25 Image SEO Tips for Beginners (2021 Update)

In this guide here, you will learn how to get traffic from Google Images, the world’s second largest search engine.

I have prepared 25 incredible tips just for you, and without wasting any time…

Let’s get started!

The Contents

  • Google Image Search – Untapped Source of Traffic?
  • 25 Strategies to Extract Traffic From Google Images
  • Conclusion

Google Image Search – Untapped Source of Traffic?

Take a look at this image:

Google traffic and google image traffic

According to SparkToro, Google Images are a way more significant traffic channel than:

  • YouTube
  • Bing
  • Amazon
  • Facebook…

It’s way more substantial than all of those combined.

Google Images sit comfortably right behind regular Google search, and as such, are definitely a source of traffic to learn and utilize to the fullest.

Does that mean you will necessarily get a tonne of traffic from Google Images?

Like always in SEO – it depends.

And in this case, it depends on the niche you’re in.

Are you in a holiday and resort niche?

Then yeah, fill your site with images of beaches and happy people, and you will see traffic pouring through them and to your site. Because people looking to have a vacation will be turning to pictures (via Google Images) to determine which piece of heaven will have the honor of hosting them.

But if you’re in a blogging sphere like Aayush is, then Google images will always be your secondary traffic source.

But whatever your niche is, here are the effective tactics to explode your Images search traffic today.

25 Strategies to Extract Traffic From Google Images

#1- Understand Image SEO Has An Importance

A lot of image SEO comes down to knowing there is such a thing, and then applying simple concepts can make it work for you (we’ll talk about further below).

The key is to be intentional and not just throw images at your blog post because you’ve to know that posts with images rank better, and people stay longer on pages with images.

Visuals are more interactive and make your posts much more engaging.

#2- Determine if Image SEO is Really Needed

Sometimes, you really don’t need to do image SEO.

Why?

Because the search intent shows you people don’t want pictures but might want, for example, to read ultimate guides.

For example:

When you search for CRM in Google, and you get zero images, just many sites with CRM definitions.

Google CRM search no image

But when you search for “how to tie a tie,” which is a very “visual” query- you get this:

So in the first example, there’d be no need to create an image, but in the second, you better create not one but a series of images.

#3- Image Must Be Relevant To The Page

Your image must be relevant to the tee to your page. That means that if you have a page about SEMRush, for example, SEMRush review, then you can’t have a picture of a Scottish retriever on it.

It’s because Google has the technology that they use and can “see” the image, so even if you later purposely optimize your retriever image with wrong SEMRush keywords- you won’t rank.

#4- Where Possible, Strive for Hyper Relevancy

Besides being relevant to the page it’s on, your image will perform best when surrounded by relevant words and just under a subheading containing the image’s target keyword.

It takes a little work to get this right, but relevancy is a huge signal to Google.

#5- Image-File-Name

Never forget to change your image file name. You should change it into something relevant to the post you’re adding it to.

The image filename is an SEO signal for image search, albeit a very weak one. However, the advantage for you is that since it’s so weak, other bloggers don’t bother with it, and it’s your chance to stand out with better image SEO.

I mean, is it really a weak signal if you happen to move from position #2 to #1 because of properly named images?

How to add image filename?

Simple. When you save your image and upload it to WordPress, make sure you rename it from gibberish to your target keyword. And the name should be written with dashes, not underscores.

Writing with dashes in the same way you fill out the url field in Yoast when doing on-page SEO, and the example can be found in the sub-headline for the image filename above.

#6-Image Alt Attribute

Image alt attribute field filled in

Image alt tags or attributes are crucial for image SEO and contribute a little too general SEO for the entire page.

So, I have three simple rules for you.

First, include your target keyword once in the first and most important image of the post. Usually, it’s the banner that goes at the top of the page.

Second, be descriptive. Because of these alt attributes, we marketers use them for SEO, but their actual purpose is to describe the image to visually impaired people who want to read your content.

