Optimizing Images in WordPress for Google Image Search

Ever wondered how to get your images to appear in Google Image Search? The process is similar to getting a web page to rank well in Google Web Search: optimize your image so that Google sees your image as relevant content. Let me walk you through a few things that you can do when adding images from within WordPress that will help your images get noticed by the search engines.

Choose your keywords

As with any SEO endeavor, you have to decide up front what keywords you want your image to rank for.  Doing this right takes a little work, but the payoff is worth it:

  1. Research – Pick a few keywords that you think are descriptive of your image. Do some research and extend your original list of keywords.
  2. Evaluate – Take your keywords and plug them into the Google AdWords Keyword Tool.  Take into account the search volume and competitive nature of the keywords.
  3. Decide – Choose a relevant keyword with moderate traffic and, if possible, one that isn’t too competitive.  Most importantly, make sure your target keyword actually describes the content of your image.

Name your image

The actual filename of your image matters.  Unfortunately, once you upload your image into WordPress, you can’t change the filename.  Before you upload your image, make sure you rename the file so that it contains your keywords.
For example, if you have a file named DSC103.jpg, you would rename it to mykeyword.jpg.

Provide alt text

Once you upload your image, be sure that you don’t leave the ‘Alternate Text’ field empty.  Screen readers read this text to users to describe the content of an image. Since a search engine can’t read the contents of an image, they depend on this text to get a better understanding of what the image is about.  Make sure you provide a relevant description, but also be sure to include your keywords.

Setting WordPress Alt Text

If you were to set an image as a link, the alt text is considered the anchor text for the link.

Provide context

Google and other search engines don’t just depend on the file name and alt text to determine what an image is about.  If that were the case, we would see a lot of irrelevant images in Google Image Search because not everyone would be entirely truthful about the contents of an image.  Because of this, it is important that your images are also surrounded by content that reinforces the file name and alt text that you have set.

Optimize the page

One of the things you will find is that images always rank better when the page in general ranks better.  So you are off to a great start using WordPress, but there are still a few things you will want to consider:

  1. Make sure you use your keywords in the page title
    By default, WordPress takes the title you set for the page and uses it as the title tag in the HTML and as the heading on the page.  The important thing is that the HTML title tag reflects your keywords.  So if you are using a WordPress SEO plugin (I recommend Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin), be sure that the SEO title reflects your keywords even if the heading on the page is different.
  2. Create a slug that uses your keywords
    WordPress allows you to edit the slug that is used in your URL for the page.  You can change it just below where you put the page title.  The slug is not set until you save the post and will match the page title on initial save.  It is a good idea to remove words like ‘and’, ‘the’ and the like from the slug and to be sure that you have used your keywords.Setting the Slug in WordPress
  3. Link to your page with anchor text that matches your keywords
    This is basically link building, which can be done internally as well as externally.  There is no difference between the two outside of the fact that internal link building is done within the context of your site, whereas external link building is done on other sites.  The idea is that the more links to a page, the more important it is and the more likely Google and the other search engines will take note of it.Since you are in complete control of the links on your site, this is the easiest place to start.  Just find another page on your site where you mention your target keyword for the current page.  If it doesn’t exist, see if you can work it into the content of a page somewhere.  Next, just highlight that text in your editor and create a link to the page you are optimizing.Categories and tags within WordPress can also be a great way to build internal links, but keep in mind that they are for classifying information… assigning a tag to a single post is useless.  My rule of thumb: Don’t create categories or tags if you don’t plan to have at least 10 posts that are assigned to it.


      1. There is a difference between the images on your site being indexed and being ranked for your desired keywords. The first thing to do is check if your images are being indexed by Google at all. Just go to Google Image search and perform a search like this: “site:mydomain.com” ( without the quotes ). If you get results, then your images are being indexed. Once your images are indexed, then you can check if your images are ranking for your desired keywords by performing a search for each of your desired keywords. There is no way to guarantee that your images will rank for your desired keywords, but there are a lot of things you can do that will help your chances.

    1. Joost I just found out about and installed your seo plugin the other day. Spent a good couple hours configuring it. I’m not saying it’s complicated I’m just new to the seo game but learning fast and loving it. One area where I was really lacking that your plugin is helping me massively is my on-page optimization.

      I’m still having trouble formatting the text in my posts for readability with the wordpress editor but your plugin is awesome and really helping me learn a lot about on-page seo so thank you.

  1. I appreciate this post because I noticed that I’ve been getting incoming traffic from google images and I wanted to optimize it. I was actually looking for a plugin that would allow me to pull images from google images directly from my post page but this is important basic information that I needed. Thanks.

  2. It is always good to optimize images, whether it is wordpress or another CMS or any programming languages. Optimizing image file name, alt tag, file size and title tag are important. Give your targeted keyword in the title tag and alt tag. But don’t make your image file name too big. Just give a precise name which better describes that image.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.