How to Leverage Images for SEO

Featured image for blog post about how to leverage images for SEO

When you hear the term “SEO,” if you’re like most people, blocks of optimized text filled with keywords probably come to mind. And while the copy on your site is a primary element of search engine optimization, it’s certainly not the only thing that matters.

Knowing how to leverage images for SEO— and knowing how to optimize images for SEO— are essential skills that can help you improve your overall search visibility, both for the images and the pages that they’re on.

And in this post, we’re going to walk you through image optimization for SEO so you can drive more clicks (and hopefully conversions!) through your content.

Why Images Matter for SEO

We know that images can improve the user experience. They break up text, are visually interesting, add context, showcase products, and can be downright invaluable when used for data visualization, tutorials, or product breakdowns (hello, infographics).

They also have several benefits to consider from the actual search engine optimization side of the equation, too.

1. Optimized Images Increase Search Discoverability

People can and do use Google’s image search function. Sometimes, Google will even feature images (or blog posts with images) for top search results.

Here’s an example for the search “infographic ideas” on Google:

Google's search result pages featuring optimized images at the top of the page.


And here’s an example of a Google search for “pineapple upside down cake,” which features a picture of the final dish for recipe search results:

SEO optimized images showing up in a Google search result


Both of these search engine results pages (SERPs) are for standard search, but still feature images prominently.

So, ensuring that your images can be found and understood by Google (we’ll talk about that more in a minute) means that you may have advantages for gaining attention in the SERPs or showing up in additional visual searches you may not have otherwise. This increases your overall search discoverability and visibility, and even if it’s only to a relatively slight degree, we should take any advantage we can with how competitive the SERPs can be.

2. Increased User Engagement = Increased Dwell Time

We know that blog posts and landing pages that have images and visually-interesting elements have stronger user engagement. Users are likely to consume more content and spend more time on the page, on average.

Dwell time— or time spent on a page per session on average— is not an official ranking factor that Google has disclosed, but many SEO experts believe there is a correlation between higher dwell times and higher SERP ranking. It may be only correlational and not causative, but it certainly never hurts.

3. Can Boost Results Coming From SEO

Most businesses that invest in SEO spend a significant amount of time, energy, and financial resources doing so. So in addition to the fact that any extra bump in search visibility is a plus, optimized images that can increase engagement once users are actually on the page means your SEO efforts are more likely to pay off beyond an initial click.

The longer you engage users, the more you build brand awareness, so they may come back in the future. You also may be more successful at driving them to other pages or to take certain actions, like downloading an eBook or even making a purchase.

How to Optimize Images for SEO

Optimizing images on your website for search engine performance comes down to a few key things:

  • Helping Google find the image.
  • Helping Google understand what the image is (aka establishing context) so it can present it in relevant searches.
  • Ensuring that the image won’t cause technical issues, like delaying site loading speeds, that could negatively impact your SEO performance.

1. Add Alt Text

Alt image text— also known as “alt text”— is text you add to your image file that tells Google exactly what the image is. Google uses this to understand context, and it uses that context when choosing what images and blog posts to show based on users’ search results.

Alt text is also used by screen readers, a type of assistive technology that can tell blind users what the image is.

Most CMS systems have options where you can add alt text to your images upon uploading. You can also right-click on the image in a Google Doc to add it, which is useful if you’re using a tool like Wordable to automate content uploading.

Alt text addition in a Google Doc screen for image SEO optimization.


You can add keywords to your alt text descriptions, and it’s a good idea to include secondary keywords when relevant to expand the number of keywords you can potentially rank for. That said, you also want to actually describe what the image is.

2. Name Your Files

Image file name— or image title tags— allow you to essentially name your file. They’re often used by CMS platforms. The idea is the same as alt text here (though admittedly not quite as important as alt text itself)— it gives Google more context regarding the image itself.

If your CMS platform has a feature for title tags, take advantage of them! It can also help you keep your image library more organized, so you can better find older images if ever needed to reuse in existing posts.

3. Consider Image Size and Format

Images (and videos for that matter) are great for on-site engagement, but if not optimized correctly, they come with a risk of significantly slowing down your site loading speeds. Large, uncompressed image sizes in unideal formats can look great, but they can significantly delay loading times, which is a confirmed Google ranking factor.

Opt for image file types that automatically compress images. JPEGs automatically compress images as part of the file format, and any potential loss in image quality is barely perceptible. If you need to upload an image with a transparent background, PNGs are okay.

Image size recommendations vary, but many recommend keeping image file sizes under 100KB, which JPEGs are useful for. If your images are too big, then you can compress them further using a tool like TinyJPG.

4. Consider Crawlability

Images are only going to offer SEO benefits if Google can actually find and crawl them. If you want to take a few extra steps, you can consider XML image sitemaps.

You can use Google image extensions for sitemaps to give Google more information about the images on your website. It can in theory help Google crawl images it may have missed otherwise, and it tells Google which images you absolutely do want them to crawl.

You can learn more about image sitemaps through Google for more information.

Final Thoughts

While writing is an essential part of SEO, images play an important role too. Optimizing your images with search performance in mind can increase search visibility and help you prevent missteps that could otherwise negatively hurt your ranking potential.

And don’t forget that the quality of the images themselves matter, too. Leveraging tools like Snappa, which offers drag-and-drop design software for all levels of experience, can help you create stunning, interesting, and engaging images that can help you get the biggest impact out of your SEO efforts.

Ready to start creating SEO-friendly images? Learn more about Snappa here.