How to Name Images for SEO

Quick answer:
The SEO-friendly way to name images includes the main keyword you want to rank the image for and using hyphens instead of spaces between words.

For example, if you’re naming a picture of a dirt bike, an SEO-friendly name could look something like dirt-bike.png.

Organic image traffic has been a cornerstone of organic growth for years. In the past half a decade, Google has updated SERPs to include more visuals than ever before — often featuring image boxes at the top of the results page.

In 2021 SEOClarity conducted a study that showed more than 55% of all search queries contain images. Since then, this percentage has gone up as the introduction of image boxes and thumbnails has been rolling out to more results pages! Just look at the SERP for the query “image in SERPs”:

A browser screenshot for a SERP that shows a two-row image box that takes more than 50% of the screen real estate, pushing the organic results to only two visible entries.
Just look at the amount of space the image box takes on a SERP!

Obviously, images play a big role in search and have the ability to drive a lot of traffic to your website, so what’s the best way to optimize an image file’s name?

How to name an image file in an SEO-friendly way

Naming images for SEO isn’t hard at all. Even Google suggests using short and to-the-point names for your image files.

Here’s how to choose the perfect name for your image file:

  • Start by checking your keyword research — it’s best to use short names for your images. It’s also best to use a keyword variation as the file name. So check your keyword choose a keyword that fits your image.
  • Name your image file — descriptive name including the keyword of choice should be the way to go here. Instead of naming your file “IMG1234.jpg” name it “dirt-bike.jpg”.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing — one keyword per image name is enough for SEO. Don’t use all keywords that you’re targetting as the image’ name.
  • Use hyphens between words — Google and other search engines prefer “-” instead of spaces in-between words.
  • Consistency is key — using all lowercase letters ensures that there’s no confusion with URLs, especially since some servers differentiate between uppercase and lowercase.

Other image optimization tips

Naming your images is just the tip of the iceberg. Google uses a plethora of ways to ensure they understand image, including OCR (optical character recognition), to ensure the images they show are relevant to the user.

Add alt text to your images 

Alt text, short for “alternative text,” serves a dual purpose that makes it a vital component of image SEO. Firstly, it enhances website accessibility for users with visual impairments. Screen readers use this text to describe images to users, ensuring they don’t miss out on any content. Secondly, in scenarios where an image fails to load, the alt text will be displayed, providing users with a description of what they’re missing.

From an SEO perspective, alt text offers search engines a clearer picture (pun intended) of an image’s content. This boosts the image’s chance of ranking in image searches, further amplifying traffic potential. When optimizing alt text:

  • Be descriptive — just like with image naming, be specific about what the image represents. For our earlier example, an ideal alt text might be “woman wearing a blue summer dress.”
  • Incorporate keywords naturally — if you can organically include a target keyword in the alt text, do so. But remember, it should sound natural and not forced as this is often read out-loud.
  • Stay concise — while you want to be descriptive, there’s no need for an alt text to be a lengthy sentence. Keep it brief while accurately conveying the image content.
  • Avoid redundancy — if your article is about summer dresses and every image is of a different summer dress, don’t just repeat “summer dress” in every alt text. Try to differentiate each description based on the image’s unique characteristics.

By treating alt text with the same care and attention as your on-page content, you not only cater to a broader audience but also provide search engines with richer context, reinforcing your website’s SEO strategy.

Compress your images so they load faster

In the age of fast internet and short attention spans, website loading times are paramount. High-resolution images, while stunning, can significantly bog down your page’s load speed, potentially leading to a higher bounce rate. That’s where image compression comes into play.

Image compression is the process of reducing the file size of an image without sacrificing its quality. It’s akin to shrinking a bag of chips without removing any chips. How does this help? Smaller image files result in faster loading web pages, offering a better user experience and positively influencing SEO rankings, since search engines favor fast-loading sites.

Here’s how to effectively use image compression:

  • Choose the right format — JPEG is often preferred for photographs due to its lossy compression method, which offers good quality at lower file sizes. PNG is great for images with transparent backgrounds, while GIF is best for simple animations.
  • Use online compression tools — there are a bunch of tools available, like TinyPNG or Compressor.io, which can compress images without discernible loss in quality. Some CMS platforms also offer plugins or built-in features for automatic image compression.
  • Keep an eye on dimensions — an image’s dimensions can drastically affect its size. If you don’t need a 5000×5000 pixel image, don’t use one. Resize the image to the maximum dimensions required for your webpage.
  • Test and compare — after compressing, always review the image. Ensure that the quality remains satisfactory for your needs. Sometimes, overly compressed images can appear pixelated or washed out.

Incorporating effective image compression practices is like ensuring your car is fuel-efficient. It ensures you get the maximum mileage (read: performance) with the least amount of resources, keeping both users and search engines happy.

Using responsive images

As we increasingly live in a multi-device world, from smartphones to desktops, tablets to smart TVs, the demand for websites to look and function flawlessly on all these platforms has grown exponentially. Enter the realm of responsive images, a cornerstone of modern web design.

Responsive images automatically adjust and deliver different image sizes based on a user’s device, screen size, and resolution. This ensures that mobile users don’t download unnecessarily large images meant for desktop, while desktop users aren’t stuck with pixelated, upscaled versions of mobile-optimized images. It’s all about delivering the right image for the right context.

Using responsive images is essential because:

  • Improved user experience — no one enjoys squinting at tiny images on their phone or seeing blurry images on their desktop. Responsiveness ensures images look great on any device.
  • Bandwidth and load times — by serving the appropriately sized image for each device, you can save on bandwidth and further decrease load times, boosting SEO and user satisfaction.
  • Adaptable design — with the multitude of screen sizes available, it’s nearly impossible to predict every device’s dimension. Responsive images provide flexibility, ensuring your website remains future-proof against new devices.

To implement responsive images:

  • Use HTML’s srcset attribute — this allows you to define multiple image sources for different screen sizes.
  • Consider art direction — sometimes it’s not just about scaling. You might want to show a different section of an image on mobile compared to desktop. Tools like the <picture> element in HTML can be handy in such cases.
  • Test across devices — regularly review how images appear across various devices. Tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test can be invaluable.

In essence, responsive images aren’t just a design nicety; they’re a necessity in today’s diverse device landscape. They ensure your visuals remain sharp, engaging, and effective, no matter where they’re viewed.

Key takeaways

Optimizing image filenames for SEO is crucial for enhancing your website’s visibility and driving organic traffic. Here are the main points to remember:

  • Keyword research —start by identifying relevant keywords related to your image content and choose a concise keyword variation for the filename.
  • Descriptive naming — use descriptive filenames that include the chosen keyword, avoiding generic names like “IMG1234.jpg.”
  • Avoid keyword stuffing — stick to one primary keyword per image filename to prevent keyword stuffing, which can harm SEO efforts.
  • Hyphens over spaces — use hyphens to separate words in filenames instead of spaces, as search engines prefer this format.
  • Consistency matters — maintain consistency by using all lowercase letters in filenames to avoid confusion, particularly with URLs.