How to Optimize Images for Search Engines

If you didn’t know much about image search and how does it work then here is a small explanation for you: this is the query search that you can see as thumbnail graphics, supplanted by contextual information that match user’s search queries at its best; all this information can be submitted either by the image creator, the website owner where you can see these images, or by third party reviewers.

This would be a general fancy definition but all in all it’s the images you see on the web when you use search engines. You practically click on the image you like best, or that matches your desire and you go to the website that it is linked with. This feature has been ignored in the past, but now website owners are eager to use it in order to get more traffic to their website.

Usually images that are optimized for the web will appear either on search engines, on photo sharing sites like Flickr or PBase and on social image sharing sites. Image search is steadily gaining power with over 360,000 searches per month on the top search engines (Google, Yahoo etc). That’s why; website owners shouldn’t ignore the process of optimizing their images for the web. Here are just some tips that you might take into consideration while optimizing your images for search engines.

Quality comes first

The pictures you use have to have some quality standards and you have to make sure the photos you use meet them. Make the resolution adjustments would make your pictures look good as thumbnails and in real size. Contrast is also pretty important, so you would better add some to your photos as they generally tend to work better. It is also believed that people pay more attention to detailed pictures, so this is another reason why high-quality images are expected. If you edit your photos or images in Photoshop for instance, be sure to click the “Save for the Web” option when saving your image, this will optimize it to the standard web size and quality.

Use the right format

It is better that you remember saving your images in .jpeg format for photos, .gif for animations and .png for logos, buttons and others. It might not seem that important but as long as you will want to optimize your images for the web than this is the way to go.  The file names are also important. Be relevant while naming your pictures and try to find the perfect name for the image so that they would match. It is also recommended that you use hyphens (-), instead of underscores (_) in your file names.

Use the right format

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Robots Exclusion Protocol

When optimizing images for the web, don’t let the robots.txt protocol block the access to the folder where you keep your images.  You also have to make sure you have enabled Image Search on Google Webmaster Tools. This is another important step to take in order to increase visibility to your pictures.

Refresh

If your images target popular keywords, then you should make sure to re-upload them from time to time. Keeping them freshly uploaded is a contextual clue for most of the search engines and it will make them “come back” to your images.

The alt attribute and captions

The alt attribute in HTML and XHTML documents is used to specify alternative text that is rendered when the element, to which the alt attribute is applied, cannot be rendered. You have to make sure that you use the alt attribute of the image tag. As I have mentioned about the name of the image that it has to be as relevant as possible, the alt attribute should contain a relevant description as well. Another thing you can do is use a caption by your image. If you place a small caption under your image, again being relevant towards what is represented, it will help queue the search engines to what the image is about.

The alt attribute and captions

Use original images

It is much better if you go original and use your own images than the ones you find on the web. Experts say that “The more control you have over your images, the better” and I would have to agree with this affirmation. Once you use your images you can tag them with your logo, URL or trademark.

Limit the number of images

Try to limit the number of images per page. As a general rule try keeping the total size of your images per page to less than 30 K (30,000 bytes). Also don’t forget about cropping your images, hence you can add more space to the content. A decent white space is allowed, but too much is unnecessary.

Use the free tools available online

Take into consideration that there are different tools online that can help you optimize your images for the big web. They won’t do all the work for you, but they will surely help you out when you need it.

These are some of the tips I would consider when optimizing images for search engines. If you have any other tips, let us know! We would be glad to read them.

A girl that lives through the lens of her camera - as this is the best way to see things as you want them to see. Born and raised in Moldova, now living in sunny Cyprus.

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12 Comments
  1. Thomas Nov 4, 1:06 am

    Thanks, nice article. What about the name of the main images in post pages and the name of the thumbnails of these images on the website homepage. Is there a way to optimize them?

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  2. @DrupalBoy Nov 4, 7:05 am

    Don’t forget to embed IPTC meta data into the actual image files, as Facebook & Google both read those key words & meta descriptions. You can build your own script using PHPs built in iptc_embed( ); function: http://php.net/manual/en/function.iptcembed.php
    Or you can use adobe bridge: http://www.photometadata.org/node/74

    For more Dev based SEO stuff hit me up on twitter @DrupalBoy

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  3. Felipe Faundez Nov 4, 12:52 pm

    Great article, just one Q:
    Why use hyphens (-), instead of underscores (_) in your file names?

    All the best,

    ƒ

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    • Adrian Nov 4, 1:08 pm

      is not a rule, just a recommendation, is more human hyphens than underscores.

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    • Designrshub Nov 4, 2:19 pm

      I thinks it serves as a space between characters or words. Like in a domain name, instead of using mywebsite.com, better to use my-website.com so that crawlers will notice this as 2 words instead of “mywebsite” because it doesn’t know what kind of word is it.

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    • Monty Jan 5, 6:49 am

      You may have figured this out by now but at least it can serve as an answer for others. The hyphen (-) as mentioned is not necessarily a “rule” however; it’s to your benefit in the search engines.

      When you use hyphens in page and image names the robots can index those elements as separate words AND as a string of keywords. If you use the underscore they will only be indexed as individual keywords.

      For example: my-perfect-image will be indexed and found by users in many ways such as “my perfect image”, “perfect image”, “my image” etc…whereas my_perfect_image will be indexed only as individual keywords and not as easily found in natural search results.

      This is my understanding but please feel free to correct me if anyone know differently.

      Also just want to say great article.

      One thing I noticed is that (at least as I understand it) the “enhanced image search” in Google Webmaster Tools has not been included since the 2009 release. Instead this feature is automatically enabled.

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  4. John Nov 9, 12:06 am

    Great post. Recent Google algorithm updates seem to have placed more emphasis on photos and videos so optimizing them for search is now more important than ever.

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  5. dc Dec 1, 11:13 am

    Just wondering – in general, when is the appropriate time to use sprites? What if I don’t care about my images showing up in an image search and don’t anticipate my users ever wanting access to my images? Thanks in advance!

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  6. sudha Nov 29, 9:05 pm

    Thanks, this grate article for me.

    why we need to use image size (w X h), it is mandatory ?

    thank you very much…

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  7. prashanth Jan 17, 6:38 pm

    nice and a very informative article friend.The thing which you have said about REFRESH is a new concept in SEO strategy and it is the one which made your article a very special one :)

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