Optimizing Images for Search Engines

Images are an important part of creating engaging content for internet audiences. Whether you write articles for blogs or online newspapers and magazines, adding images to your content adds life to your article and contributes to your website’s SEO value. 

Our guide to image SEO will teach you how to find the right images for your content, how to prepare images for use in articles, how to add images to your articles, and how to optimize all of your images for search engines.

optimizing images for search engines

Always Incorporate Images into Your Articles

You may be thinking, “I’m a writer. Why are images so important in articles?” Well, believe it or not, images do have an important role to play in written communication. Images help to communicate your message and further enhance your story.

We live in a visual world and images make everything online even better. Adding images to your content matters more than you may think. Using images in articles tends to boost that content’s page views, especially if the content is related to news, politics, or sports.

Here are a few ways images can enhance a story:

Images Grab Attention.

If you include images in magazine articles, media releases, or blog posts, they will grab the reader’s attention better than a large block of text. Therefore, you increase the chance that more people will read the article that accompanies the interesting image.

Images Tell a Story.

Everyone knows that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Take your articles up a notch and use images to tell your story. Sometimes pictures communicate a story better than written words, particularly when the images convey strong emotion.

Images Convey Messages Quickly.

Many times, people will skim through articles without taking the time to read the entire thing. Your audience wants to find important information quickly and images can help them do that. Pictures are a great way to convey your message easily without readers needing to spend time reading a lot of text.

Images Are Shareable.

People tend to share images with others, so if you include images in your article, you have an opportunity to reach a larger audience. You can even link the image back to an article you want your target audience to read.

A final reason why you should always include images in your writing is that images are highly searchable. Google Images, in particular, receives high traffic. Recently, Google Images got a brand-new interface with new filters, metadata, and attribution. Since visual search is so popular, if you include images in your written work, you have more opportunities to increase your search engine optimization.

improve seo with original photos

Improve Image SEO With Relevant, Original Photos

There are two important tips to keep in mind when adding photos to your articles: use original images and make sure they are relevant to your subject matter.

Original images are ones that you have taken yourself, not stock photos. Using original images in your articles creates a sense of authenticity and originality. You can develop connections with your readers easier with custom images because stock images are often dull and lack emotion.

When you include images in your articles, you also need to make sure they are relevant to the topic of your article. Add images near the content that they illustrate. Images that have related texts rank better for the keywords for which they are optimized.

What Can I Do if I Don’t Have Original Images?

If you don’t have original images, don’t panic. There are other alternatives available without having to use stock images. 

Here are a few sources for images:


Flickr is a photo-centric platform built for professional photographers and photography enthusiasts to show off their work while enjoying the work of others. You can use Creative Commons images as long as you attribute the original photographer.


Unsplash offers beautiful, free images and photos that you can download and use for any project. They’re better than any royalty-free or stock photos because they provide a wide variety. Choose from editorial photography, architecture, current events, fashion, film, food and drink, health and wellness, nature, people, and more!


Pixabay has a large database of high-quality images. They are geared toward businesses and marketing professionals, which can be helpful for content marketers and bloggers. Pixabay also offers free vectors and illustrations.

Whichever source you use, avoid obvious stock images and try to find photos that appear more genuine. If you’re really struggling with finding appropriate images, you can always add graphs and illustrations to support your article.

article optimization

Image SEO and Article Optimization

Now that you’ve found a great photo, illustration, or chart, it’s time to optimize it for use on your website. Before you add the image to your article, there are a few things to consider.

File Name

Image SEO begins with the file name. Google recommends avoiding writing extremely lengthy filenames and avoiding copying pasting entire sentences.

Here are four guidelines for image naming for SEO:

  • Make your file name relevant. Ask yourself: What does this image actually show? Name your image according to what is actually in the image.
  • Don’t stuff keywords unnecessarily. If you name your images ridiculous things full of keywords, Google will think they are spam. Google says image names should be short and they shouldn’t contain unnecessary keywords.
  • Keep your file name short. Ideally, your image names should be 5 words or fewer. If you have too many words in your image name, you’re probably keyword stuffing.
  • Separate words with hyphens. On the technical SEO side of things, you should separate words in image names with hyphens. This way, search engines can read and understand the image names better.

