SEO image naming matters because it’s how users can find your images using Google’s image search. Naming your images properly for SEO will help your images to be found and that can result in more organic traffic to your website.
Here’s a simple illustration to show you why it matters.
Let’s imagine that I have a ranch, raise chickens and sell eggs. I want to drive traffic to my website so that local people in my area find me online and reach out to buy farm fresh ranch raised free range eggs from me. I take a photo of one of my chickens in the snow, my iPhone automatically names the file, IMG_0970.jpg and I airdrop it to my laptop. Then I upload it to my website or blog, write a little bit of content about my farm fresh eggs and go on about my day.
By adding text to my website (or blog) about farm fresh chickens, I’ve maybe helped my SEO with the text… but the way I’ve added my image hasn’t done anything for me. In reality what I’ve done, as far as the image is concerned, hasn’t made it easier for people in my area to find my farm fresh eggs. I’ve just added an image to the growing list of images called IMG_0970.jpg.
Don’t waste the power your images could have if you optimized them for SEO!
And people use the Image Search functionality in Google all the time! So you want to be found there! But no one ever is searching for an image on the internet called IMG_0970.jpg. In fact here’s a tiny screen grab of what I found when I searched IMG_0970.jpg.
It’s a bunch of random images. Not a single chicken or mention of farm fresh eggs anywhere.
So what if I took the time to change the name of the image from IMG_0970.jpg to chicken.jpg before I uploaded it to my site? Well, that’s better… but here’s what I found when I googled “chicken.”
Now we’re getting closer, but I’m not selling meat chickens, I’m selling eggs… so pictures of deliciously cooked roasted chicken isn’t what my customer is looking for. But my picture is of a chicken in the snow… not of eggs. So I need to be thoughtful about how I name my image so that there is a connection between the content on the page and the content of the image.
Rename your images for SEO with specificity so they can be found in relevant searches!
So I went ahead and changed the name of the image to something more specific like: chicken-snow-montague-langford-ranch.jpg.
Yep, it’s longer than chicken.jpg… but it tells you a lot more information without running the risk of Google thinking that you are “keyword stuffing” your image files. I’ve read that a good rule of thumb is to keep your file names to five words or less. And be careful to never repeat words in your filenames. That is a dead giveaway to Google that you’re trying to game the system.
Also, you want to add hyphens in between the words in your filename. Don’t use run on filenames like chickensnowmontaguelangforranch.jpg. Google won’t like that.
But now instead of adding another image of just a chicken to the Internet, I’ve told Google that if someone is looking for a chicken in Montague or a chicken on my ranch, here’s an image that includes that. But be sure that the content on the page also connects with the content in the image. Google never wants to send users on a wild turkey hunt. They want to get people to the correct content they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
Update as of 5/26/2021: This image of my chicken in the snow now ranks #1 for the search “Chicken Snow Montague.” Not that anyone is searching for it – but it shows just how powerful it is to properly name your images!
This seems like a lot of extra work every time I write a blog post?
Is it an extra step that will slow down your content creation process? Yep.
Is it something you should (NEED) to be doing? Yep.
It’s really so much better to take the time and change those filenames to be more specific and directly connected to your content.
It’s easy to change the filename when you’re working on a desktop or laptop computer. But if you’re working from your iPhone and writing a blogpost for WordPress, you can change the filename inside of the WordPress app.
Also be sure that you’re providing alternative text (the Alt Tag for your images) that is written in an easy-to-read concise phrase. Many users utilize website readers to read websites aloud to them and “Buff Orpington chicken in snow on Langford Ranch Montague, California” isn’t exactly a perfectly formed sentence, but it reads much better than chicken-snow-montague-langford-ranch.
SEO is a long game that pays off in time. Sometimes it takes a long time.
Take the time, do the work on your images and it will help improve your SEO and make your website experience much better for your users.
Here’s a really informative video from the team over at Google about how you can improve your SEO by thinking about how your images appear on your website:
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Looking for other SEO resources?
One of my favorite SEO resources is the Yoast SEO plugin and the Yoast blog! Check out their guide to optimizing your images for SEO.