Website images: SEO metadata

originally posted July 9, 2021; 
no text revisions to date— 

In this last post on image-related Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts, you will learn about improving (or adding) metadata related to your website images—that way, they will have an impact on your overall site SEO program. As the-website-editor has suggested all along, SEO can, and should, become a part of your image optimization process. After all, it’s as easy in combination as it is handled separately.

If you’ve been following the five serialized posts in this series, know that you are nearly complete with the work of optimization. Next up: making the extra effort. Ready? Read on . . .

Image file name

Once you’ve addressed all the processes and concerns related to optimizing an image, you are almost ready to upload image files to your website. The last step is to apply an appropriate and SEO-friendly file name to your image. This step is a simple one, but most people do not make it a part of their process; doing so will provide a definite advantage over your competition.

Before uploading an image to your website, rename the file with wording that is related to the image. Include at least one relevant keyword in the file name; if you know the blog post or web page where the image will be used, add at least one more target keyword that applies to that post or page. For consistency and more assured performance, use only

  • lowercase English-alphabet lettering,
  • “Arabic” numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), and
  • hyphens (preferred over underscores)

in the name. Characters from other languages, spaces, and other punctuation and characters can upload incorrectly on occasion and may cause unexpected behavior in gallery-rotating or scripting software, as well as older browsers—so avoid them as a rule. Some people also choose to omit articles (a, an, and the) and short prepositions (at, of, for, by, with, and in, for instance) to help shorten the file name.

One last note: Be sure to change only the part of a file name that appears left of the period—the file extension needs to remain JPEG (or JPG), PNG, or whatever file format was used to finalize the image.

Now, finally, you can upload that image file you’ve worked so hard to optimize.

Image title, description, and alt text

As soon as you’ve uploaded an image file, so that you do so before you use it, edit the image to include behind-the-scenes text—this is the SEO text (meta tag data) that search engines will use to index an image. Of these tags, alt text is the most important because browsers will pull this text and display it while an image is loading; additionally, it will stay on the page if an image fails to load at all. That being the case, alt text should reveal the intent of the image—why you chose it, why it is there, how it relates to where you positioned it, what it represents on the page: in brief, it should tell the message you want told in case that image doesn’t display. In general, alt text should not exceed 125 characters in length.

Of secondary importance is the image title, which should, in as few words as possible, briefly state the image focus or content or message.

Lastly, the image description—which may repeat the alt text, if nothing else—should (in 280 characters or less) provide more details than alt text, allowing users to learn more about what the image is doing there, information beyond the message provided in alt text. Options for inclusion, if they are relevant, might include names of people in the image and descriptions of what they are doing, emotions that are being conveyed, objects and surroundings, and any text contained in the image.

All of these elements can be used to rank an image for SEO purposes. But, another increasingly important use for alt text and metadata is to assist people with vision impairments who might have trouble distinguishing images on a screen or who may use screen readers in order to access the internet. Screen readers will read any existing metadata out loud, providing essential information, link URLs, and image details.

Image site map

Finally, some search engines suggest adding images to your website’s official site map; others suggest creating a separate site map for images that is linked to the primary website map. Alphabet Inc. doesn’t seem to recommend either one over the other, but the corporation’s Q&A forum does state that images with complete metadata will be indexed more thoroughly and rank higher.

Images and SEO

Given the information and steps provided throughout this series, you should be encouraged to think about using an SEO strategy for online images. Images not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of blog posts and websites, but they can add information and become SEO magnets on their own. Still, remember that they, images, should be used sparingly on a web page and that they should be prepared appropriately so they do not slow down load times, which can result in fewer engaged visitors.

And, if you’re going to do that much work, you might as well add a few steps to incorporate SEO components into your web page text or blog content. If you missed any posts in this series, refer to these links:

file formats and compression
file size and “lazy loading
image size
copyright issues
image metadata: file name, image title, description, and alt text
with image site map

You can also read these combined posts here or, as another option, open this PDF version, print it, and make your own notations while reading at your own pace.

Ultimately, the primary goal of your site should be to serve up meaningful information, to increase conversions, and to make an impression! Do that right from the start with practice and deliberateness. At the-website-editor, we can suggest ways to organize your website and outline locations for information, assist in developing individual web pages, and help you craft text, primarily for content blocks. We no longer do much with design of the site or image research, but we can aid with wording for metatags like image descriptions and alt text.

Did we miss any details or forget to add something?  Let us know . . .

Stephen, the-freelance-editor,
where we work with our clients to help them say
what they want to say to the audience they want to reach.

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image information: Featured image made from scratch by the-freelance-editor using Canva, Optimizilla online image optimizer, TinyPNG/TinyJPG, and tools in the WordPress Media Library