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Optimizing images for Google-imageSearch – image SEO basics

Optimizing images

Optimizing images

Why are my images not in Googles images search? Why are they ranked so bad? Why took it so long until my images are indexed by Google? This article is exactly about that: how to optimize images for Google Image Search?! It is based on the german version, which I wrote in April 2010. It contains the main and basic tips for images SEO. To keep it simple, the text focuses on the Google image search. But the principles are also useful for other image-search-engines.

In summery you can say: optimizing images for search-engines is like optimizing images for blind people. For those who haven’t the time to read the following epic article here an extract of the essential tips, in order of the importance for the ranking:

Very important:

  • keyword the surrounding text
  • keyword in the image name
  • image size (min. 320 pixel, max. 1280 pixel)
  • keyword in the „alt-text“
  • make sure that the image is available for the images-bot


  • multiple use of the image (copies)
  • multiple links to the image (hot links)
  • keyword in the page title (including URL)

Not important:

  • keyword in the title attribute of the image
  • keyword relevance of the entire site
  • keyword in meta description
  • keyword in meta keywords
  • position of page in the organic search
  • new upload of the same image („actual date“)

Unclear / changing:

  • the age of the image (the older the better)
  • originality (picture looks different than most of other results)
  • specify images in Sitemap

Based on my experience this is it. Its about 80% of the work for a good ranking in Googles image search. Below some comments on the single points…

Why image-seo?

Top ranking

Top ranking

SEO (search-engine optimization) describes methods to optimize contents for search engines. Finally the content should rank better. Every gallery-webmaster who offers images on websites should optimize for image search. Thanks to the universal search concept, the main Google-result-page includes very often images. And in many cases images are shown on the top of the page. And of course images are eyecatcher. They jump into the users eyes just before the could read the first result.

You should never forget that images optimization is not just for search engines. Many of the following optimization tips are also helpfull for users. Google (that means the Googlebot) is similar to a blind visitor. You can say: if you optimize your picture-gallery for blind users your images have the oportunity to rank on top positions.

Google image search (Mona Lisa)

Google image search (Mona Lisa)

The article is divided into three areas. Each section contains important, necessary improvement actions. In addition, some tips are listed, which seems (in my eyes) to be usefull.

  1. Onpicture ranking factors
  2. Onpage ranking factors
  3. Offpage ranking factors

1. Onpicture ranking factors

With onpicture factors mean all actions that should be done to the image itself before it’s uploaded. First of all – this should be clear – choose the best images: clear, interesting and beautiful for users. An image should be an „esthetic experience„. The following tips are besides these basic rules of a good picture.

  1. Image size: Images should be at least 320 pixels and max. 1280 pixels on one length. Smaller images are ranked poor in general, larger images only appear if the user chooses the option „large images „.
  2. Format ratio. For the best ranking results you should use „normal“ formats: square, 4:3 or up to 16:10. Extremer portrait or landscape formats, however, rank usually bad. This is logically because the result-picture-list looks „ugly“ with these formats.
  3. Portrait or landscape format? When Google changes in America to the „New Image Search“, the answer to these question changes. Now Google cuts out some images. Because the hight of the images is allways the same it might be better to use Landscape formats. The picture on the resultpage is bigger – and so is the chance to get clicked.
  4. File name: very important for a successful image-optimization is the file name. Most times a picture can only be found on keyword-phrases that a in the filename (e.g. white-cat.jpg). It makes sense to use more than one term in the filename (e.g. „white-cat-on-green-chair.jpg“). This gives it the chance to rank with „white cat“ or „green chair“ or „cat on chair“ or „green cat“ and so on… However, you should not spam the filename: more than 4-6 words are inappropriate. And of course the name should be a kind of description of what can be seen on the picture.
  5. Copyright notice: This is irrelevant for images optimization. But I highly recommend this. A picture, that is in the Google index, should not be touched. As an author you should include the copyright notice in the picture before uploading. When it is indexed by Google and someone has done some copies without permission its too late…
  6. Image type: JPEG, GIF or PNG? I would recommend Jpeg or PNG. My observations are these: Jpeg climbs better in my pictures. I can not prove that statistically. So I would prefer in most cases as a Jpeg compression format. In some cases – particularly b/w graphics – is the compression at the same image quality but with PNG-8 much better. In the cases I use PNG – regardless of ranking, simply upload images faster, which pleased the visitors.
  7. File size: is basically the question of the compression rate. My experience is that this is not a ranking factor. You should compresse the picture as much as possible without loosing the quality of an image. Usually I worke with photoshop and compress-rate of jpegs is about 60 – 80% of the original. I have no problems with filesizes up to 400 kb.
  8. Originality: Apparently Google loves the pictures, found the variety. So it is not wrong, previously in the image browser to view the images offered for keyword. The probability that the image climbs climbs well, with its uniqueness. More here about this: „a change in image search – originality as a ranking factor.

