Image SEO

Image Seo

Aspects of image optimization for search engines

Like the on-page optimization of the website, image SEO has different optimization levels: the visible level, the meta-level and the image level itself. Although search engines such as Google have become better and better at image recognition through artificial intelligence and machine learning, they cannot yet read all image content exactly. For this reason, the context in which the image material is embedded and the meta elements are very important for image optimization.

The following aspects apply to the optimization of the image

  • File Format: The common file formats for images are JPG or JPEG, PNG and GIF. Formats such as SVG are rather unsuitable for images in the context of a website. New formats are constantly being developed, which are intended to guarantee high quality even for images with small file sizes. These include FLIF, HEIF and Google’s WebP project, in which images can be displayed up to 34 per cent smaller without losing their SSIM index. The common file format is JPG. PNG is also suitable for graphics. These types of image files are easily compressed to good file size.
  • File size: For an image URL or file to be included in the index faster and easier for Googlebot to crawl, it is recommended to work with moderate file sizes that are optimized for the web. High-resolution images that are compressed to a file size of around 150 kB optimize the page speed of a website. Since the loading speed of a website is one of the ranking factors, optimizing image file sizes is very important.
  • File name: This plays an important role in the later ranking in the image search. It should represent exactly what is shown in the picture. At the same time, the image with the file name is placed in the overall context of a website. For Google and other search engines, the name provides an important orientation for understanding the topic of the website.

Example: picture with fir tree. Filename: fir.jpg

Additions are added with hyphens.

Ex: image with green tomato. File name: green-tomato.jpg

  • Image size: In SEO circles, everyone agrees that images that are too small, such as thumbnails or previews, do not stand a great chance of ranking well in image searches. A guide size of 300 pixels has been established for at least one side of the image.
  • Image format: When displayed in the image search, images in landscape format, or more precisely: in 4:3 format, are usually clicked on more frequently and, since the last Google update, are also preferred.
  • Image source: The URL of the image also plays a role in image SEO. It is advisable to use a thematically relevant folder structure.


If you want to promote the indexing of image files, you can store all image URLs in a separate XML sitemap and upload it to the Google Search Console, formerly Google Webmaster Tools.

While the previous image search functioned via the text information provided, further developments are indicated. The use of text, alt tags, file names and the sitemap is still common practice. But Google is also working on the visual search algorithm and is putting a lot of energy into the Google Lens project , a mobile image recognition system that started work in 2017.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is used using extended image search, which is intended to learn to understand image content via categories and keywords to be assigned. In the foreseeable future, however, it is not recommended to rely exclusively on AI but to understand it as a supplement to the previous image search.

EXIF Metadata

EXIF data or EXIF ​​metadata is information about the camera used to take a picture. The time of creation and the GPS position can also be determined. The EXIF ​​data is read out by Google (as of November 2021, but is not displayed in the search. However, Google states that the data may have an impact on the ranking.

Essentially, however, EXIF ​​data is used to determine the origin of created images. There are no disadvantages in not specifying them, but if they exist, they should not be deleted either.

The following aspects should be considered when embedding the image and the meta information

  • Environment: The content surrounding the image is important for the ranking of individual images. The use of relevant keywords plays a particularly important role here.
  • ALT attribute: The classic function of the alt attribute is to describe an image when it cannot be displayed in the browser due to technical problems. Accordingly, the alt attribute should accurately reflect the content of the image and contain the main keyword.
  • Title tag or image title: The meta title should also be used to accommodate a relevant keyword. However, the title is primarily important to improve usability and not as a major SEO factor.
  • Markups: Images can be tagged with structured data that search engines can read using and other markup languages. This data makes it easier for the bots to crawl and assign.

Link to the image SEO

The following factors must be considered if a good ranking is to be achieved:

  • Strong internal linking: This can be both “hard” and indirect via thumbnails. However, here, too, action should be taken in moderation.
  • Multiple uses: In this case, image SEO is complementary to content SEO. Because the multiple use of an image with the same meta information is more beneficial for the ranking. This also applies to exact copies.
  • Backlinks: These do not directly affect the ranking. Nevertheless, it could be true: the more trust a website has, the more likely it is that its images will also rank well.

It is certainly also important when optimizing images that the subsequent ranking for a specific keyword or group also depends on the competition. As a result, it will be more difficult to rank well with a celebrity’s image than with a photo that has been optimized for a fantasy name. However, it is also conceivable that so-called “ long-tail ” keywords have better chances of good rankings in image searches than individual keywords.

Advantages and Benefits of SEO

The advantages of image SEO can be outlined in the following key points:

  • Increasing visibility: Since images with high relevance are also displayed directly in the organic Google SERP, websites with well-optimized images can increase their presence in the search result lists.
  • Indirect traffic boost through a good ranking with images: If images are clicked on in Google image search, more users will get to the website. Accordingly, traffic can be increased with image SEO.
  • Possibility of a top ranking via Universal Search: A website can be not found in the top rankings with the URL but with an image.
  • Improving topic relevance: If images are marked with all important tags, the overall thematic context of the website can be improved. This increases the chances of achieving better rankings in Google searches.
  • Improving usability: If images are appropriately compressed and of high quality, the usability of the website increases. Compression is particularly important in the context of mobile optimization since smartphones usually have less bandwidth on the go. Large image files can then unnecessarily delay page loading.
  • More traffic for e-commerce websites: When potential customers search for products, they often use image search. Anyone present there thanks to image SEO increases the chance of additional visitors and thus more conversions.

Extended benefit

Optimized image files not only support a website in terms of search engine optimization. By reducing the loading time of a website, image SEO has a positive influence on the user experience. In addition, optimized image data is also ideal in terms of accessibility, to give users with visual impairments the opportunity to experience all the content of a website.


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