The best way to optimize images for web - 10 simple tips you can use right now

by Tolovaj

A huge part of Web traffic goes through images. How to optimize pictures and photos of the articles so search bots would understand them best?

A modern web post is made of words, images, and multimedia. There is a saying about a picture saying more than a thousand words yet search spiders still rely mostly on written content. What exactly can they understand about the photos on your blog? Can you do anything to better describe your visual material? The huge part of web traffic is based on images and competition in this area is at least ten times lower than among articles. Don't hesitate using that simple fact to your advantage.

Here are 10 simple ways to optimize pictures for the web:

1. Use appropriate images

Include relevant images in your article so the compliment the text This way you'll make it more attractive, understandable and memorable.

  • If you are writing about bread making, find some photos of bread.
  • If your blog informs about SEO, SEO graphic clipart will do the trick.
  • If you are writing about rock music, don't forget adding a few photos of rock stars.

You got the idea, right?



You need to have copyrights for publishing the photos. If they are done by somebody else, you'll need his or her permission (in writing). If you buy photos through the stock exchange or similar agency, you need to buy the right license. If there are any people on images, you'll need their permission (called modeling rights) as well.

If you intend to publish photos of children, you'll need written permission from their legal representatives (in most cases parents). And if you publish an image of the copyrighted or trademarked material (just think about a can of Coca-Cola), you need to be extra careful.


There is an ongoing debate about using original photos or stock exchange photos. In my experience, original photos are better, but stock exchange photos are not so bad either. You just need to go an extra mile and don't use the first you find (it is very likely already published in dozens of similar posts). But even if you use a very used photo, you can still beat the competition by using the next nine tips from this article.

On the other hand, an original photo needs to be done and very likely edited, what is not always an easy task. When you publish it, it is very likely somebody will pin it and this will very likely lead to two consequences:

a) A pin with your photo will beat your article in all results of search engines. When it will be repinned, other pins will beat your article too.

b) Sooner or later somebody will steal your photo and use it in his or her article without your permission. You can spend the next years filing complaints and trying to find an offender. It's a doable but not very pleasant thing to do. I worst case scenario he or she (who stole your work) will try to remove your original claiming you stole it from him (her).


My advice:

a) Don't fight Pinterest. Use it to your advantage. Make sure your Pinboard will be the first and strongest and with a bit of luck it will send you good traffic with a few costumes as well.

b) Right after publishing your original photos archive at the Wayback machine to have a proof when the material was first published. Don't fight spammers, just beat them by better content and quality links. If necessary you can still file a complaint, but don't spend too much of your precious time for that.

If you need a help on editing images, my friend occasionally makes a tutorial on Instructables:

I highly recommend visiting his and other tutorials in the category of graphics.

Just one more thing: use at least one image for every published article. A rule of the thumb is using one picture after every eight to twelve lines of text but rely on your feeling.

Name your images

2. Name your image appropriately.

If there is a photo of a rainbow, don't stay at standard file name given by your camera.

img8012547.jpg is no good

rainbow-photo.jpg is better

picture-of-rainbow-in-the-sky-over-waterfall.jpg is even better

With one of many free keyword research tools you should find something that will give you the edge over the competition, right?

There is an on-going debate about the usage of dashes and hyphens.

Is better




In my opinion, both work fine. I use dashes from times when bots had a problem of understanding the use of hyphens but it was probably solved at least a decade ago. Wikipedia use hyphens all the time and their images dominate informative articles, so go with either of them.

3. Alt tags

The basic idea of alt tags comes from times when some browsers were not able to recognize pictures, so they just displayed alt tags. They were also used to inform blind users who were browsing with a help of reading machines. The alt tag is today probably the most important SEO attribute of every used image.

Many members of the SEO community just put the keywords as alt tags, but this may not be the best solution if the keywords don't match with actual images. Alt tag should describe what is in the photo, not what is the article about. The best option is, of course, using an image where the image matches keywords. Be innovative and don't hesitate to experiment.

4. Title tags

Almost every content management system (CMS) have an option to add an image title to your graphic materials. This can be displayed as a caption on the photo or can be seen only when you hover over the image with a mouse. Sometimes (like at Wizzley) alt tag is used for image title. But officially the title tag of an image doesn't bear any SEO value.

If your title gives an additional value to your reader, absolutely use it. With better user experience and maybe more clicks on your photos, you can still expect better rankings in the results what will give you more traffic and this is the goal of SEO optimization, isn't it?

5. Should you use image metadata?

This is another questionable element of image SEO optimization puzzle. First of all, some of you probably wonder what is metadata of an image?

Simply speaking it's additional info written in all images. When you, for instance, shoot a photo, time and date of the photo are written in the file of the photo. Geolocation can be there as well. And the name of the camera, name of the owner, his company, ..., depending on the setting which may or may not influence the decisions of search bots when they find such photo in the article.

Bots can definitely read this info, but it's questionable when and how they use it or if they use it at all. In my opinion, Google tries to use every bit of gathered information if it has a reason to do that. So it won't hurt if you enter at least some basic info in the images before you upload them.

6. Description of the image for SEO purposes.

Different content management systems treat images differently, what means they are not shown the same way to the bots. Wordpress, as by far the most popular CMS has an option of adding a description for each uploaded picture where you can really go into details about your images. Majority of others don't bother with that.

In my opinion, Wordpress has a slight advantage over other blogging platforms when we are talking about positions of the images, but it's hard to say if this is thanks to the description section (not available at Wizzley, but you have a title and subtitle of an image module here).

There are so many factors which should be taken into consideration you really don't have to bother with a description if it's not available. But if it is, invest a minute and add a short description. It may help you one day.

