The Importance of Tagging Images with Keywords

search engine optimization


You may be missing out on an important search engine optimization tool: images. While it's true that Google, Bing, Yahoo! and the other popular search engines can't "see" images, they can "read" the text surrounding images. That includes the file name for your graphic, the alt text, and the description. By maximizing these fields with keyword rich names, you can add a little more zest to your SEO efforts and help those search engines find your content a little bit easier.

SEO Basics

Images Names for SEO

A few weeks ago, my husband got stung by a weird looking caterpillar clinging to a shrub in the garden. Since a friend of ours was rushed to the hospital from a similar sting, I ran upstairs to the computer to search for the name of the insects. I didn't know the name, of course, so I couldn't type in a keyword. Instead, I typed "stinging caterpillars in Virginia" into the search engine. When the results appeared on the screen, however, I didn't click on a website; I clicked on Image Search. The second picture was our culprit, and I clicked the image, then clicked the web page where the image appeared to read up on the critter. Thankfully, it turned out to be a nuisance rather than a medical emergency, but it was the Image Search that helped me - not necessarily the keyword search.

Many people are turning to Image Searches to find what they need online. Take a look at the stats for your blog or website; how are people finding you? If they seem to be finding you through Google Images or Pinterest, then images are an integral part of your online marketing, and should be maximized for best search engine optimization.

Once you legally license your images OR take your own images, be sure to rename it with a keyword phrase. Note that I suggest a phrase, not just a word. Natural sounding phrases that describe the image will rank better than single word image titles. If it's a pair of red high heel ladies shoes, call it red high heel shoes, not shoes.  You'll end up with better search traffic as a result.

Using the Alt Tags

The alt tag field is also an important aspect of your SEO. An alt tag is readable by search engines, and in the unlikely event that your image won't show up on someone's browser, they will at least see the alt tag so they know what should appear on the page. Like the image name, make sure your alt tag is a keyword rich phrase that adequately describes the image, not just a one word tag you slap onto the picture.

The Description Field

The description field in many blogging platforms and website tools adds additional areas for optimization. It's a good place to add your keyword tags. It will also make it easier for you to search for and find images you wish to use again in the future.

Image Tip: If you use Pinterest to promote your content, try to size your images with a larger vertical to horizontal aspect ratio.  Images about 700 pixels high tend to do well on Pinterest.

Action Step: If you've neglected your images on your blog or website, it's not too late to fix them. Tackle a little each day and rename them, add your alt tags and your description fields to the images. Soon you may even see a little bump in traffic thanks to the power of optimizing images for search engine marketing.

SEO tips