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The Ultimate Guide to Image SEO

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Guide To Image SEO

As a contractor, you rely almost entirely on local business to stay afloat. Therefore, increasing your digital presence and visibility on search engines through techniques like SEO (search engine optimization) is critical. Of course, content optimization is a key aspect of SEO, but when was the last time you considered image SEO? If it’s not already, image optimization should be a fundamental component of your digital marketing strategy.

At Relentless Digital, we specialize in digital marketing for contractors, including HVAC SEO services, web design, local SEO, reputation management, and image optimization. Below, we’ll discuss the how and why of image SEO, including tips, advice, and best practices. Then, we’ll finish by answering frequently asked questions about how to optimize images for search engines, boost traffic, and increase visibility.

What is Image SEO, and Why is It So Important?

Image SEO refers to the process of optimizing images to rank higher on search engines and gain more web traffic. The primary aspects of this process include:

  • Selecting the proper file format
  • Compressing and resizing images
  • Using descriptive and relevant image alt text, captions, and titles

While other search engines like Yahoo and Bing are important, most people focus on ranking higher on Google Image Search results, as the search engine giant claims about 85% to 90% of all search engine traffic. But, beyond the benefit of ranking higher on Google, why is it so important to focus on optimizing images?

First, images are a vital component of on-page SEO. In addition, visuals are also essential to help engage users on your website.

Did you know that humans process images about 60,000 times faster than text? Furthermore, people remember 65% of the information they view visually compared to a measly 10% of what they hear out loud.

In addition, using proper SEO techniques for your images can provide other benefits, such as:

  • Faster page load speed
  • Less usage of bandwidth and storage space
  • Improved user experience

Image SEO Tips: Best Practices and Actionable Advice for Your Website

Now, we’ll dig right into image optimization tips and SEO best practices to improve the visual content on your web page. The ultimate goal is to increase traffic, enhance page experience, improve visibility, and gain a higher ranking on Google Images and other search engines.

1. Create an Image Sitemap

An image sitemap is an effective way to contribute to SEO and increase the likelihood of your images ranking higher in the search results. Image sitemaps are very similar to traditional XML sitemaps. However, they only contain image URLs.

Creating a sitemap for all the images on your website makes it easier for search engine crawlers to find your images and ultimately include them in the image search results, boosting visibility. It’s also important for images Google can’t find via crawling, like visuals that users access through JavaScript forms.

Important Tip: Because an image sitemap can include URLs from different domains, you can use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for hosting.

You can use an auto-generator to create an image sitemap or do it manually. Here’s a helpful page from Google that includes both instructions and an example.

2. Use the Right Image Format

Many of our clients ask us about the “right” image formats to use when optimizing visuals. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, the three most common types are JPEG, PNG, and GIF. Each of those three types uses a very different compression method, which can affect page speed – a critical ranking factor for Google’s algorithm.

Here’s some quick information about the three types:

  • PNG: The PNG file format can support an SEO-friendly text description and provides high resolution, improving image quality. However, it’s a tradeoff: this format has a larger file size. It’s best for images that require transparency in the background.
  • JPEG: JPEG is a popular format and ideal for artwork and photos. While you may sacrifice image quality, it uses small file sizes for faster page speed. It doesn’t support transparent backgrounds.
  • GIF: Consider using GIFs for simple images. While it doesn’t allow as wide of a color range as JPEG or PNG, it usually has a smaller file size and supports background transparency.

If you need a higher compression level than PNG or JPEG supports, consider using WebP. Keep in mind, though, that WebP doesn’t work with older browsers. For logos or icons, SVG is the ideal image file format.

3. Resize or Compress Image File Size

As you know, smaller image file sizes can increase site speed. One method to accomplish this is with image compression.

Using a compressed image can help you decrease file size without sacrificing quality. Alternatively, you can resize images to get a smaller size. For example, you can accomplish this on Adobe Photoshop using the “Save for Web” button. Remember, your site’s loading speed is a critical SEO ranking factor and significantly impacts user experience.

Important Tip: The goal of image compression is to decrease the time it takes for your website to load. Once you’ve compressed or resized your image dimensions, test your page load speed with tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix.

4. Use Descriptive Alt Text, Titles, and Captions

Alternative text (a.k.a. alt text or alt tags) is a text alternative that appears when a browser can’t render or display images. Essentially, alt text describes the content of an image file in text form.

You may not think that alt text is an important part of image SEO, but that’s untrue. If (or when) the image content on your page doesn’t load, users will still be able to get the general description of the picture through the alt text.

Alt tags are also important to help visually impaired page visitors who may need to hear an auditory description of the image. In fact, alt text is required now under the American Disabilities Act.

