The Complete Guide to Image SEO Optimization

Optimizing images for search engines is a crucial part of any website‘s SEO strategy. With image search becoming increasingly popular, you want to make sure your website‘s images are found and ranked highly in image search results.

This complete guide will provide you with an in-depth look at image SEO best practices to improve your image search visibility and rankings.

The Rising Importance of Image Optimization

Image search has exploded in popularity over the last decade. Here are some key statistics that demonstrate the growing relevance of image SEO:

  • According to Jumpshot, Google Images accounts for over 10% of all Google searches. That percentage is steadily rising year over year.

  • A study by Searchmetrics found that around 65% of the top 100 Google search results contained images. Clearly, pages with images tend to rank higher.

  • Hubspot reports that posts with images generate 94% more views than posts without images. Images boost engagement across blogs and all websites.

As you can see from the data, images play a very important role in SEO and content creation. With image searches becoming more frequent, optimizing images for search visibility provides an opportunity to increase referral traffic to your website.

Why Proper Image SEO Matters

There are several benefits to ensuring your website‘s images are fully optimized:

Increased Referral Traffic

Populating image search results for relevant queries will expose your website to more targeted visitors. Images can bring in significant amounts of referral traffic from search engines when properly optimized.

Improved Page Experience

Optimized images enhance the user experience in multiple ways:

  • Alt text provides a text alternative for visually impaired users and when images fail to load.

  • File names and captions give all users more context about an image.

  • Compressed image files load faster which improves page speed.

Boosts Overall SEO

Images play a role in your overall SEO success beyond just image search rankings.

Optimized images help search bots better crawl, index, and understand your content. This can improve rankings for other non-image searches as well.

In summary, taking the time to optimize images for SEO and accessibility ensures your website provides a great experience for all users which ultimately benefits your business.

Actionable Tips to Optimize Images for SEO

Now that you understand why image optimization is important, let‘s look at how to actually implement it on your WordPress site.

1. Use Descriptive File Names

When saving images, always use file names that include relevant keywords users may search for.

Instead of just "house.jpg", name it "small-brick-house.jpg" or "large-white-farmhouse.jpg" for example.

Some best practices for file naming:

  • Separate words with hyphens, not underscores
  • Keep file names relatively short but descriptive
  • Include 2-3 keywords maximum
  • Avoid spammy repeating keywords

2. Write Strong Alt Text

The alt text HTML attribute provides a text description of the image. Avoid generic phrases like "image of house".

Include main keywords users would search for while accurately describing all aspects of the image. "Red brick house with white windows and door" is very descriptive.

Keep alt text under 125 characters. Any more and search engines may truncate it.

3. Add Relevant Title Attributes

The title attribute is used internally by WordPress to organize media but also helps search engines understand the image subject.

Make your titles descriptive using target keywords like the alt text. No need to worry about length here.

4. Use Captions Judiciously

Image captions appear below images to provide supplemental context to site visitors.

Only use captions when the image requires a more detailed explanation. Avoid overuse of captions or stating the obvious.

5. Compress Images

Large image files slow down page load speed. Use image editing tools to compress images before uploading to WordPress.

The best compressed formats are:

  • JPG – Photos
  • PNG – Logos, illustrations, images with text
  • GIF – Simple images and animations

6. Embed Images Within Relevant Content

Mention images in surrounding text when relevant. This gives search engines better context about the image and how it fits into the overall content.

7. Create and Use Original Images

Avoid generic stock photos used widely across the web. Create custom images aligned with your brand that capture your products or services in an attractive way.

Also make sure your images are high-resolution and pass the "squint test" to ensure they render well on high-resolution displays.

Following those foundational image SEO tips will get you quite far. Now let‘s explore how to put them into practice in WordPress.

Step-by-Step Guide to Optimize Images in WordPress

Once you understand image optimization best practices, implementing them in WordPress is straightforward:

1. Compress and Resize Images

Before uploading any images to your site, use image editing software like Photoshop or online compressors to optimize the files.

Resize larger images if they will be displayed smaller on your site. For photos, set JPEG compression between 60-82% quality.

2. Rename Files

After compressing and resizing, rename the file using your target keywords as covered earlier.

3. Fill Out Alt Text and Title

When adding an image using the WordPress block editor, the image block toolbar allows you to add alt text and a title.

For alt text, summarize the image concisely using your focus keyword(s).

The title field is used internally by WordPress. Make it similar to the alt text without worrying about length.

4. Add a Caption If Necessary

If your image requires further explanation for site visitors, click "Write caption…" in the image block toolbar to add one.

Use 1-2 concise sentences to summarize the image details. Avoid overusing captions.

5. Place Image Near Relevant Content

Embed the image within your content near text that is relevant to the image itself. Mention the image subject when possible.

This provides contextual signals to search engines.

6. Update Existing Images

For images already in your media library, open the attachment details and update the alt text, title and caption.

Click the image in your media library, edit the fields in the popup, and click "Update".

Be sure to optimize existing images across your site, not just newly added ones.

Following this straightforward workflow will ensure all images added to your WordPress site are fully optimized for image SEO and user experience.

Leverage Automation Tools to Save Time

Manually entering alt text, titles, and captions for every image you upload can become extremely tedious.

Fortunately, plugins exist that can automate much of the heavy lifting around image optimization.

All in One SEO Pack

One of the most popular SEO plugins, All in One SEO Pack has an "Image SEO" module that can automatically optimize images for you.

It works by letting you set up templates for generating alt text and title attributes using custom variables, post titles, site name, etc.

All in One SEO can also strip image metadata, disable image attachment pages, and more. I recommend using their free version with the Image SEO upgrade.


SEOPress is another trusted SEO plugin with an "Image SEO" addon available. This automates alt/title attributes and has other optimization tools as well.

Worth looking into if you prefer SEOPress over All in One SEO for your site.


ShortPixel handles the image optimization side by automatically compressing images upon upload. This improves page speed.

Their free version also adds basic alt text and titles. The premium version has more automation capabilities.

Final Recommendations for Maximum Image SEO Results

To take your image optimization to the next level, keep these additional tips in mind:

  • Use SEO tools to audit existing images and identify any that need re-optimization. Many plugins provide an image SEO audit feature.

  • Prevent image theft by disabling right click saving. Use watermarks if needed.

  • Implement image schema markup to enable rich image snippets in Google. Plugins can add this automatically.

  • Submit XML image sitemaps to surface your images to search engines. Most sitemap plugins include image sitemaps.

  • Set up Google Search Console and track your image rankings and impressions over time, adjusting optimization as needed.

  • Continuously optimize existing images across your site, not just newly uploaded images. Image SEO is an ongoing process.

Properly implementing fundamental image SEO principles will benefit your website in numerous ways:

  • Increased image search visibility and referral traffic
  • Faster page load times for better user experience
  • Enhanced accessibility for visually impaired visitors
  • Overall lift in organic search rankings from image context

With the actionable tips in this guide, you have everything you need to start optimizing images on your WordPress site for maximum SEO and UX results. Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions!

Written by Jason Striegel

C/C++, Java, Python, Linux developer for 18 years, A-Tech enthusiast love to share some useful tech hacks.