How to optimize images for Google

We often need to optimize image results for visual search. We do this to change search results for reputation management clients. This article describes how we do it.

Sometimes the wrong image is showing in Google Knowledge Graph, sometimes because the images Google shows are not relevant to the search results. In both cases, we optimize the image files so they show up more often in normal as well as visual search results. It involves naming the image for SEO performance, page context, ALT tag, image title, page title, and rich snippets. This is how image optimization for SEO is done.

Understanding the Importance of Image Optimization

In a web increasingly driven by visual content, images hold immense potential. A well-optimized image can be a significant source of traffic, often from image-based searches like Google Images. It can also aid in improving the overall SEO of your page, making it more appealing both to users and to search engines.

Choosing the Right Image File Type

When it comes to selecting the file type for your images, there are several options like JPEG, PNG, and GIF. Each has its pros and cons.

  • JPEG is ideal for detailed images with lots of colors, as it provides good quality with a relatively small file size.
  • PNG offers high-quality images and supports transparency, but the file size can be large.
  • GIF is perfect for small, simple graphics and supports animation.

There are other formats, like WebP and SVG, but these are the main ones. 

Name the Image Using the Search Phrase

An often overlooked detail is the filename of your image. Using descriptive, keyword-rich file names is really important for image optimization. For instance, instead of naming an image "IMG1234.jpg," you could use "small-black-leather-bag.jpg". This provides context for search engines, helping them understand the content of the image.

So, the first step is to name the image with the search phrase in the file name. For example, below is an image of Kent Campbell after a lunch in Greece consisting of a large amount of octopus. The name of this file might be "kent-campbell-octopus-nose.jpg" or something similar.


kent campbell with an octopus By: Photographed In: Santorini, Greece Description: Image of Kent Campbell

Optimizing Image File Size

Next, it's vital to compress your images to reduce their file size without losing quality. Large image files will slow down your page load times, negatively impacting user experience and SEO. Google rewards fast sites, and images that are too large will slow it down. There are various tools available, like TinyPNG or CompressJPEG, which can significantly reduce the file size of your images while maintaining high quality. We use Photoshop, though.

Harnessing the Power of Alt Text

Alt text (alternative text) is a brief description of an image that appears if the image cannot be displayed. From an accessibility standpoint, alt text is important, helping visually impaired users understand the content of an image. Moreover, alt text serves as an opportunity to signal to search engines what your image, and by extension, your page, is about. Be sure to incorporate relevant keywords in a natural and meaningful way, not stuffed in there for SEO reasons (it doesn't work anyway).

Implementing Image Sitemaps

For websites with a large number of images, it can be beneficial to create image sitemaps. Sitemaps enable search engines to find and crawl all images, even those embedded in JavaScript. Providing detailed information in your sitemap helps Google better understand your images, potentially boosting your image search ranking.

Leveraging Structured Data

Structured data, or schema markup, helps search engines better understand the content on your site. Applying structured data to your images can provide Google and other search engines with additional details about your images, enhancing your visibility in image search results.

Utilizing Responsive Images

In an age where mobile browsing is dominant, it's crucial to use responsive images. With the use of HTML attributes such as "srcset" and sizes, you can serve different images based on the user's screen size. This ensures a great user experience while keeping your site speedy and efficient.

Where to add page elements for image search

But where do you add these elements? You can hand-code them, but you probably don't need to. If you are using a WordPress content management system, you add the tags easily.

For example, create a new post, then insert Media (add a photo to your post). It will ask you to upload an image; once you do, this screen ought to pop right up with the image you uploaded selected with the little checkbox in the upper right corner, as seen below:

How to optimize images in Wordpress image

Fixing images in search using Wikipedia

OK, this trick is only for famous people and brands who need to change the images that Google shows on a search results page. 

If a person is famous, or reasonably so, they probably have a Wikipedia page (or can earn one). One method that works well to change image search results in Google is to identify a number of images, then release them to the public as Creative Commons (CC) licensed images. This essentially means the world can use the images in certain ways free of charge.

Once the images have been licensed as CC they can be uploaded to Wikipedia via WikiCommons.

Next, translate the Wikipedia page into other languages and place them on other Wikipedias. Most countries have one. But for each translation, use a different image. So the French version and the US version are essentially the same text, in different languages, but the images are different.

Steps in using Wikipedia for Google search image management

Here is a rundown of the steps:

  1. License flattering images via Creative Commons so they can be uploaded to Wikipedia.
  2. Translate an existing Wikipedia page into one or more other languages. There's a Wiki for most.
  3. Create Wikipedia pages in other languages (Ex: using the translated original Wikipedia page content.
  4. Insert different images onto different Wikipedia pages about the person.

Why does this work?

Google likes to show Wikipedia images in search results. So using images in this way tends to change how Google shows images in search results. This is an effective method to suppress negative images in Google. It's quite effective! Want proof? Perform an image search of a famous model, do a search on the page for the word "wiki" and see how many times it comes up. You're welcome. :-)


In conclusion, image optimization is a multifaceted process that can significantly boost your Google search ranking. By implementing these strategies, you'll not only enhance your SEO efforts but also offer a more engaging and accessible experience for your audience.

Optimizing Images for Search FAQs

How do I optimize images for Google?

Do the following to optimize your image files so they show up more often in normal as well as image search results. Name the image using the search phrase. Add a relevant title that's descriptive. Add the ALT tag to help people and Google.

How should I name images for SEO?

Name the image with the search phrase in the file name. Also include the keyword in the title and ALT tag.

What are rich snippets?

Rich snippets are a special form of markup language (code) that goes into the HTML of a page specifically to let search engines know what the image is about. This code tells search engines even more about the image because, in a way, it speaks their language.


About the author

Kent Campbell is the chief strategist for Reputation X, an award-winning online reputation management agency based in California. Kent is not just well-known for shoving things up his nose; he has over 15 years of experience with online reputation management, Wikipedia editing, review management, and strategy. Kent has helped celebrities, leaders, executives, and marketing professionals improve the way they are seen online. Kent writes about reputation, SEO, Wikipedia, and PR-related topics, and is an expert witness for reputation-related legal matters.



Free reputation consultation

call 1.800.889.4812


Talk with an expert
schedule a meeting

Set a Meeting

Schedule a Zoom meeting with an expert

Discuss your options with an expert. Get answers to questions about the best way to proceed, timeline, pricing, and much more.