Image SEO Tips to Rank Your Pictures on Google

SEO For Images: How to Rank Your Pictures on Google

Traditionally, SEO is viewed as a marketing technique to help rank product pages or articles on search engine result pages. Another less-explored aspect of SEO that can help you get more traffic to your website is image SEO.

SEO for images drives traffic not only from product pages or elaborate articles but also from photos on your site. Why does this matter, and how can you achieve it? Read on to find out.

What is Image SEO?

Image SEO is the set of practices aimed at optimizing images you use for search engines, most frequently, Google. These practices lead to two important results. It increases the likelihood of your images appearing in different types of Google searches and ensures images rank your pages high.

Images appear in regular Google searches if Google assumes the search requires an image or if users directly type “photo” or “image” in the search.

Source: Google
Alt: Image results in regular search.

Images can also appear on search engine result pages in Google Images.

Source: Google

Alt: Google Images search results.

Prominent image placement also appears in regular organic search results. You can achieve this by using structured data.

Source: Google

Alt: Rich Results with images in regular search.

Google Lens and Google Discover, and even recently launched AI Overviews, also display images. 

SEO for images produces better results for all websites that use images and is crucial for industries that rely on photos — photography, editing, stock photos, real estate, e-commerce, and more.

Benefits of Optimizing Images Wisely

SEO for images doesn’t require too much investment and offers several benefits.

The first major benefit is improved on-page user experience. One in four website users will abandon a page if it takes more than four seconds to load. Research suggests the bounce rate on mobile is even higher.

Two elements of a web page typically slow down the loading time — JavaScript (JS) and images. While you can resolve JS issues or postpone loading nonessential scripts, images that fit in the browser viewport have to load with other content.

Optimizing them for SEO will cut down load times and improve UX and sales.

The second benefit is increased traffic. Image SEO helps you achieve that in a couple of ways. The most straightforward route is that images might appear in search results and lead a user to your site. 

Images optimized for SEO might also improve the overall keyword optimization of the page and improve the CTR of regular organic results. Articles with images are more engaging to the readers and might improve time-on-page, bounce rate, and sharing.

Images like photos or infographics can also be a source of links to your business, as writers and editors borrow them to post in their content.

If you sell physical products online or do photography, image SEO is a must. However, most businesses that use unique images in their content can benefit from optimizing them for SEO.

How to Execute Image SEO

You have two main ways to optimize images for SEO — optimize the image files and optimize the pages that host images. Let’s explore image SEO tips for both of these techniques.

Optimizing Images

The first aspect to optimize in images is technical aspects and tags.

Alt tag. Alt text is used within the image tag, displaying its text instead of an image when it can’t load or when users disable loading images. Make it descriptive and have it contain keywords you want the image to rank for. Inline images like SVG should use image title tags instead of alt text.

Correct URL. URLs also matter for ranking, so make sure the image file name either contains the keyword or at least is descriptive. Check that the file destination on your files is correct and that the URL works as intended. Linking an image with a typo means it won’t load properly, which will hurt your SEO.

File size and definition. This is an important aspect of the image for the UX. Your images should have a high enough definition to look good with a small file size to load fast. Use a format that looks good when you compress images and have a couple of size variations on hand.

Missing alt tags, incorrect URLs, and too-large file sizes can hurt your SEO. Checking each image and its HTML code manually is too time-consuming, so using a specialized website audit tool like the one by SE Ranking could help automate this.

This tool will comb your website and analyze technical issues. It will then show you images needing optimization and offer suggestions on how to do it.

Source: SE Ranking

Alt: SE Ranking highlights images that need optimization.

Optimizing technical aspects of your images is important, but it won’t help if the image isn’t yours. You’ll get the best odds of ranking in visual searches by using unique, high-quality images. Google will typically rank the image posted first, so avoid using identical images in search results.

If you deal with photography, you have unique images. If you run an e-commerce business, invest in professional photoshoots of your products.

