Do images matter for SEO?

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Images are a powerful tool for engaging visitors to your website and making your articles, essays, and blog posts more visually appealing. But can they also help your website rank higher in search results?

Green and back background with a person searching on their phone.

The short answer is yes.

Images can help SEO in a number of ways, so let’s dive in with three quick concepts to understand about how images can help your website in terms of search engine optimization:

  • Images, infographics, charts, and other visuals improve user engagement. Images make your content more visually appealing and engaging—especially if you’re tackling complex subjects that your audience may be unfamiliar with. A big bonus? This can lead to users spending more time on your website and interacting with even more of your content. This often sends positive signals to Google, which may lead to higher rankings.
  • Image search results appeal to visual thinkers. Believe it or not, many Google users search specifically for images, and when you think leverage them appropriately, they may see images from your website in the search results, which we call “Image Packs.” This can drive additional traffic to your website and help you reach a wider audience.
  • Rich results from images are key on mobile. Google may display your images in rich results, such as image carousels and knowledge graphs. This can make your listings more visible and appealing in the search results, and encourage users to click on them. We love this on mobile in particular, where it creates a more immersive search experience on phones. Cool, right?

What kind of SEO optimization should you do for each image on your website?

The technical element of image optimization is relatively straightforward. Here’s a quick checklist to follow whenever you add an image to your website:

  • Use high-quality images that are relevant to your content.
  • Use descriptive file names (for example my-cute-poddle.jpg for a photo of a poodle, not DSC5123.jpg)
  • Use alt text to describe the image (for example “A cute gray poodle sitting in a flower garden.”).
  • Compress your images to reduce their file size—we use and recommend ShortPixel (we’re affiliates) for this. When you use our link, you get 50% more image processing credits.

If you run a product business, there are some other important steps, which Google covers in their official documentation.

There’s more to image SEO than just technical optimization, however—there’s a critical search strategy that you should consider as well.

This is even more important for what we call “knowledge business,” that are focused on expert-level solutions, such as consultants, attorneys, financial pros, and coaches.

Here are some useful tips for thinking about leverage images as part of your SEO strategy.

Use unique images that are not used on other websites to improve your chances of your images ranking and improving the content’s overall SEO.

This signals to Google that you’ve taken the time to create original, thoughtful content that’s contributing positively to the ecosystem of the internet.

Infographic from Sarah Moon & Co about Google Image search. 

90% of information transmitted to the human brain is visual.

36% of consumers have conducted a visual search.

60% growth in searches for image search. 

19% of searches have visual results.

10% of daily google searches are for images.

62% of millennials want visual searches.
Image searches are becoming more and more important—consumers want to find images, but the search engine isn’t revealing them. You can leverage this gap!

To maximize your Google opportunities, use a variety of image types, such as photos, infographics, and charts.

Just as humans like variety, so does the search engine! (Are you seeing a trend here? What’s good for Google is good for humans!) I love infographics and charts in particular because they do double duty, helping your content appeal to readers and Pinterest enthusiasts who share your site on that platform for you.

Be thoughtful where in your written content you place your imagery.

If you’re creating “how to” content, you’ll want to follow that specific pillar post format to match imagery to each step (we cover this in our Pillar Post Workshop, which has been re-released with updated content); with list or essay style content, you’ll want to pepper your writing with contextual images. Avoid just inserting your visuals at the top of the page!

Captions are your friends—use this space to appeal to your readers and add more context for the search engine.

While captions don’t directly impact your search rankings, they do provide additional information that can help Google understand the image’s context within the page.

Where can you put images in blog posts to improve your SEO?

There’s not a hard and fast rule of image count per blog post, but the general rule of thumb is to include a visual for every 200ish words in the piece. I tend to be a bit more restrained, and try for one per 300 words or so. Like everything with SEO and marketing, there are pros and cons of how dense you want the images to be.

Some of my favorite places to include images in blog posts, however, on both my and client sites are the following:

  • Banner images (pro tip: in Squarespace, you’ll need to make the file name your alt text)
  • Each step of a how-to
  • Charts in any trend-related post
  • A Pinterest-friendly graphic near the top to encourage sharing (we love passive marketing!)
  • An infographic on any ultimate guide style post, which tend to perform very well in both image search AND Pinterest
  • The post thumbnail or featured image (be careful about too much text on these—they do get penalized when shared on some social media platforms)
  • Any sharing image your content management system allows
  • An author photo, which helps Google to understand your authorship across the internet

Again, this is all customizable according to your overarching marketing strategy, so create a plan that works for you!

Are you ready to get serious about SEO? Connect with our team to talk about your options—our professional, thoughtful services are tailor-made for our clients’ unique visions and we know you’ll love this innovative approach. Or, take our new course all about Image SEO (hosted live on Nov 8, 2023, with recordings available).

Disclosure: Please note that some links on this website are affiliate links, which generates a small amount of revenue to support the free content we provide.

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