There are six layers of SEO you can get from every image on your site. There are four that every site owner needs to do. There are two more that need to be done by folks who make a living with images, such as wedding photographers. Read on to discover the elements that Google checks to determine what the image is about and how you can help your whole site rank higher via your images.
The First Four Layers of Image SEO
There are four basic SEO habits that every site owner needs to do with their images to raise rankings. Google indexes each one of these.
1. File Name – It is important to give your image files a name that clues search engines as to what the image is. For instance, a file name of IMG001.jpg is meaningless. A file name of chocolate-cake.png is easy to identify.
The current preference for naming image files is to use all lower case alpha-numeric characters with a hyphen between words.
2. Title – When you upload an image to the WordPress Media Library, you have the opportunity to add a title. You can use the same words that you used for the file name, but write it for a viewer to see. Staying with the same example above, that would be Chocolate Cake.
The text in the title also serves as the text in the little pop-up box that appears when someone hovers over an image.
3. Alt Text – When you upload an image, you also have the opportunity to input the Alt Text. The input field for it is just below the Title input field. You can use the same text as you used in the title.
The Alt Text would appear if the image failed to display properly.
4. Content and context – Search engines look at the title of the post or page, the general content on the page, and more specifically, the content near the image to fully gauge what the image is about. It is in your best interest to name and title images with words that are relevant to the content of the post or page. Then, try to be mindful to place that relevant content near to the image.
If you will do at least the four SEO steps above with every image on your site,
you will score brownie points with search engines.
Gaming the System
You can use a descriptive file name, then some other keyword/phrase for the title and yet another keyword/phrase for the alt title. But, be mindful that Google is looking for that tactic and it could backfire on you. I would suggest keeping at least the title and alt text the same. Having a slightly different file name and title is okay.
The Next Two Layers
There are extra layers of image SEO that are important for sites where the images are the business, such as photographers. Much of this is overkill for most site owners, and the extra time it takes is not good ROI unless you have a lot of images and an explicit need to rank well with those images.
1. Extended File Names – If you are a wedding photographer, you’ll need to find a way not to duplicate file names while still maximizing your SEO. Since most wedding photographer businesses are local, then use that as a good way to gain more local SEO. For instance, if you are in Arlington Virginia, you could name a file arlington-va-smith-wedding-bride.png.
2. Folders – By default, all images uploaded in WordPress are stored in the Uploads folder and are sorted by date then name. For instance, a typical path to the URL of an image would look like this:
While uploading to the Media Library is convenient, it doesn’t give you much SEO juice. If you manually create more descriptive folders and sub-folders and then upload your well-named images to that, you could really max out on your local SEO. Here’s an example:
You can create and upload these images via your hosting control panel. But, for uploading images in bulk, it will probably be easier for you to use an FTP program like Filezilla.
The caveat is that you will have to be mindful of the image’s URL (path) and manually insert them into your posts using the HTML view. There are a few plugins that claim to be able to ease this process, but I haven’t found a free one yet that works as advertised. If you know of a good plugin, free or paid, please do share it in the comments below this post.
There is one more important thing to consider if you use this method. You will most definitely need to use a backup strategy that includes all the files and folders on your site, including these new folders that may or may not be housed in your wp-content folder. My recommendation is to do a full backup every time with BackupBuddy. (If you need help with finding backup and storage solutions, download this free report – How to Backup Your WordPress Site.)
More Info on Image SEO
If you would like to know more about maximizing the SEO on your images, hear it from the horse’s mouth. There is a nice post on the Google Webmaster Central blog titled 1000 Words About Images.
How is Your Image SEO?
Do you take any of the steps listed here to increase your site’s SEO?