Search Engine Optimization for Images


Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a phrase that is far overused in my line of work. However there are some simple conventions you can follow to improve who finds your images on which keywords. I will in this post compile a simple list of things about what I’ve learned on optimizing your images, not only for search engines, but so the humans who use them find content that is valuable to them. So let’s see how we can get some search engine optimization on our images.


Too long? Don’t want to read? SHAME on you!

Short version:

  1. include images
  2. name the file like apple-pie-at-burning-man-2013.jpg
  3. use dashes instead of underscores in file names
  4. use alt attributes

Include Images in Your Posts

As you can see, the search engine hits I get for images is quite a portion of my traffic:


To have something to optimize, we need to make sure that we include images in the first place. This is not a guide only for photographers and designers that show off their visual content, but for anyone who can add a picture, even if it’s only for giving the reader a faster and better impression of what the post they are about to read is going to be about.

I usually, unless it’s a very nerdy topic for people who read code all day, include a picture. Even then I know I should.

We are visual creatures, respect this curse or blessing of our species when planning, creating and publishing your content.

Make Your Images Meaningful to Search Engines

For the ones of you who have a brief knowledge of HTML, it’s not a surprise that you should include an alt attribute on the pictures you post. I typically set that equal to the file name, because I name every picture I upload so it represents the content of the picture.

Name Your Images

Don’t let your images have their default names when you take them yourself. Names like DSC_0001.JPG are not going to get you found. If you have a picture of a great kissing couple in Paris on the first of August, call your picture something like: couple-kissing-paris-august-1st-2014.jpg. This way you’re much more likely to actually be found with keywords that occur in the filename.

My 5 most Found Images

According to the Google Webmaster Tools the 5 keywords in the image search are the following:

  1. raspbian
  2. gitlab
  3. when was the last time you did something for the first time
  4. git cheat sheet
  5. codeigniter

If an image occurs multiple times or if the same portion of the filename led to different pages on your site, you will be given an overview of those on a page that looks a like this:


Each of these keywords has lead to one of articles on this blog, listed below, sorted by keyword:

keyword: raspbian


I blogged about setting up a RaspberryPI with Debian/Raspbian and also how to install the OS on the USB-Stick, not only the SD card. The photos show my own RaspberryPI and are taken with my camera, in my class room when I was blogging, when I should have been studying :).

file names:

  • Raspberry_PI_raspbian_512mb_1.jpg
  • Raspberry_PI_raspbian_512mb_2.jpg

links accessed through search:


keyword: gitlab


I’ve been blogging about my favourite git server and web system a lot, so I have a couple of pictures named after it and multiple articles where it’s mentioned. The pictures are, apart from the logo, which actually one of the authors sent my by email upon request (they’re super nice!), original content mixed with screenshots of the GitLab web interface. By original content I mean that I’m showing how I’m using it.

file names:

  • gitlab_logo.png
  • gitlab_built_in_tutorials.png
  • gitlab.png
  • gitlab_branch_network_graph.png
  • gitlab_group_summary_repositories_activity.png

links accessed through search:


keyword: when was the last time you did something for the first time

I blogged about a nice campaign website by Eastpak, the picture is simply a screen grab of their website. Of course I made an effort to capture a good moment of an infinitely looped slow motion video.

file names:

  • Eastpak_When_was_the_last_time_you_did_something_for_the_first_time.png

links accessed through search:

keyword: git cheat sheet


Git can be hard and I’ve found a great cheat sheet that explains how the different layers of git work together and again, took a screenshot of the website, so that my readers could get a better impression of it right from the start.

file names:

  • git_cheat_sheet.png

links accessed through search:

keyword: codeigniter


CodeIgniter has for long been my favourite PHP MVC framework. Now it seems that it sadly has been abandoned by EllisLab or at least will no longer be the foundation of Expression Engine. Again, screen

file names:

  • ellislab_codeigniter_new_website-1024×539.png
  • ellislab_comcodeigniter_1024x768.png
  • codeigniter_ellislab.png

links accessed through search:


Images can help us remember, make us understand faster and looking at how much everyone loves info graphics, avatars and the like, I think I don’t need to include all kinds of scientific studies supporting that.

I hope you enjoyed this post and the insight on how I get some of my traffic. How do you use images on your sites and how much do you enjoy the use of pictures on other sites?

1 thought on “Search Engine Optimization for Images”

  1. Wow! That’s a lot of stuff to digest but I did read everything from top to bottom and I learned things I haven’t heard of or tried before. Kudos!

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