How do I optimise images for Google?

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 28 seconds

“How do I optimise images” you ask. For companies with an online presence, attracting site visitors is largely about achieving the highest possible ranking position in search engine results through search engine optimisation (SEO). The classic trick of keyword management on-page is but the tip of the iceberg in the evolving world of search engine optimisation, where skilled professionals make a living from fine-tuning sites to push them closer to the top of the search results. In today’s fiercely competitive online world, it’s increasingly important to build your site with your search engine ranking in mind.


Image Search

Those with their finger on the search optimisation buttons are increasingly focused on the previously underestimated power of image search. An increasing number of sites are finding that by including images and labelling them in such a way that they rank highly in Google’s image search results, they can attract huge volumes of hits from potential customers for free. Image searching is increasingly popular amongst users looking for a particular item when they can then link directly to the site where the item is available to purchase online. In some ways, browsing Google images has become analogous to leafing through a catalogue. Between 2004 and 2005 the number of image searches conducted on Google was reported to have increased by an astonishing 91%.

Optimise Images for Indexing

Although search engines can only read text, specialists have come up with key ways in which to make the image visible to Google via other means. To maximise the chances of your image appearing in Google search results, it’s important to name your image files using the keywords that would be used to find them, rather than something unconnected such as a number. Google doesn’t realise that IMG123456.jpg is a picture of the latest Sony Plasma TV. If the filename contains more than one word, these should be separated by hyphens. The ingenious use of the Alt tag is another way in which to optimise your site for Google image search. This involves adding an ALT (alternative text) tag to the HTML code behind the site, the ALT tag being a keyword-rich description of the image which can then be picked up by Google. The positioning of the image on your webpage is also key to the interpretation of its relevance. If you position it directly above or below a piece of relevant text containing matching keywords, customers linking to your website from the image itself will be more likely to stick around.

Tracking Results and Fine Tuning

Installation of a Google Adsense unit can help you assess whether you have in fact chosen the correct keyword to try to optimise your site images for a given page. A key function of the Adsense system is the display of ads based on your keyword optimisation. To test this effectively, you could perhaps involve two pages in benchmark test. Ensure that all other on-page optimisation factors are equal (keyword density, tags, headers and inbound internal links) for both pages. The only difference should be the image optimisation, one page with and one page without. The difference in the relevance of the ads across the two pages over a period of a few days (make sure that the latest version of both pages is cached by Google before starting the test) should be informative.

If your site contains direct links to images, anchor text that matches your keyword will also help to improve your rankings. In other words, sites that publish links that say ‘click here’ or ‘see larger image’ are wasting an opportunity to further enhance their on-page optimisation by not including the keyword in the link. Finally, it is essential to check your robots.txt file to ensure that it is not hiding images from Google image search. This file sits in the root directory of your web server, and contains a list of the pages and objects on your site that you would prefer Google and other search engines to ignore.

We have an ecommerce client with some 10% of traffic being attracted via Google image search. This is a significant opportunity for most sites, so use this knowledge to optimise my images.


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