And third, don’t repeat the same keyword over and over. In other images, you can use related LSI keywords.

Note: We talk more about image keyword research below.

#7- Image caption

I lie to use image caption to slow people down when skimming and jumping around the page. And only recently, I learned that image caption have some SEO value as well.

They do help you rank in image search.

My advice is that at least one photo should have a caption and that caption should include your target keyword or a close variation of it.

#8- Image Title Attributes

Image titles are another nice and easy, nice way to slip in your target keyphrase and help people better understand your picture.

I like to fill in the alt attribute field with my target keyword and then just copy/paste then not the image title field.

And of course, I make it slightly different so that Google doesn’t think I stuff keywords. Changing one word is enough.

Take a look at the image below.

See how alt attribute and image title attributes are nearly identical?

Image title attribute filled in

#9- Image Sitemaps

Note, you don’t need an image sitemap if you have a regular website with text content with images embedded in them.

You might want to consider them if you have an image-heavy site, where images are your primary content type.

This resource can help you create them.

#10- Image EXIF Data

Digital cameras store EXIF data when you take images with it.

What is it?

It’s information like:

  • Shutter speed
  • Exposure compensation
  • Whether the flash was used
  • What metering system was used
  • What type of auxiliary lenses were used
  • When did you take the picture?
  • GPS coordinates

I used boldface for that last one, and it’s for a purpose. There you can most easily see how you could potentially use EXIF data for SEO.

By adding relevant keywords to the data, especially your geo-location, your image could rank higher for that location in Google.

Or you could rank your product X review higher simply by embedding keywords into the image, invisible to humans but perfectly parseable to Google.

How to add EXIF data to images?

Go to TheXfier to add Exif data to your images. It is a free tool to upload an image, add all the details, and download it back.

#11- Compress Your Images

You’ll always want to compress your images so they’re as large as possible while taking up as little storage space as necessary.

That sounds impossible but can be done with image compression.

Tools like Optimizilla.com and Compressor.io will help you minimize image size while retaining high quality.

#12- Use Image Optimizing Plugins

I believe you have a WordPress site? Great for you. That is the best.

And did you know several free plugins can help you reduce image weight even further than possible with the tools I mentioned above?

I recommend Smush. It and Short Pixel. Both are premium plugins with free versions that get the job done.

Pro tip

Beware that if you care about EXIF data because you optimized it for SEO, that is the first to go when you use these plugins.

#13- Look For Image Design Clues From Google

Have you noticed the dominant shape of images in Google images search?

Most of them are square-shaped:

square images dominate Google images

So if you create a really long rectangular image, you’re not going to even show up.

Or if you create a really vertical image, it’s the same thing.

But, an ideal Pinterest pin should be 1000px by 1500px:

vertical images dominate Pinterest

So it’s essential to identify and maintain the size of images that your niche, platform, or users mostly use and like to see.

#14- Image Size

Unless you’re trying to rank posters, which are large images, your image weight must be trimmed down to the minimum without noticeably impacting image quality.

It is possible to remove so much life from an image that it becomes bland, blurred, and colorless. And then Google, who can “see” the image with their algorithm, programs, and whatnot, will not rank it.

Remember, quality content rules for normal Google search and for Google Images.

So strive for a balance between weight and quality.

#15- Create Your Own Images

Google likes unique images, so as soon as you create one for your blog post, you have a great headstart over those copy cats lazy webmasters.

One of our posts about Instagram marketing tools has a custom featured image.

Take a look:

And It took me 5m to create that banner in Canva and another 5m to apply image SEO best practices, the same one listed in this post.

Also, that is our unique image, and if someone were to use it, they’d have to credit us with a backlink.

So that’s image link building, as white hat as it gets.

The image has a BforBloggers watermark as well. Watermarking is a passive image SEO technique we cover below.

#16- Embed Your Images Elsewhere

And by elsewhere, I mean your branded properties and your guest posts.

