How to Use Images in your SEO Strategy and Improve Google Ranking

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How to optimize your image for Google image search

SEO is like a lifelong journey, it has so many twists and turns and can be quite confusing. What you need to remember is that there are several elements of a really good SEO strategy that all come together to make one kickass rank on Google.

Why are images a huge part of SEO?

As people started incorporating images and videos into their content Google started ranking for them. After all, a third of all searched performed in Google are for images.

So much of the content we consume depends on the image at the top of the page. I click on articles sometimes only because the cover image looks interesting. We read books based on the image on the cover. We stay longer on websites that are well designed. Design plays a huge role in the online economy and people are constantly looking for better images to use for their websites.

Also, Google doesn’t penalize websites that use duplicate images. In fact, often the websites that do the best job at image SEO, their images get ranked higher than the same image on the original site. So it’s a free for all, unlike content you can duplicate images as much as you like.

Ranking for Google Image Searches

The main goal of any image SEO strategy should be to have images rank high in Google search results, to bring the most traffic back to the site. You might say that this is most relevant for businesses that sell visual products (decorators, remodelers, crafts people) or destinations (hotels, Airbnb) but it’s not true.

Any business can use image SEO to increase their traffic. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say a marketing agency creates a stunning infographic about inbound marketing. They make put a lot of cool statistics in there and nice tips for anyone that is interested in social media or growing their business. Then they put it on their site and wait for the traffic to come rolling in.

If the agency optimises their infographic for SEO and adds all the needed elements to the infographic then people will begin finding it when they do an image search for “inbound marketing”. When other companies start publishing their infographic that image will get ranked higher and will begin to bring more traffic to that agency’s site.

Optimizing your Images

How do you optimize your image for Google’s image search algorithm? Here is a comprehensive list of all the elements that you need to have for your image:

1. Image file name – needs to relate to your topic and to relate to what the image is showing.

2. The alt attribute – this is the way that search bots are able to find your image, helping Google understand the context of the destination page

3. Image caption – this is the little description that goes underneath your image. If your alt attribute is long you can put some of it in the caption. It’s been shown that captions do help with search ranking. Believe it or not, sometimes the image caption becomes more important for Google rankings than the alt attribute.

4. Page title – Google looks at how the page title is related to your image

5. The page URL – the image description/name/caption/attribute have to relate to the page URL to rank well

6. Surrounding text content – Google looks at the text that is placed before and after the image.

7. Image engagement – if your image is engaging and people click on it then Google will actually move it up in the search results. This is why it’s important to use engaging, relevant and popular images.

8. Image dimensions and size – use standard sizes and dimensions of the image to get the best results. Google tends to show the standard ones and not the irregularly shaped or the super small or gigantic ones (except for when you type in wallpaper into the search).

9. Image relevance – Google will rank your image higher if what it is showing is related to the content on that page

10. Web page ranking – If your page ranks really well on Google then there are greater chances that the images on that page will be shown in the top of the image results.


How do you create an image SEO strategy?

Where do you begin? What do you do?

The first step is to discover which of the current keyword searches that you are targeting with your content actually have image boxes. Google shows images on regular searches 12.5% of the time, so if one of the keywords you are targeting is on that list the idea is to optimize your images to try to get into that search result.

A great tool to use for this is Moz’s Keyword Explorer that shows you which specific keywords you’re targeting have those image boxes. That means you don’t have to spend a month in the SEO dungeon manually searching every single keyword from the bazillion content pages you have… what a relief.

Prepare your team for your image SEO strategy

A key part of your strategy should be getting your team up to speed on everything that you want to accomplish. Inform the team members that upload images on your site of the overall strategy, and teach them a few things you want them to do with the image. For example, tell them what caption, alt attribute, and size of the image you would like them to use.


Image SEO is much simple than regular on page SEO. Just change a few things (which are overall simpler than your regular keyword strategy) and you are all set to go.

The key is to check which google searches also display images and then to optimize your images on those pages. You can use the Moz Keyword Explorer tool to get a list of all the relevant keywords that you are ranking for already that show images.

Once you are all set with a strategy. make sure to train your team to implement it and see your traffic increase and your ranking improve.

We hope this tutorial has been helpful, stay tuned for more in the future!


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