Onpage ranking factors

Image seo (onpage)

Image seo (onpage)

To be successful an image must be well embedded in the HTML page. The following onppage factors describe  how to improve an image in the HTML code.

  1. Surrounding text: The text before and after the image should include one or more times the keyword or the keywords (of the filename). The combination of „keyword file name / keyword surrounding text “ is the lifeblood of a successful image optimization. Surrounding text means about 12 words before and after the picture. You should always look in the source code to prove. Often the code and the css-presentation are completely different.
  2. Alt-text: Each image should have an alt-text in the image-attribute. This is important not only for search engines, but especially for people with visual impairment. You simply have to make clear: Google is blind and can only understand text.
  3. Title-attribute: The meaning of the title attribute for the ranking is controversial. By specifying the title-attribute of an image by rolling-over a tooltip appears. Here the user can provide valuable information. If you have a separate caption, the title tag of the image is not necessary. I think the title attribute is a kind of surrounding text. It can increase the keyword relevance.
  4. Content relevance: Good content is good for images. But actually there are a lot of examples where the pages of good ranking images are lousy. I think Google will change this in the near future.
  5. Of course it is basically important that the googlebot could find the images. Be sure that your robots.txt allows to crawl the folders including the images.

Summery: A „perfect“ source code looks nearly like this:

<title>... keyword ...</title>
<h2>... keyword ...</h2>
    alt="... keyword ..."
    title="... keyword ... - Copyright xyz"
    width="600" height="450" />
  <br />
  Image: <strong>... keyword ...</strong>
<p>Text bla bla bla keyword. Bla bla bla keywords
bla bla bla... keywording ... bla</p>

3. Offpage ranking factors

Google hotlinks

Google hotlinks

There are two reasons to optimize images offpage: firstly it’s important for fast indexation of new images. And secondly you can help a picture to rank better by using some „offpage tricks“.

  1. Internal linking: A good internal linking helps the Googlebot/image to crawl new images. After a long period of „waiting for new images“ Google has changed the indexation frequence. These days it took about 2-4 days until new uploaded images appears in the image-search (jippi, thanks Google :-) )
  2. Good links to the page: A good link to the page, especially with „powerful“ links, is also useful for images on the page. Naturally „keyword“ relevant links are the best.
  3. Sitemap: Since some months images can be included in sitemaps. In my observation the sitemap is not important for better indexation or higher ranking – today. But it might become a factor. So I would recommend to use image-sitemaps.
  4. Copies: if an image is used several times it is a strength signal for Google that this image must be „important„. Copies of pictures are a good way to push up images. But on the other hand its a problem if somebody uses a picture without permission and gets the link in the image-search. This is a typically topic for professional images-seo.
  5. Hotlinking: Hotlinking is annoying or a tricky optimization method. If you link directly to an image (without embedding an <img>-tag in the html-code) you can steal the link in the image-search-result-page. This is called „hotlinking„. On the one hand, hotlinks shows Google the „importance“ of the image. The problem: if you loose the link in the images-serps you didn’t get any traffic. Exactly the opposite of optimization. It’s a walk on razors edge to allow copies and hotlinking. The art of images-optimization is to control this methods.
  6. Click-through rate: Usually this is not a factor you can influence. The only thing is to upload attractive pictures. Nice images will be clicked – and often clicked images will rank higher.

Thats it :-)

How long does it take?

If you follow the tips, the images should behave like this:

  • Images should be crawled after a few days.
  • They appear in the image search after about 2-7 days (actually, this may change again).
  • Depending on the „competition“ they should be sorted in between position 50 and 150.
  • Then wait and watch it.
  • For well-optimized images „move“ slowly upward.
  • Good images will climb up after neraly 6 months in the top 18 – visual first page.
  • By using offpage-optimization this prozess might be faster.
  • The best places on page 1 are ultimately decided by fine-tuning (e.g. it is much better to be on pos. 6 or 7 than to be on pos. 4 or 5.) This „fine tuning“ is not generalizable. It has to be analysed in an individual case.

Good luck! Other views and other tips are very welcome.

Other good articles about image-seo-basics

Optimizing images (blue eyes - Marilyn-cartoons)

Optimizing images (blue eyes - Marilyn-cartoons)

Category: Basics | Author: Martin Missfeldt   64 Kommentare

64 Comments zu "Optimizing images for Google-imageSearch – image SEO basics"

  1. SEO Expert

    great article! thanks for the image SEO info!

