We always knew that images are an important ranking factor for Google. A few years back, SEO guys propagated some search engine optimization guides for images, but we never got an official confirmation from Google on which strategies are actually effective and which aren’t. Until now.

Knowing the proper way to do image SEO is highly beneficial for small businesses. If you’re selling a product (or service) that has a popular query on Google Images, optimizing its image can steer a lot of targeted traffic towards your business website. And since the removal of the View Image button, you’ll actually be able to get something out of those image searches.

The good news is, we’re no longer in the dark since Google decided to update their image publishing guideline page. And unlike most of the other pages in the Search Console Help, it’s actually pretty clear and concise.

Now we know for certain which actions regarding images will make them rank better. Not only this, but it will also make them voice assistant friendly and improve their chances of appearing in the rich results. Doing a good SEO for images will ultimately lead to more traffic towards your small business website which will translate into more conversions.

We’ve taken the liberty of extracting the absolute essence from Google’s Image Publishing Guidelines page so you’ll know what to aim for.

Image Search SEO Tips

So the main goal when doing Image SEO is to add as much context to your images as possible. This will make it easier for Google (and other search engines) to provide useful results. In return, they’re going to reward you with a well-deserved ranking.

Keep in mind that Google will always rank an optimized image that is easy to categorize higher than an ambiguous image. Here are 6 tips that you should keep in mind when doing image SEO:

1. Use a logical URL structure for your images

This was recently revealed by Google. It turns out that their web crawlers are actively looking at the file path in order to understand and rank images. If you want your images to rank higher, consider organizing them in a logical URL construction.

For example, if your business website features multiple fishing products that can be divided into multiple categories, don’t just dump them all into a generic folder like /images. Instead, create a more meaningful URL structure like gear/fishing/soft baits/.

2. Don’t embed critical text inside images

Google can’t ensure maximum accessibility of the text content that is embedded inside images. Because of this, you should never embed vital text elements like headings and menu items into an image. This commonly leads to problems where the page translation tool doesn’t work properly (which is a big no-no for Google).

To avoid discriminatory situations where certain users can’t access the embedded text, keep the text separate and provide alternative text for images.

3. Make sure the image is relevant to the content surrounding it

It’s no secret that search engines rely a lot on the text context in order to figure out what the image is about. Staying on point with the context will influence how Google interprets what the image is about. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that all the visual content present on your website is relevant to the topic discussed on the page.

Keep in mind that Google de-ranks pages where both the images and the text are determined to be duplicate content.

4. Surround your images with quality text content

Quality content and a good image ranking go hand in hand. You can’t really have a high ranking image if you mostly feature filler text content.

The text content surrounding your image might be used to create the text snippet for the image. Even more, Google admitted that it takes the page content quality into account when it needs to rank an image.

5. Become mobile friendly

The reality is more users search for images on mobile devices than they do on PCs and Macs. If you want your website ranking and the ranking of your images to improve, you need to make sure that your site is designed for all device sizes.

6. Place the most relevant image at the top

As per Google’s recommendations, images should always be placed near relevant text. Whenever possible, Google recommends that you place the representative image (for the text content) at the top of the page. Adding a caption is another good way of making sure that Google understands what your image is about.

7. Mind Your Page Title & Meta Description

It’s rare for Google to admit the ranking criteria used in their search algorithms, but at least in this particular matter, we got an official confirmation. The Google Images algorithm might just use your title page and snippet to explain each result based on the user query.

If your page title and description are helpful for Google and it’s users, you will be rewarded with a higher search ranking for your image. With this in mind, start following Google’s title and snippet guidelines to boost your chances of being featured.

8. Improve your loading times

Google is a big fan of snappy web pages and is known to de-rank pages that are loading extremely slow. Since images are the biggest culprit when it comes to burdening your page size beyond the recommended size, we strongly encourage you to use an image compression tool like TinyPNG to make your images load faster.

With the introduction of the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) concepts, a user can easily identify the images that will load quickly via the AMP logo. If you’re unsure whether you meet the newest speed requirements or not, analyze your site speed with PageSpeed Insights.

9. Make use of Structured Data

Structured data will allow Google to display your image in a rich result. Getting featured inside a prominent badge is a godsend and will drive much more targeted traffic to your website than a regular listing.

Keep in mind that structure data is heavily used in the voice-assisted search. By organizing your data as per Google’s structured data guidelines, you’re practically killing two birds with one stone.

10. Start including alt text

Alt text refers to a text that describes an image. This attribute is mainly used to improve the accessibility for those users that are unable to see images on the web (due to a condition or due to a low-bandwidth connection).

The alt text attribute is used by Google to understand the subject matter of the image at hand. Here’s an example of the alt text attribute used right:

<img src="cat.jpg" alt="cat jumping from a chair"/> 

Here’s are a few more tips on using alt text given by a Google employee:

11. Implement an image sitemap

An image sitemap can give Google additional details about your images and help its crawlers discover images that might not get discovered otherwise.

Unlike regular sitemaps, a sitemap containing images can also feature URLs for other domains. Google has a help page with a thorough explanation of creating an image sitemap. But if you’re using WordPress, you can easily find a plugin that will do this automatically.

12. Adjust for SafeSearch

If your website contains adult images, you will have to group them separately from the other regular images that are featured on your website.

Google deploys some pretty powerful algorithms when it needs to decide how which content will be filtered out. Because of this, it’s important to include the adult meta tag to each and every image that features adult content:

<meta name="rating" content="adult" />