For example, Aayush has his SERPStat vs. SEMRush article on this site.

And the image from that blog post ranks number #2 in Google Images.

So, if he were to take that image and embed it on a personal blog, I believe that one embed alone would be enough to get him the coveted number #1 spot.

#17- Embed them Internally

Just like there are external links and internal links, there are external and internal image embeds. Now I haven’t seen anyone talk about this, but it does stand to reason that if you insert the same image in multiple blog posts, then that image will gain in rank in Google Image search.

#18- Build links to the page

When you make your page stronger by funneling link juice from internal and external backlinks, you get higher rankings in Google.

But you also climb higher in Google Image search.

#19- Do Smart Image Keyword Research

I’m not suggesting you do separate image keyword research. I know that as a busy marketer, you already have enough on your plate as it is.

Instead, I’m suggesting you use the keywords Google already shows you and embed them on your page when you do standard image SEO (so in other image’s metadata).

Here’s where to look for the keywords (Google pulls these images from the knowledge graph).

Image keyword research

#20- Watermark Your Image

Image watermarking has three distinct benefits.

First, it tells where the image originated from. So no one can outright steal it.

Second, it might bring you minimal direct traffic because if people really like your image and see your site’s address,  then they might be inclined to type that into the search bar and come check you out.

That’s why you should always have a short, easy-to-spell- domain name.

Third, Brand awareness.

If people remember your brand’s name and remember what topics your brand is connected to, they will start to search in Google for it.

Branded searches like this are a huge signal to Google that will have you ranking higher pretty fast.

#21- Syndicate Your Image

Image syndication is when you post it on a photo-sharing site. The more, the better. This will build nofollow links to your site.

But it can also escalate quickly if people like your images and embed them elsewhere. And that is what you really want.

Examples of sites to syndicate image are:

  • Pinterest
  • Pixabay
  • Flickr
  • Instagram
  • PhotoBucket
  • DeviantArt
  • etc

#22- Build Links With Images

When people embed your image – you get a boost.

But you can double, triple, or even quintuple that boost by getting links that’ll hit the page that image is posted on.

How?

Reverse image search.

Simply right-click your image and go “Search Google for the image.” This will show you all sites that are currently using your image.

And then you just need to ask them politely, using email.

#23- Infographics

Infographics – they still work!

So, sometimes you have a topic on your blog post that can be best explained visually, with an infographic.

So create one, either by yourself or hire someone from sites like Fiverr, and embed it on your site (and make sure you have an embed code beneath it). You can use the Siegemedia code generator to do that.

And when other bloggers use it, you will get links.

Bonus tip: take your infographic and submit it to infographic directories. These links will be nofollow, but will definitely help diversify your link profile.

#24- Image Engagement and Popularity

Take a look at this image:

Crowded SERPs google images

Now, imagine your image is in the third row.

Obviously, you want it to climb.

But how?

Make your images more compelling. Add icons, emojis, etc., to make more people click on them.

The more people click on your images, the higher they’ll rank.

#25- Build an SOP for Image SEO

SOP stands for “Standard Operating Procedure,” and this is my final tip for this post.

The key thing with image SEO is not to get bogged down with it. So you need to create an SOP so that there’s no conscious thinking on what to do next, and instead, action just flows.

Here’s an SOP template I use, and you can copy:

  1. Create a unique banner for the post
  2. Main keyword in the filename, alt attribute, caption, and image title
  3. Image is relevant to the post and further surrounded wit relevant words
  4. image is embedded within a few of my guest posts

The last step is optional. I go to that length only if I really want to rank, and there’s some decent competition. Usually, the image SERPs are wide open:)

Conclusion

Image SEO is so easy that there no excuse not to do it.

And no, laziness is not a valid excuse in my book. And it shouldn’t be in yours either.

Here are a couple more guides you’d like to read:

  • How To Automatically Make Your Images SEO Friendly
  • 10-Step Blog Post SEO Checklist To Get Organic Traffic

Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below!

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