  2. Missfeldt

    Thanks for the comment.
    As I start this blog for new it’s allways a pleasure to answer comments :-)

  3. Johannes

    Great article with a lot of info.
    Only in the „perfect source code“ example are you not using title twice or is there a reason for this?

  4. Missfeldt

    @Johannes: Thanks. Yes, you are right, that title was doubled. I changed that.

  5. Olexa

    I read many info about image optimization, because i have blog with interior design photos. But your article the best.

  6. Missfeldt

    @Olexa: Thanx :-)

  7. Daryl Clark

    Thanks…this is by far the best example I’ve come across on how to optimize images. I’m going to link back to you from my blog. I appreciate the detail you provided here.

  8. blogging tech news

    Really it’s nice article. Try to implemented the tips.


  9. Daniel Noll

    Hi Martin,
    Excellent suggestions. I’m having a problem that is related to this. In the Google Images index, the „incorrect“ image is shown for several pages. I think (hope?) the issue is something that can be programmatically corrected across the site.

    Would love to get your feedback on this. The details of the question I asked on Google Webmasters is here:

    Dan (currently in Berlin)

  10. Icecube media


    As i have just visited your blog & found useful on page or image seo facts which is very helpful!

  11. readymadewebsiteforsale

    There are some keywords where images ranks first. There were times, too, that most of my visitors where from the clicking on the images.

  12. w3-logics

    There is always a mixed opinion about image optimization, it all depends on the kind of site you hold in my opinion. Entertainment sites can fairly benefit well from SEOing their images.

  13. Missfeldt

    @w3-logics: the basic optimization is onpage – and I am sure it is 90% of the weighness in the ranking. Just about 10 percent is tricky offpage-optimization. But these 10 percent decides the top places.

  14. Ted Fields

    Herr Missfeldt, thank you for your excellent article! The information is so complete that I really only have one question…

    Does an image’s position on the page affect its rank? Do images at the top of the page rank higher than those below? Thank you in advance for your thoughts on this!

  15. Missfeldt

    @Ted: no, the position of a picture is in my experience not important for the ranking. But usually it took much longer for the bot to crawl those images. The more in front of the source-code the faster the image will be indexed.
    Best wishes, Martin

  16. Abhi

    Excellent article! Thanks for sharing these tips. In addition to the above, I have also been generating Image sitemaps ( which I submit it to Google webmaster tool. That has really helped me rank some of my images higher in google search.


    • Missfeldt

      Thanks for the hint. I think sitemaps could be usefull for faster indexation – but only a little bit ;-)
      In my observations sitemaps are not a ranking signal.

  17. City Images

    Thanks for sharing these tips, but i have a trouble…, see in my blog (, i have a thousands image, but if i check in google images (site: by google ( is only 111 images.
    Why this can happened?, do you have any answer?

    • Missfeldt

      late answer, sorry. It depends on the crawlrate. If your site has a high pagerank OR if you upload frequently new images the bot visits your site more often.
      Usually the image bot just checks those images that are allready indexed – to controll if they are not deleted. In my observations only 3 to 5 percent of the imagebot-visits new images are indexed.
      So if you upload a lot of images at one time it will took a long time untill they are all indexed.

      My recommendation: upload frequently only some images. After a while the indexation gets faster.
      second thing: show new images on your homepage (with a link to the real site where it is used). Usually the homepage is the most crawled site – so the indexation is faster.
      Best wishes, Martin

  18. Aric

    Thanks for your nice article.

  19. Seo Services,Backlinks,Cheap Backlinks,

    I have learn a few good stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how so much effort you place to make this kind of fantastic informative website.

  20. ads google

    That is really nice artical. I saw my image on google and continue develop it. Thank you!

  21. Daniel

    Hi Martin,

    I totaly agree with you about “ALT” and “TITLE” attribut for a better ranking.
    But, I would like to know if renaming a pic “image.jpg” (and all pics of a website) like this “name-of-the-ste-image.jpg” could be useful for SEO and ranking ?

    Regards !

    • Missfeldt

      Hi Daniel,

      filename is an important signal for Google. So I would recommend to rename all images so that they have the keywords (what can be seen on the image) is the filename e.g. „black-cat-on-roof.jpg“.

      Good luck.


    A really great article
    I wonder that if you have any idea about file names in other languages, I have a persian web while if I put name of files in Persian, it would become 404
    Thank you for you help

    • Missfeldt

      very interesting question. I would recommend to upload a copy for each language. For this you should think about several galleries. As I told above you didn’t have a problem with „duplicate images“. It is a positive (!) ranking signal.

      Good luck.