If you run a B2B or a service business and don’t have a physical product, you can try creating data visualizations like these.

Source: Google

Alt: Informational articles with images that can bring links.

You can take third-party data, create a visual representation of it, and promote it to attract traffic to your website.

In terms of image formats, you have four main options.

  • JPEG. Small in size but has significant quality loss with compression. Great for medium-definition images where quality isn’t a huge issue — product photos or blog thumbnails.
  • PNG. Much better quality but renders a large file size. Should be reserved for images where quality is key, like photography work or images with small details.
  • WEBP. A format that combines the best parts of both JPEG and PNG, has 20% less file size, and doesn’t lose as much quality when you resize images. It’s not widely adopted yet and isn’t supported by all older browsers.
  • SVG. Great for resizing and animation but works only for vector images, which makes it perfect for logos and interactive web graphics. Doesn’t work with photos or regular images.

A typical website would use different formats to perform different tasks. For instance, a photography portfolio website can use JPEG for preview thumbnails to load faster and PNG for pictures in full view to have better quality.

Finally, you should use the correct HTML code to display images. The best tag to use for that is <img>. You can also use <picture> to explore different display options.

With the <img> tag, you provide several options of files depending on the browser viewport. This will make the load time faster. This can be done with the “srcset” and sizes attributes.

<img srcset=“yourimage-1080-500.jpg 1080w, yourimage-300-100.jpg 300w” 

sizes= “(max-width: 1080px) 1080w, (max-width: 400px) 300px)”>

The sizes attribute creates conditions for loading different images based on the browser viewport, while scrset offers various sizes to load under different conditions. You can also load images of different quality based on the display pixel density to avoid serving high-definition images to devices unable to render them.

An alternative is using <picture> tag and nesting <source> tags with different conditions for displaying an image and implementing an <img> tag to fall back on. It offers nearly the same options for responsive image loading.

Optimizing Image Landing Pages

Now that you know how to optimize image files for SEO, let’s look at ways you can optimize the pages that host your images.

First, make it easy for Google to discover your image. Make sure the page isn’t blocked by robots.txt, and the page and its image can be discovered by browsing links on your site, and that your site is easy to crawl.

Next, consider adding structured data about your image. It gives Google more information about it and specifies which images should be displayed in the rich results. Here’s what structured data code might look like.

Source: Google

Alt: An example of structured data code for an image.

You can learn the details of image structured data on a dedicated Google help page. Create this code snippet either with Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper or use an AI tool to generate the code.

Additionally, you can use Open Graph as structured data—data that tells social media websites how to structure your links. This gives you more control over how your link previews are shown on sites like Facebook or X.

Source: X

Alt: Open Graph data helps to format previews on social media.

To achieve this, you would include code like this in the <head> tag of your page. You can create this code either manually or with a specialized tool—there are dozens on the market.

Source: Filtergrade

Alt: An example of Open Graph data.

The final element you can optimize for SEO is loading priority. Even when you’ve made the file size smaller and created rules on which file sizes to load based on the browser viewport, there’s still room for improvement.

Implement lazy loading, and you’ll have images that aren’t visible from the start load later. This will make the first content paint faster and load other images later.

You can make this natively by adding the loading attribute to the img tag like this.

<img src=“yourimage.jpg” loading=“lazy”>

Decoding and fetch-priority tags can also regulate how browsers load your images.

Another way to set up lazy loading is by using a polyfill intersection observer. This method is useful for single page applications and websites that use JavaScript to load images.


Image SEO will not take away too many resources from your organization. In return, it provides a new source of organic traffic and may make existing content more valuable and rank better as a result.

All of these tips are united by one principle — making it clear to Google what the image is about and making the image accessible by increasing loading speed without compromising quality. Optimize image file names and alt text for keywords and technical aspects for faster loading, and you have most of the image SEO figured out.

BIO: Svitlana Andriishyna is an Outreach Specialist at SE Ranking. In addition to content creation, she is in love with film photography and photographs the beauty of ordinary days. 

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