In addition to the general description of the image, an alt tag should include relevant text and keywords to help crawlers better understand the image context. While many visitors won’t see the alt text on your site, the crawlers do, and it helps them index and rank your page. Here’s an example of what an alt tag looks like in HTML code:

Important Tip: Never stuff keywords in alt text. Not only is it a poor SEO practice, but it may even cause Google to categorize your page as spam.

Just like alt tags, page title tags are also important for image SEO. However, title tags won’t replace an image if it doesn’t load correctly. Instead, image titles pop up when a user hovers their mouse over an image.

Don’t forget about including a descriptive image caption, either. Your captions should be clear and include an explanation of the photo or image to the viewer. Just like alt text and your image title, captions provide an opportunity for keywords, but as we said earlier, don’t stuff them or force it.

5. Utilize Responsive Images

Another important aspect of image SEO is ensuring mobile friendliness. To accomplish this, you need to ensure that your images are responsive, which means they’ll adjust based on the device or screen size of the viewer.

While some website hosting services will automatically render your images as responsive, that’s not always the case. Fortunately, you can add some code to your HTML that will ensure image responsiveness:

If you use CSS, you can use this type of code:

.responsive {

width: 100%;

height: auto;


Remember, Google uses mobile-first indexing, so it’s critical to keep your images mobile-friendly and responsive for all screen sizes and devices.

6. Add Image Structured Data

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, structured data refers to a data vocabulary that can help search engines and their crawlers understand the information and content on your site more easily.

Structured data can enhance your listing in an image search, but it won’t always help your ranking. It also may increase your chances of showing up as a rich snippet or featured image on Google.

Currently, Google supports structured data for product images, videos, and recipes. As a contractor, your site likely doesn’t include very many product images or recipes. So, if you add structured data to support your videos or images, be sure that your visuals are relevant to your web page.

Important Tip: Google should be able to crawl and index any image URL quickly and easily. If not, it won’t be able to display them on the visual search results.

7. Use High-Quality, Relevant, and Unique Images

Optimized images need to be relevant, high-quality, and unique. Yes, stock photos have their place on the interwebs. However, you’ll always have better luck with unique, high-quality images rather than stock images. After all, users (and Google) want original content.

So, you may want to consider investing in custom illustrations or graphics for your company’s logo or web design. Even if you optimize your stock photos, you still won’t have the same results as if you use unique, original visuals or images.

8. Customize the Image File Name

Another key component of image SEO is customizing every image file name. Just like image tags, your file names should be descriptive and keyword-rich. Ditch the “IMG_108394” and be as descriptive as possible without using overly large file names.

If your business website has multiple images, it may take a long time to create a new file name for each one. However, optimizing your image file names is vital to SEO best practices and image optimization. Google is more likely to recommend images with a relevant and contextual file name to users in the results pages than images with files that are simply text and numbers.

FAQs About Image Optimization

How do I optimize an image for search engines?

Image SEO helps your website rank higher and can increase traffic. The best ways to optimize an image for search engines include:

  • Using a small image file size
  • Including a descriptive and clear alt text, image tag, and title tag
  • Using unique or custom images
  • Creating an image sitemap
  • Adding structured data
  • Utilizing the correct image file format

What is the best image format for SEO?

The best image format for SEO depends largely on the type of visual and what you’ll use it for on your website. For example, many people use the GIF format for animated images or PNG for high-quality, high-resolution images.

Is JPEG or PNG better for SEO?

In terms of image SEO, there’s no clear winner between using a JPEG or PNG file format. PNG images support a higher resolution and allow transparent backgrounds but have a larger file size.

On the other hand, JPEG images usually are smaller, which means faster page load times. However, JPEG formats will not support a transparent background.

Ultimately, JPEG images are more SEO-friendly than PNGs, as they’re smaller and allow for better compression.

Do image titles matter for SEO?

While alt text (or alt tag) and title tags are important for SEO, the page title is simply an image attribute that provides more information about the visual. Simply put, the image title isn’t a ranking factor.

Can SEO boost page ranking on Google Images?

Yes, image SEO can boost page ranking on Google Images. Use a small file size, descriptive and keyword-rich alt text, custom visuals, proper title tags and captions, and the correct file format. All those tips (plus the ones we just discussed) can help boost page ranking.

Contact Relentless Digital Today

As you can see, images in web design are an essential part of SEO (search engine optimization). However, as many of our clients run their own contracting businesses, they have limited time for digital marketing and SEO. That’s where we come in!

At Relentless Digital, we’re a full-service SEO agency that caters exclusively to contractors. So if you’d like to learn more about image SEO and how our team of experts can help you boost traffic and increase visibility, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Call Relentless Digital now at (262) 393-4241 to schedule your consultation with our SEO experts.