  23. kevin william

    I was wondering why my images are not indexing in google and after reading this article and implimenting few of them precautions i noticed that my images are better indexing now and climbing day by day in SERP.

    Thanks alot for such a perfect analysis on google image optimization.


  24. Kursat OZCAN

    Thank you very much for this useful article. I applied all things you have written. It is time to see results in Google :)

    • Missfeldt

      Good luck :-)

  25. Diễn đàn rao vặt

    That is really nice artical. I susefuly with „lop xe“ images

  26. Suyanto

    I’m dizzy to look for an explanation on how to compress the image, but luckily I found your article here. Thank you for sharing.

  27. edessaios

    My native lanquage is Greek. In which language must stored the picture in hard drive? eg cat.jpg or in greek γάτα.jpg. Also the alt tag in which language must be? in english or in my native language?

  28. Richard Larson

    I have been reading about image optimization online, and this is by the far the top resource online. Thanks for the great information.

  29. PersianPet

    Fantastic publish, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector do not notice this. You should continue your writing. I’m confident, you’ve a great readers‘ base already!|What’s Happening i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It absolutely useful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & aid different users like its aided me. Good job.

  30. long tail pro

    Great web site. Plenty of helpful info here. I’m sending it to some buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious. And certainly, thank you on your sweat!

  31. מכינה לעיצוב

    Woah this weblog is great i love reading your posts. Keep up the great work! You realize, many persons are hunting round for this information, you can help them greatly.

  32. Hanoi Property Rentals

    My website has lots of images and i found many of them disapear or loose rank from Google image search. Reading your article give me lots of info and tips. Thank you

  33. David Do

    First, thanks for sharing your great info.
    On our site, there are lots of photos, and I reconize that before, you just alt tag, then Google can find your image and show it, if there is no alt, Big G can get title tag; Now, things are changing: Old-age image makes no sense, I think. You should renew alt tag, build more high rank banklinks.

  34. Ellis Moore

    A great blog post that really explains in depth on how to optimise images – great tips and tricks you can sometimes forget about! Thanks for sharing!

  35. Author

    I would like to know can i rename image in two language? For example in English and in Lithuanian at the same time( cat_katė.jpg) Does it friendly for seo?

    • Missfeldt

      yes, its ok to copy your image and rename it. Duplicate content is a positive factor for images.
      Good luck, greetings

  36. Peter Beck

    Hello and thank you for your – as always – good information.

    One specific question:
    – if you are for example an icon and pictogram designer (or also illustrator) and have A LOT of images to show with only small file size (15 KB, image size about 300px), without linking large ones. Is there a limit how many images to show on one page (=1 html file)? Is there a maximum number (like: 100, 300, 1000), or is it depending more on page size overall in MB?

    Of course all other aspects of SEO are considered…just a question of numbers.

    • Missfeldt

      Hi Peter,
      no, I don’t know a maximum number of images. But: in my experience Google only uses two or three images per site for the ranking for one keyword. If you have a lot of images for different keywords this might be a problem for the focus / authority of the site. I would recommend to use two or three larger (main) images per site with a clear and strong keyword focus – that means the main keywords that also apear in site-title, headlines, outgoing links etc.

      And: Google has modified the ranking factors since I wrote this article. Now the content strength is much more important than some months / years ago.
      So the main recommandation ist: use larger images on sites with relevant and helpfull content.
      Good luck

  37. Profesional SEO

    This includes a lot of important factors in face to image optimization. Some people only optimize images for ranking in the same keywords that the page, but image is a different kind of search. When users are looking in Google images, they are looking for exactly that an image, not a keyword-based page.

  38. budyk

    larger images would be better…and the alt-text …thanks for this

  39. Vikas Singh

    Nice article. I would like to add some value to this post. Recently I came across a very nice WP plugin. The new bloggers flood their blog with all the high-resolution images to make it nice and attractive. But for the matter of fact, that reduces the speed of the website and it takes a lot of time to load which hampers the user experience.

    Use ‘wp smush’ to reduce the size of images and keep the quality good. The free version will allow 50 images to smush at a time, then you need to start the process again for next 50 images. Premium version will take this restriction off.

    Hope this is one of the nice ways to optimize an image.

  40. sehrish

    I am very grateful for this enlightening article. I am new to this issue, but for me it elucidated several questions. Congratulations on your knowledge on the subject. Thank you very much.

Martin Mißfeldt

Author: Martin Missfeldt, Berlin based german artist, about creative image optimization and youTube video-optimization. This is the english version of More

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SEO Workshop

Seo-Workshop with Martin Missfeldt & Marco Janck:

Seo for Images and HLP
5. Nov. 2018 (in Berlin)
Language: German

More about it see this article (german)