Image SEO: alt, filename, link text

Images and SEO

Recently I told a new client to include images with all his posts. Why? Why include images with posts? I realized I should really prove that working a bit on image SEO can help improve how the post might be found in the search engines. So I came up with three examples of image SEO done well. But first I will review a few key elements of image SEO: alt, filename and using link text with keywords.

Image SEO Basics – use alt, filename and learn link text

There are quite a few posts already written about image SEO and Google Webmaster on images – you can Google for more. Here are three key factors to take into account to improve how you present images on a post:

  1. alt – the alt text attribute was originally created so visually-impaired people have text to go with an image. But it has grown to become the most important piece of image SEO. Always, always include an alt in your images with some text. See Atish’s post for more explanation of alt text.
  2. filename – give your filename a key word as well. Don’t leave the name 384c3216.jpg, for example. Rename the file with a relevant word before uploading it to your post.
  3. Link Text – Also known as inbound links: if you have the good fortune to be able to link to a page or post with the image you want highlighted, please, please don’t link to it with the word “here.” Wow, do I see this mistake a LOT. Use keywords in the text and link to it with words that reflect the image, like here are bunny ears coming out of a hat.

Three Examples of Images with SEO

In general, one learns better when one sees good examples. So I hope these examples will help you learn more about preparing your images for good SEO results.

Susan Cooper recently posted a scrumptious cranberry sauce with port wine recipe. She wisely included “Port Wine Cranberry Sauce” in the title tag – she has her blog “” as the alt text. Let’s see what happens if someone who randomly decides they want a port wine cranberry sauce recipe, and they go to Google images to see what exists on the web:
port wine cranberry sauce typed into Google images
This is the results after typing “port wine cranberry sauce” in the Google images search box. Note that Susan’s picture does show up, way down on the fourth row, third image in, but she has quite a bit of competition.

Now let’s say we visited her post once, remembering that she had a port wine cranberry sauce recipe and that her first name is Susan, but we don’t remember the url or her last name. I typed in “port wine cranberry sauce susan” and now she’s third on the top row, a high placement!
port wine cranberry sauce susan in Google images
If she expanded upon her alt text with more cranberry sauce keywords and changed the name of her file to a more cranberry of a name, would she get higher results? Maybe.

Now for an example of an image of my own: I typed “watercolor teacup” into Google Images, and I got fairly near the top:
watercolor teacup
Note that Google Images is pointing to the larger version of my teacup watercolor that I have posted on my art and photos blog. Google Images seems to favor images that are between the sizes of 320px and say, 800px, so keep that in mind as you choose which sizes to display (this is a guess on my part – I found nothing definitive). On the other hand, I’ve found Facebook will ignore larger images when choosing options for thumbnails when posting on FB. So you probably need both small and larger within one post.

The teacup image is an example that has an incoming link that describes the teacup watercolor with keywords – perhaps that helped boost the image choice in Google Images.

How about an example that is more conceptual and not about cranberries or teacups? Maybe some of you remember my image or at least my post on WordPress security – I created an image of WordPress hacked by showing a knife stabbing its way in the WordPress logo.

If I type “WordPress hacked” into Google Images:
WordPress hacked in Google Images showing knife into WordPress logo
It’s the brown image on the right – and I must say I think it stands out, because the other images are more gruesome and less pleasant to the eye.

Can you give examples?

Look at your own posts. Can you find any that are good examples of image SEO done well? Or would you improve those posts in some way? Here’s an exercise for you: go to Google Images. Type in some keywords that you think might bring up one of your images. How many keywords do you need to include in the search terms before your images appear in Google Images? Maybe now you might want to go back and tweak your alt text and filenames on your favorite images.

Finally, a version of Images and SEO in a larger format, in case that is the version that Google Images prefers:
Images and SEO on brown background with colorful lettering

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22 thoughts on “Image SEO: alt, filename, link text

  1. I love your examples and explanation of how to label images for a more favorable SEO profile. I was very surprised (and pleased) that you used one of my images in your example. The neat part is that I use multiple images in all if my posts and have done what you recommend. Your post has reminded me to go back and review my older image labels to insure I have maximized this opportunity.

    PS: Thank you for the shout out too. :)))
    Susan Cooper recently posted…A Year Long Past: Story/SongMy Profile

    1. I’m glad you were OK with my using your images as an example! It really is fairly straightforward to optimize images for SEO – sometimes it just takes a little extra editing (and reminding).

    1. Yes, Atish, all of the above! My post was to give examples to illustrate how the search engines display the images once they are in the system (and how changing the alt text may improve that display).

      I’ll go look at your post on alt text soon.

    1. Happy to read, Cheryl! Maybe next time I’ll use your blog as an example. It’s the examples that were the point – there are other posts that explain, but fun examples help you remember and want to try it out on your own.

  2. I noticed a big difference in traffic when I started to apply SEO to my images. However, at times, more traffic comes my way from the images as opposed to the blog entry itself. I suppose that isn’t ideal…

    1. I suppose it depends on the image – if it’s related to the post, then having people enter because they found the image might work.

      That’s neat, that you noticed the difference in traffic from applying SEO to images.

    1. Becc, I’ll try to make anything that seems too technical more basic. It’s like if you do long division before learning 8 divided by 2 – we can go back to 8 divided by 2, if you know what I mean.

      Feel free to ask. Hope you can figure out how to change the alt text on your images.

  3. Very useful information. I feel like a lot of people don’t realize that SEO can be increased through other ways besides text. I always make sure to include an alternate text with my images and it definitely makes a difference. All of the information you provide in relation to this helps wonders, thanks a lot.

    1. Kelly, glad you find it useful. Sometimes we learn a bit about something but don’t necessarily remember to do it each time we post. This is a polite reminder to those who already have learned what SEO is about.

  4. I suggest users look at their Google Analytics to see where searchers are coming from. If image searches aren’t a healthy chunk of the total then it’s time to start adding images or revamping how you tag them.

    Great advice as always!

    1. Good question. In brief, the alt text (alternative text) was created for the visually impaired. I tell people to always fill this out. The title tag provides additional information; in some browsers, when you hover over the image, the title text will appear.

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