Updated: Mar 22, 2021
In a nutshell, image optimization in SEO is naming and formatting images on your site or blog so that they can be more easily discovered by search engines and not slow down page load time. Most CMSs have a built-in image optimization in that they will limit the size and type of image you can upload and have cute little boxes where you can write alt text and SEO descriptions.
Filling out those cute little boxes the right way is more important than many realize. If you keyword stuff alt text, for example, your site will be penalized.
Let’s break image optimization down into the simplest and most essential components that have, in my experience, always served me well. I offer this as a service called EZ Image Optimization, or EZIO for short.
What is "EZ Image Optimization" EZIO?
This is the SEO practice that helped me get my website to rank first for my name. It comprises of three main components:
Resizing in EZIO means making sure that your image or video is properly sized so that it doesn’t slow down the page’s load time. Fail to do this and you will be punished by the SEO Gods.
Usually this is not an issue if you have hired a good web designer or are working with a CMS that limits the size and spec of what you can upload. But if you’ve ever tried to DIY your website like I have, you’ve probably come across page load time issues from uploading images of a certain size, and had to figure how to negotiate resizing them.
The simplest and most tedious task in SEO is renaming images. This means renaming your files: instead of IMG12345.jpeg I name my pictures things like Jason_Hewett_SEO_specialist.jpeg and Jason_Hewett_Freelance_Writer.jpeg so that when you look for my name on Google images, you see my face.
Describing your image refers to how you describe it in HTML for search engines. Thanks to CMSs you don't actually have to know how to write HTML to perform this task--you can simply fill out those boxes like alt text/alt descriptions, etc.
Alternatively, an HTML programmer can write code so that your images have alt text.
What is Alternative Text?
This deserves a quick aside because it's really important that you don't mess up your alt text.
Alt text aka alternative text, alt description, or alt tags, is used to describe in HTML what is the appearance and function of content on the site. It comes in handy for when pages can't be loaded and for visually impaired people visiting your website.
Back in the day, you could get an SEO boost by cramming keywords into the alt text box. For example, it used to be pretty standard practice to write something like "DogzDay Leashes, dalmatian walk, dog walk, dalmatian leash, dalmatian lovers, dalmatian nation" in the alt text box for an image like the one below
But search engine algorithms have gotten smart enough to see that as spammy, and they will "penalize" your SEO score accordingly.
Fearing that sort of penalty, some SEO experts advise to avoid using keywords altogether in alt text.
I think the best thing to do is accurately describe the image. So yes, you can still use keywords in alt text so long as you are using them within an accurate description of a photo.
For example, I might name the image "Happy dalmatian on a walk with his new DogzDay Leash"
Look at that, I just used two keywords in the alt text.
How To Do Image Optimization Yourself
Research keywords and decide on your focus keywords
Format your images to the right size and specs
Rename your images with the keywords
Upload them where they need to go--ideally pair your images with the headings that have corresponding keywords.
Take care of all the alt descriptions
Double check your spelling
Publish or save
Is SEO Image Optimization Worth It?
If I could only use one SEO strategy, it would be image optimization. It’s easy to do and it doesn’t get in the way of user experience.