How To Optimize Your Images For Image Search

    May 13, 2004

Do the images on your website appear in Google’s image search? If you’re selling products they should. If you have pictures of yourself on your site those should appear in Google’s (and Yahoo’s) image search too.

Discuss image optimization in WebProWorld.

Garrett Gets a Number One Ranking for the Keyword "Fat Bastard"...
Garrett Gets a Number One Ranking for the Keyword “Fat Bastard”…

EGOL, a poster in the SEOChat forum, claimed he got over 5000 click throughs one month from the Google image search. He also claims that “you can promote some products better in google images than you can in the SERPs,” and goes on to suggest that you, “pick a good image that represents your product well.”

This article will address some image optimization techniques that will get your images ranking well in the popular image searches with examples from forums and my own excruciating personal experience.

One obvious tactic is alt tag text optimization. Make these descriptive and include the keyword that you want the image found for. Some forum members suggested that putting the images in html files named after the keyword (keyword.html), putting the keyword in the title as well as your H1 tags on the page where the image appears could improve the ranking of your images in the image search.

Jtatcu of the JimWorld forum said that besides “having the alt tag describing the picture, you should name the picture under the keyword you want it to be found, i.e. a picture of a car should be nissan-maxima.gif with the alt tag being Nissan Maxima.” I found evidence of this too.

Be specific in your alt description – if you’re selling blenders and have pictures on your site label them with their actual product names. (This has the added benefit of showing descriptive text if a visitor’s browser doesn’t show your images.)

One poster indicated that alt text that she optimized for the seeing impared hindered her optimization for image searches (perhaps because they, by necessity, included natural language that gums up ranking).

Kusadasi-Guy, an SEOChat member, suggested that she “use [the] thumbnail system, [and] put each image into separate html pages.”

If your search term is relatively uncompetitive, there’s a good chance that simple on page text could raise your image to the top of the image search. For (one excruciating) example, if you search “Rafael Robinson” (quotes or not) then the top two images that appear are from pictures from a photoshop contest in WebProWorld.

This same search in Yahoo shows my horrific photoshopped image in the third position.

Rafael Robinson, my co-worker and “good buddy,” got up early before work one morning to put my head on the body of Fat Bastard, a grotesque character from the second and third Austin Powers movies. (And that’s what really bothers me – that he got up early to make that image. He also photographs and “retouches” all my pictures in the WebProNews newsletter.) He’s tickled to death that his hard work shows up when you search his name.

Notice that on the forum page Rafael’s name is bold, which may lend a bit of weight to the term in the algorithms.

It’s also important to notice that Google picked up the picture above his name too. I’m not sure what the proper distance should be, though it’s clear that if your images are too close together the Google image search may assume that surrounding images are related to a given term. (Has anyone tested this?)

Yahoo image search only showed the Fat Bastard image, leaving out the Garrett as Picard picture. This indicates that the Yahoo image bot may only look below the text.

The Garrett-as-Fat-Bastard image also shows up first if you search “Fat Bastard,” which indicates the power of naming .jpgs after the term you want to have showing up for your search terms. (Its url:

For the Fat Bastard search in Yahoo images my picture comes up 11th, with actual images from the Austin Powers movies coming above.

To me this indicates Yahoo’s image search for this term is more relevant than Google’s, as your average user who searches for “Fat Bastard” in an image search most likely isn’t interested in a photoshopped image of me.

Rafael, however, feels the Google results are “far better” for the “Fat Bastard” search.

Rafael’s own picture doesn’t show up in a Google or Yahoo “Rafael Robinson” search, but it does show when you search “RafaelRobinson.” (Google :: Yahoo)

This image never appeared near the text of his full name – Rafael Robinson, indicating that to optimize your images for multiple search terms you should put in dashes (my fat bastard picture ends with fat-bastard.jpg, and ranks #1 in Google for “fat bastard”).

Special thanks to Rafael for pointing out where my image ranked in Google for a search on his name, and thanks to Barry at SEORoundtable for inspiring this article.

Garrett French is the editor of iEntry’s eBusiness channel. You can talk to him directly at WebProWorld, the eBusiness Community Forum.