File Format

Choose the file format that best suits the kind of image you are using and how to plan on using it. Different file types have different impacts on file size and page load speed.

  • JPEG. JPEG (joint photographic experts group) images are the standard format for photos and illustrations. They can be compressed into smaller file sizes without impacting the quality, so you still maintain the color and clarity.
  • PNG. PNG (portable network graphic) images are great for complex images with a lot of colors. They work well for preserving the background transparency of your images. Keep in mind that these file sizes are larger than JPEGs.
  • SVG. SVG (scalable vector graphic) images are great for logos and icons because you can resize them without losing quality.
  • GIF. GIF (graphics interchange format) images and animations are popular, but they are better suited for decorative images, animations, and thumbnails rather than photos because they take a long time to load.

Scale for Image SEO

When it comes to the user experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO), loading time is crucial. When a site loads quickly, it is easier for the users and search engines to visit a page. Images have a huge impact on loading times, so it is important to resize the image to how you want it displayed. Be aware of the size in which you upload your images to best optimize your file size.

File Size

Large file sizes slow down websites, which impacts the user experience and SEO. Google prefers websites that load faster and provide a better user experience. Google may penalize sites that take too long to load. Make sure that your scaled image is compressed so that it is served in the smallest file size possible. 

improving image seo

Add Images to Your Articles and Improve Image SEO

In order for Google to correctly recognize that the file you added is an image, you need to provide the context for that image. Here are a few other ways you can improve your image SEO when you are adding images to your articles.

Write Captions

The caption of the image is the text that accompanies the image on the page. People use captions when they’re scanning articles. Users tend to scan headings, images, and captions on web pages to help them determine the content on the page. While it’s not necessary to add captions to every image, captions do tend to be read more than the body copy itself. Add captions where they would make sense for the reader. Don’t just add captions for the sake of SEO.

Always Use Alt Text

The alt text or alt tag is added to an image so that descriptive text is in place if the image cannot be displayed to the visitor. If the user has images turned off in their browser or they are using a screen reader due to visual impairment, the alternative texts ensure that no information or functionality is lost.

Add alt text to every image you use and make sure it includes the SEO keyword for that page if applicable. More importantly, make sure that you describe the image accurately so that search engines and users can understand it. If the image has more relevant information, search engines will be more likely to deem the image as important.

Reconsider Title Text

If you hover over an image, some browsers will show the title text as a ‘tooltip.’ A lot of people who use titles just copy and paste the alt text, but more and more people are deciding to leave them out altogether. This is because the title text has several accessibility issues. For example, screen reader support is very unpredictable and many browsers won’t show the title text unless you are hovering over the image with a mouse, which means there is no access for keyboard users. Instead of the title text on an image, consider adding supporting information in the main article text.

Add Image Structured Data

When you add the structured data of schema markup, it makes it easier for search engines to categorize and index your content. Schema markup structured data tells Google and other search engines what the content on your webpage is all about. Once Google knows this information, it can pass it along to searchers to show them the most relevant results to their query. Structured data and schema markup is a great way to increase traffic to your website and improve your SEO.

Summary of Image SEO

If you want to improve your image SEO, you need to consider a variety of elements. Google is getting better at recognizing elements in images, but it’s up to you to make sure the image and all of its elements contribute to the best user experience and improve search engine optimization.

Keep these ideas in mind when adding images to your next article:

  • Use relevant images that match your title and article content.
  • Choose appropriate file names for your images.
  • Reduce file sizes so they load faster.
  • Add a caption to improve the page’s scannability.
  • Use image alt text. No need for a title text.
  • Add structured data to your images.
  • Provide context for your images.

help with image seo

Get Help with Image SEO

If you still need help improving your image SEO and articles, SEO Design Chicago offers a variety of professional SEO services such as on-site optimization, on-page SEO, and ongoing quality content. Contact SEO Design Chicago today.


  • How do images improve written articles?
  • What are alternatives to using stock images?
  • What are four guidelines for image naming for SEO?
  • How can I optimize images for SEO?
  • What is schema markup?

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