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Optimizing for Google Image Search

Published: July 27, 2017

Author: Christian Alvizuris

Google Image Search is now the 2nd-largest search property, making up 26.7% (Jumpshot data) of the online search landscape. Additionally, 18.6% (MozCast) of SERPs show Image Pack results. This could prove to be an opportunity loss for businesses who are currently not leveraging image optimization, or are not optimizing their current images properly.

dove landing on leaves
This lovely dove will get plenty of clicks if this post becomes popular.

Below is a list of some tips and recommendations for optimizing your images for Google Image Search:

Focus on quality and relevance to enhance a user’s experience

  • Images that are good quality and appealing can enhance CTR.
    • If an image is unappealing, it is less likely to get clicked on. An image that receives more clicks is more likely to rank higher.
  • If you are reducing file size, be sure to maintain an image’s quality.
    • Most users enjoy zooming in to see image details. Think about your user base when reducing image file sizes.
  • Be considerate of the size of an image’s subject, especially when reducing the size to a thumbnail.
    • Standard image ratios are 4:3 and 16:9.
  • Try to not use stock images.
    • Finding an image that is personalized or custom is more likely to get clicked on when comparing to a stock photo.

Optimize your images for Google

  • Create a custom, relevant image file name for your photo.
    • Google looks at file names when pulling up search results. Use any relevant descriptors, as well as relevant keywords of the visual image content, within your file name.
    • Example: A picture of a hummingbird could have the file name of site.com/flying-hummingbird.jpg
  • Use image Alt tags.
    • Alt tags are HTML attributes used to describe your image and are used in place of the image when it doesn’t render or isn’t displayed.
  • Use captions.
    • Captions are typically the title or description that get displayed with the image.
    • These have proven to help more than alt tags have.
  • Fill in descriptions.
    • Descriptions are a field that allows for a full explanation of the image, as well as relevant links. Be sure to include any relevant keywords you wish to rank for that match the image (do not keyword stuff).
  • Use image sitemaps.
    • Using Google image extensions for sitemaps can give Google more information about the images available on your page.
  • Provide good context for the image.
    • The page the image is on, as well as the content around the image (captions, image titles), provides search engines with important information about the subject matter of your image.
  • Leverage Schema.org markup.
    • Ensure usage of all available markups to increase machine readability.
  • Optimize image file size.
    • In addition to focusing on UX, images are one of the most common ways page size increases.
    • JPG files are typically smaller than PNG files, but PNG files can offer a higher resolution.
  • Optimize Page Title.
    • Page titles are an additional way Google understands the context and theme of images.
    • If you can, it’s recommended to have page titles that are thematically related to your image.
  • Optimize Page URL.
    • Similar to page titles, if the page URL is also thematically related to the image, this will help the image’s propensity to rank in image search.
  • Know the correlation of image popularity/engagement.
    • The more engagement an image gets, such as clicks, the more search engines conclude that this is a more popular, relevant image for that query; this coincides with higher ranking.
  • Use standard image dimensions.
    • As noted above, standard image ratios are 4:3 and 16:9.
  • Know the correlation of host page ranking.
    • If the page an image lives on is ranking well in web results, the image will generally perform well in image results.


Ready to learn more? Check out our Guide to SEO in 2018, or contact the 3Q SEO team to find out how we can enhance your search strategy.

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