So here’s a tip for building SEO traffic to your website: Optimize your images for search engines. Most artists don’t take advantage of this, and all it takes is a little extra effort each time you add an image to your site to improve your image seo.

Of the hundreds of millions of searches that are done online each day, about 15% are exclusively for images. Think about that. If you are a painter, photographer, or other image based artist, your work could potentially be seen by hundreds, or thousands of people each day if you know what you’re doing. Copyright issues aside, you want your images to show up where people are looking, so you can attract more customers, gain notoriety, and make more money!  Here are 5 tips to improve your Image SEO

Note: This is a sample of the content we teach in our Photography Business Training System, available in SLR Lounge Premium.  For more complete education on marketing concepts like this (and much more), we invite you to explore our membership options.

How to Optimize Your Image SEO

While search engines are making progress, they are still not able to fully decipher the contents of an image without clues. These primary hints are the following:

  1. The name of the image
  2. The alt text and title tag
  3. The surrounding text.

Let’s explore these in detail below.

Rename your image files

Most people save their images with file names like “photo1235.jpg.” When they upload the file to their website, whether it be a blog, Flickr, Etsy, Imagekind, or other site, the image file shows up as “www.site.com/photo1235.jpg,” which doesn’t tell the search engine anything about the photo. Name the file with descriptive text. If you are a wedding photographer, try something like “John-Smith-Wedding-Banquet-Hall-Name.jpg” and you will find your file being read and understood by the search engines.

Your image name should be your keyword separated by dashes. So, to continue with our example of Jennifer in San Francisco, if she wants to target the Fairmont hotel as a wedding venue, she might choose the following name: “fairmont-san-francisco-wedding.jpg.”

However, it is important to not name all images the same. For example, if there are 5 images in the blog post, the image names should NOT be the following:

  • “fairmont-san-francisco-wedding-1.jpg”
  • “fairmont-san-francisco-wedding-2.jpg”
  • “fairmont-san-francisco-wedding-3.jpg”
  • “fairmont-san-francisco-wedding-4.jpg”

Instead, be sure to do the following:

  • Use variations of your keyword
  • Change the order of the words used
  • Include additional related words

Here is a sample of what to do instead:

  • “fairmont-san-francisco-weddingphotography.jpg”
  • “bride-fairmont-sf-wedding.jpg”
  • “fairmont-bay-area -wedding-photographer.jpg”
  • “wedding-ceremony-at-fairmont-sanfrancisco.jpg”

Use Alternative (Alt) Text for Better Image SEO

Most sites with a visual editor, like Flickr, WordPress, or Squarespace, allow you to plug Alt text into your photo. If you know what keywords you want to show up for online, then this is the place to plug those keywords. Again, similar to the file naming, you might try Alt=”Los Angeles Wedding Photography Bride & Groom Photo” Limit your description to 50 characters.

How to Insert Alt Text

In the following example, the words after the “title=” is the title of the image and the words after “alt=” is the alt text.

<img src=”http://www.domainname.com/fairmont-san-francisco-bride.jpg” title=”bride at the fairmont san francisco” alt=”bride at the fairmont san francisco”>

If you’re not familiar with HTML, do not worry. In content management systems like WordPress and Squarespace, the title and the alt text of an image can be assigned when you are inserting an image into a post, as you see in the following image:

wordpress alt text
Where to insert alt text in WordPress

While the illustration is a WordPress example, most content management systems have a similar system. If it doesn’t, then it’s certainly time to consider a different platform. We’ll get into the best content management systems in later chapters.

What text to use for Alt Text

For the text, insert a short description of the image consisting of around five words or so. A good rule of thumb is to not deviate much, if at all, from your image name since you have already considered your target keywords while naming your images. So using our example, a picture of a bride at the

Use Keyworded Surrounding Text

Search engines will often pull information on images from the text around the image. If you are posting an image, make sure you talk about it a little bit. For example, you might post a photo of a wedding dress on your blog, and in the blog post put a paragraph describing who wore the dress, who designed it, and how you shot it.

Instead of clumping your text together in the introduction of your post and then clumping your images together for the rest of the post, try intermingling your text and your images. Ideally, you would include keyworded text between all images.

Use Captions For Surrounding Text

A great way to insert text in between your images is to use captions. Captions are the text that appears directly after an image. In many content management systems, you can add captions when you insert your images. In the eyes of Google, captions are no different than any other text. So by simply describing the images within the captions with keywords, you will help your page and your images rank for those keywords.

Bigger & Better is better (But Not Too Big) for Image SEO

In general, larger images rank better than thumbnails. Google claims that they can check the quality of focus and exposure in photographs and scanned images. In other words, better quality work is recognized by Google. Remember to balance your file sizes. Larger images may rank better, but a slow load time will kill your rankings.

Have a social media presence

Sites like Flickr, Pinterest, Facebook, and others are huge sources of traffic by themselves. People search for images there. Pick one or two of these sites according to your style & genre and create a presence there. Make sure your social media pages point back to your main website so you can let people know you are a professional.

Image SEO Conclusion

Image SEO doesn’t have to be hard.  These are just simply workflow tips that will lead to long term traffic to your site and evergreen exposure for your work.  Leave questions or success stories related to image optimizing in the comments below. Have a great day!