Improve page speed of your article

7. Pick a graphics format.

There is a huge number of graphics formats on the web, yet we'll focus on only three which are all well-recognized by web browsers. These are GIF, JPG, and PNG.

JPG is by far the most universal and useful of all. If you decide to stick with it, you can hardly miss.

Yet it has at least two downsides:

a) Resolution of JPG files suffers from compression. (I'll explain what is compression in one of the next sections.) Extreme compressions are not recommendable.

b) JPG format doesn't support transparent images.


PNG format handles with these two situations much better. Transparent files are one of its signature features. Compression doesn't affect its quality. But it has

downsides as well: there are only two available PNG formats. One is conveniently small but limited to 256 colors only. The other offers millions of colors but has much larger files, what significantly slows down page loading.

GIF is similar to PNG from SEO point of view. Just like PNG, it's best to use for logos and simple graphics, but not good for photos. It can also handle simple animations.

Conclusion: in most cases stay at JPG, for special situations consider using other two formats too.

8. Dimensions.

Dimensions of an image have an important role in SEO for pictures. While monitors can display for instance 1280 x 960 pixels or 1600 x 900 or even more, this leads to huge files (every pixel carries its own information) what slows down the loading of your article. This is especially true when you have a lot of images and the majority of your users read your article on smartphones. A resolution of 640 x 512 or even 480 x 320 could serve them better.

On the other hand, you need the highest possible resolution if you are selling something that should be viewed into great details, like a T-shirt on Amazon. In this case, the most popular solution is adding a picture with lower resolution to help your article to load fast and an option to load the same image in higher resolution if somebody clicks on it.

Page load speed is a very important ranking factor and if your article doesn't come to your reader in less than three seconds, you will probably lost him or her. There is no universal recipe about image dimensions, you just need to do some experimenting.

Do you optimize images for web?
9. Compression.

If you imagine an entry of image in digital format it will look like a long string of numbers. Some of the numbers will be organized in patterns and this means they can be compressed in much smaller files. Let's look at a simple example:

Instead of


a compressed file can look like


what improves page load speed without losing any information in the file.

But some kinds of compression take a toll and too much compression will inevitably lead to a worse resolution what can negatively impact user experience and lead to lower rankings.

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Use your graphics as a source of traffic

10. Promotion and positioning.

Just like a full article you can promote each of graphic elements in your post. Don't hesitate using them on social networks, because most of them are very graphically oriented and they can bring you very quality traffic thanks to images only. With a proper link building, you can earn high positions in search rankings (don't forget about the listing of images, where you can have several high positions for only one article).

So start learning the most efficient tactics for promoting your images on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter and enjoy the results!

Updated: 08/27/2018, Tolovaj
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Tolovaj on 09/26/2023

As far as I know, google had problems for many years recognizing images. Using alt-tags is still the best way to help bots, even now with the rise of AI.

DerdriuMarriner on 09/23/2023

Thank you!

It appears from my search experience that search bots do a good job searching in non-image contexts. I have less experience with image contexts.

Is there any information, any research, any study on how well search bots are doing their image-related jobs? Might they be successful, just getting by or -- ;-D -- needing retraining or replacement?

Tolovaj on 09/22/2023

Search bots are looking at images just like all other elements. They try to find out what a certain image is about, put it into a context, and prepare the acquired knowledge with the already existing databases.

DerdriuMarriner on 09/15/2023

The first two sentences in your introduction cause me to consider the implications of digital-space organizations such that "A modern web post is made of words, images, and multimedia. There is a saying about a picture saying more than a thousand words yet search spiders still rely mostly on written content."

Might search spiders rely to some extent on images since they "mostly" reference written contexts?

Tolovaj on 09/23/2019

Hi, DerdriuMariner, and sorry for my late response. The beginning of the school year is particularly demanding for me. About your question - depending on the used template you can use a hi-res picture, which is displayed in lo-res and shows in hi-res only after somebody clicks it, or you upload both and the template displays the lo-res only until it's clicked, then loads the hi-res. The idea is to find the optimal loading time and quality of display.

DerdriuMarriner on 08/20/2019

Tolovaj, Thank you for the practical information and product lines.
The link to Instructables and the reminders about proper image titles and about Wayback machine archiving of original photos especially are appreciated.
How can you tell -- under point number 8 about dimensions -- that a lower resolution photo can be loaded in higher resolution?

Tolovaj on 08/29/2018

I know several people who run most of their traffic through Pinterest. I still rely on articles, but I can clearly see images as a source of good, quality traffic and many of them being original they also proved to be very good way to build links in relatively passive white hat SEO way. Use the power of Wordpress and you'll be rewarded. By the way, you can build links to your pins as well. Take care, Mira!

Tolovaj on 08/29/2018

I know several people who run most of their traffic through Pinterest. I still rely on articles, but I can clearly see images as a source of good, quality traffic and many of them being original they also proved to be very good way to build links in relatively passive white hat SEO way. Use the power of Wordpress and you'll be rewarded. By the way, you can build links to your pins as well. Take care, Mira!

Tolovaj on 08/29/2018

Thank you, dustytoes, I hope you'll use this info to your best advantage. Products like yours are probably even more interesting through pictures than articles. Google Image, Pinterest and many social networks, like Twitter or Facebook are great way to compliment classic article driven traffic. Best success!

Mira on 08/29/2018

Wordpress is really good about SEO optimization for images. I should really take my time with it, as you say :)

You mention Pinterest. I have been pinning for a long time but only recently really noticed that authors of articles like mine write the title of their piece on their thumbnail image. I mean, I have noticed it before but somehow didn't recognize how important it was to proceed that way -- until now.

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