3 Easy Tips for Getting Your Images Indexed by Search Engines

One of the most important goals of being on the Internet is: getting found.

Getting found it relatively easy when you write a lot of content, like the kind that is found in a blog, because search engines can easily index the written content, pick out the keywords, and determine how to rank the blog post in search results. Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that, but I’m going to keep things simple for this post.

However, as a photographer, most of your content is typically image files. To build your Internet reach and credibility you want your images to show up in relevant search results. The challenge is that search engines can’t “see” images; they can only read text. So, you have to tell them what the image is about. There are three easy ways to do that.

Use descriptive, keyword-rich file names

While it may be tempting to use camera generated filenames for your photos, such as DSCN8756.jpg, that doesn’t provide any meaningful information for search engines to index. Descriptive filenames help search engines index the image and determine its relevancy.

For example, I named this image “Indian_Blanket_Flower_with_Honey_Bee_18485.jpg”.

Indian Blanket flower with honey bee by Christie Chaney. This red and yellow flower is also known as blanketflower, firewheel, and Gaillardia pulchella.

Indian Blanket Flower with Honey Bee

Here are some simple tips for naming your images:

  • Don’t get super-descriptive with the filename. Just shoot for something that describes the image.
  • Include the same keywords in the filename that someone might enter into a search engine to find the image. Again, don’t make it too long. You can add more information in the next step.
  • Use either an underscore (_) or a hyphen (-) between words so the filename is cleaner in URLs (Google seems to prefer underscores). Don’t use a space between words because the space gets reformatted to %20 (the HTML equivalent for a space) in the URL.
  • If you code your images with a unique identifier so originals can be located in your file system or in a digital asset management system on your computer, consider putting that unique identifier at the end of the filename. It won’t help with SEO, but it will help to keep you organized.

Write Descriptive Alt Text

Alt text contains alternative text about your images. Simply put, alt text is a written description about your image. It is visible when a browser can’t properly display your image or when you hover over an image with your mouse pointer (depending on your browser settings).

Adding descriptive alt text helps search engines determine what the content of the image is. Matter of fact, it is the primary mechanism that search engines use to index your images and to display them in Google image and web search results.

This is the alt text that I wrote for the image above.

Indian Blanket flower with honey bee by Christie Chaney. This red and yellow flower is also known as blanketflower, firewheel, and Gaillardia pulchella.

Here are some things to consider when writing alt text:

  • Describe your images in plain English.
  • If you sell products that have model number or serial numbers, include them in your alt text.
  • Consider putting your name in the alt text so the image is associated with you.
  • If there are related keywords that someone might use to find your image, then try to work them elegantly into the alt text. Use sentences. Don’t just list keywords.
  • Some of my research indicated that longer alt text descriptions are preferred by search engines because they give images importance and because there is more information about the image to index. A short paragraph that describes the image or tells a short story about the image is perfectly acceptable.

Use Descriptive Anchor Text

Anchor Text is the text that appears in a hyperlink that can be clicked to open a target web page or image.

Anchor text may appear as the caption of an image, like above. Search engines don’t like image-only hyperlinks because they don’t know what they are linking to, so the hyperlink anchor text needs to be there.

Also, if you write about your image, as in a blog perhaps, and you include a hyperlink to your image in the content, then the anchor text of the hyperlink becomes another important factor in image SEO and how your image is ranked for keywords. Anchor text with generic terms like “image” or “photo” don’t give search engines meaningful information about the image.

Instead, use anchor text that is short and descriptive.  For example, if I was writing about the image above and I wanted to include a hyperlink to it, then I might say

The Indian Blanket flower with honey bee picture was taken while hiking near the Maroon Bells last summer.

Test Your Results

How do you know if the search engines indexed your images?

Simple. Open a search engine, such as Google Images. In the search field, type your website URL. The search results will include all of the images on the site that have been indexed. Further down in the search results you will also see images that the search engine associates with you or your website in some way. Keep in mind that search engines are not human and they do the best they can to display relevant search results.

Search engine results for www.christiechaney.com

Search engine results for http://www.christiechaney.com

10 Comments on “3 Easy Tips for Getting Your Images Indexed by Search Engines”

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