affiliate. Their hosting is superb and their servers are located in Vancouver, Canada.

So, when someone from New York demands a page of your site, easy-peasy, the response is near-instant.

But what if someone from Australia does the same?

Now we have a problem.

The data will have to travel across the globe to reach them, creating necessary wait time.

I already mentioned that today’s internet users are spoiled brats that demand everything in 1s or less.

And if a user is forced to wait for 3s or more, you can say goodbye to them.


Before I tell you how to install CDN for your site, take a look at this image from Cloudflare.

Cloudflare's world wide data centers

How to install CDN on your site?

Remember that caching plugin I recommended, W3 Total Cache?

Well, it offers CDN integration too.

So you only need to apply to one CDN provider and then activate your subscription through the plugin’s interface.

cdn w3 total cache

Note- Some of the best CDN providers are:

However, it is also possible to get free a CDN with your hosting.

There are plenty of hosts to choose from, but I’ll recommend only two. Because I have experience with these, and because one option is cheap and excellent (Site Ground) and the other is true premium hosting that every site will wish to have for itself.

These are:

Bonus – use lazy loading for images

Perhaps you’ve already noticed that on images appear just as you’re about to view them.

That’s not an accident.

Peter enabled lazy loading on his site so images are now served right as they’re needed, and NOT before.

That makes for a smoother ride on your end, because, basically, you get only the top of the page delivered to you, and if you decide to scroll down, and only then, will you get the rest.

But I know there’s no dilemma there. You can’t scroll since I’m such a terrific writer:)

Lazy loading- HOW?

It’s simple.

Just install a simple plugin called BJ Lazy Load.

Install it and you’re done. Because it works out of the box.

Conclusion- Image SEO- It’s easy and it pays in spades if you do it, so… DO IT!

Image SEO is one of those things that’s insanely easy to do but can bring home handsome rewards for your site.

The strong benefits you get from optimized images are derived from:

  • Everything that you do
  • Things that others don’t do because they’re lazy or simply don’t know

SEO is not a one-time thing.

It’s a process. A system that builds on itself and 1001 little things that you can do and that each has a compounding effect on the whole.

Not to get overly philosophical, but,… image SEO helps you with Google images and with the overall rank-ability of your site.

And I know you want traffic and sales.

So do it.

Optimize those images FIRST; reap the rewards SECOND.

I’m counting on you and I’m also waiting to respond to your questions if you have any.



  1. DedicatedHosting4u September 23, 2020
    • Peter October 31, 2020

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