Marketing | 6 min read

A Practical Guide: How to Name Images for SEO

Choosing the right name for your image is important. The image file name SEO directly affects its ranking in Google search results. Read this post to know more!
SEO Best Practices for Naming Images banner
Tiffany Pau
By Tiffany Pau
March 11, 2022

Naming images for SEO is an often overlooked part of the image optimization process. It's one of the most important on-page SEO elements that can help you in the long run when implemented properly.

While writing SEO-optimized content, keeping and adhering to best practices is of utmost importance. The same rules apply to image optimization as well.

In this Insight Post, we'll be discussing the best practices for naming images for effective search engine ranking and how to optimize image files for SEO.

It’s not important for social media or personal use, but it's vitally important for information-rich blogs and e-commerce websites because it helps search engines to understand the subject matter of each image.

Let's now have a look at best practices for naming images for SEO:

1. Refrain from stuffing keywords

Image SEO tips - Refrain from stuffing keywords

Keyword stuffing is a common SEO strategy for people who are looking for a quick fix, but it's a fairly bad SEO strategy that Google actively discourages.

There are two main ways people keyword stuff.

  1. The first involves adding too many keywords to the meta tags in the hopes that the page will rank for those terms, even though it doesn't deserve to. That can work, but it's hardly a white hat.
  2. The second method of keyword stuffing involves adding them to places where they don't belong — like image alt tags. If an image includes a group of girls, and you want to name your file "group-of-girls.jpg," that's fine.

There's nothing wrong with including keywords in alt attributes when they're applicable and relevant to the image. But if you name all of your images "group-of-girls.jpg", you could be risking a penalty from Google.

2. Separate words with hyphens

Separating words in image names with hyphens can help Google understand the meaning of the image.

We recommend using hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in image seo file names. Google treats underscore as a word separator when it indexes pages but treats hyphens as a word connector. For example, my-first-pet.jpg is better than my_first_pet.jpg

This helps search engines separate words in the filename and also reduces errors when typing URLs into browsers.

For example, if your image name is “greatgardenresortparty.jpg”. Google may not separate the words and understand the image name. “great-garden-resort-party” is a better choice.

3. Keep it short

When you create a new image for an article, it's important to choose a descriptive name that helps people understand what the image is about.

The image name will become part of the image's URL, which shows up in search results. Try to keep names to 5 words or fewer. More than 5 words can be considered as keyword stuffing.

To keep the image name short, you can skip non-important words.

For example: if your image name is “Sachin-scored-century-in-mumbai.jpg”. You can re-write it as “Sachin-century-mumbai.jpg” for your image file name SEO.

4. Be descriptive and relevant

Image SEO Tips - Be descriptive and relevant

You can take several different steps depending on the context. Let’s look at two scenarios to understand this better:

1st scenario

If you sell ice cream on your website, potentially every image can be named icecream-1, icecream-2, and so on.

The alt text could read:

<img src=”icecream-1.jpg” alt=”icecream”/>
However, a better alternative text that describes the image would read:
<img src=”icecream-1.jpg” alt=”mango flavored bar”/>
<img src=”icecream-2.jpg” alt=”chocolate bar”/>

2nd scenario

If you’re an e-commerce brand with multiple products, instead of placing all your product images into a general/media/folder, we would recommend structuring your subfolders to more category-related topics like /shorts/ or /denim/.

Other Important Tips for Naming Images:

Image SEO tips - Other tips
  • Name a few of the best images with unique, descriptive filenames. Then, go ahead and name the rest with a filename unique to the particular subject. For example, if it’s pictures of a wedding, you could use ‘wedding’ and a number (“Mark-Candy-wedding-01.jpg”).
  • While many CMSs will automatically rename your uploaded images, this is often done poorly (e.g., including extraneous characters), so we recommend manually renaming all images before uploading them to your site.
  • When possible, use singular instead of plural forms of words in your filenames. Search engines generally do not recognize plurals as having the same meaning as singular words, so you may get better results with the singular version.
  • Use lower case instead of upper case letters in your filenames. This is especially important if you will be uploading them to a Linux-based server because Unix-like systems are usually case sensitive and may not recognize upper case letters when used in URLs or file paths.

Final Word

Research has shown that search engines utilize image searches to a greater extent than they did in the past, thus making it imperative that you use optimized and relevant file names for all of your on-page images.

By doing this, you’ll boost the chances of getting your site to the top of the search engine ranking results. We hope these image file naming conventions best practices helped in your SEO journey.

For more help with your SEO, don't hesitate to contact us!

Tiffany Pau
By Tiffany Pau
Digital Strategist
Tiffany is a Biochemistry graduate from CUHK. After graduation, she worked as a Digital & Analytics intern at L'Oréal APAC for more than a year before joining Butter as part of the Graduate Programme. Tiffany now works closely with the Strategy and Business Development Team to meet output expectations and contributes to managing client projects within Butter.
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