Secret SEO ninja tactic – how to optimize images for search engines

If your company uses the Internet to attract customers, you can’t stay in business without making friends with Google, Bing and Yahoo (and dozens of their smaller cousins). The truth is, most search engine users never look past the first couple of pages of search results. So if you’re on Page 10, you’re losing business.

Getting on Google’s good side, also referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is composed of two processes: creating a site with code and content that is amenable to search engines, and convincing the rest of the online world that the site is reputable and popular. All of these aspects are important when it comes to ranking in the top 20 organic results in Google (the Mac Daddy of search engines).

If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably heard of “keywords,” the words that your customers type into the search box, hoping to find solutions to their problems (which–we hope–your company specializes in). The first step in the world of SEO is to find a combination of keywords related to your products or services that have the highest search volume with the lowest competition. Google’s AdWords Keywords tool can help with this process. (Or, you can hire a company to do SEO research for you.)

So, what do you do with those keywords once you’ve found them? Most SEO novices know to incorporate them into the text and headlines on every page of your website. If your site is built with WordPress, there are a number of plugins that can make this process easy. (My favorites are WordPress SEO by Yoast and All In One SEO).

Here’s the super-secret SEO Ninja tactic that most people (even some professionals) overlook: optimizing images for search engines.

When you post a photo, illustration or infographic to your website or blog, in a format such as .png, or .jpg or .gif, there’s typically just one piece of information that the search engine can see: the name of the file. The algorithms that power Google are pretty smart–but even they don’t know what IMG0000287.jpg is a picture of. So the first step in optimizing images for search is to give those images keyword-oriented, descriptive filenames.

For example, if you’re a chiropractor in Columbus, Ohio, and “Columbus Ohio Chiropractor” is one of your keyword phrases, it should appear in the filename of every image on your site. Thus: “columbus-ohio-chiropractor-spinal-xray.jpg.”

Just as important are the “alt” and “title” tags that you can attach to your images. The “alt” metatag contains text that your web browser will display if you have images turned off. The “title” tag is displayed when you “mouse over” an image. Be sure that you put your top keyword phrase in both of these metatags as well, in addition to words that describe the image. Naturally, the image itself should be an appropriate reflection of the page it’s on.

Again, WordPress users have it easy: both SEO by Yoast and All In One SEO allow you to specify “alt” and “title” tags for every image. Another plugin, SEO Friendly Image, will generate “alt” and “title” tags for your images based on their filenames. So if you’ve started with a keyword-rich filename like “seo-marketing-pr-consultant-kathleen-hanover.jpg,” SEO Friendly Image will fill in the blanks for you.

Is this really necessary, you ask? I’ll let one of our clients convince you with an Internet marketing case history. operates in an intensely competitive niche, and their market-leading competition outspends them by several orders of magnitude. When we created their image-rich new website in early 2012, we managed to get the site indexed and ranked on the first page of Google results within about a week, thanks in part to our relentless optimization of the dozens of images of dental postcards on the site. And the site has remained on Page 1 of Google results ever since.