In the blogging and business world, you own two things – your website and your email list. Your website is an extension of you and your business. It needs to be a place where your readers and customers can easily find the information they are looking for. And they won’t be able to find anything if they bail before the site finishes loading. These 6 tips for SEO image optimization will help your blog post rank, improve your site speed, and make it easy for readers to share your posts!
6 Tips for SEO Image Optimization
Before Uploading to WordPress
1. Size does matter
There are two different numbers you need to know about for your photos:
- The computer file size (usually in KB or MB)
- The image specs (usually width x height in pixels)
Computer file sizes:
- Largest – Gigabyte (GB)
- Larger – Megabyte (MB)
- Large – Kilobyte (KB)
Typically DSLR and smartphone photos are 3.0ish MB in size (or larger). You really want the file size to be 500 KB or smaller (best case is 150 KB or smaller) BEFORE you upload.
Don’t depend on plugins to “smush your file.” Uploading a 3.0 MB file to your WordPress puts a 3.0 MB file on the backend of your site and server. Photos are the number one reason for slow site speed (which is a SEO ranking factor).
Programs I use to resize my photos: Lightroom, PixelMator (a Mac specific app), and Canva.com are my favorite.
We are going to talk about image specs in width x height pixels.
- A flower photo from my iPhone X was 5.7 MB and 4032 x 3024 pixels
- An image I downloaded from DepositPhotos.com was 11.6MB and 5184 x 3456 pixels
Obviously, these sizes are for these two specific files. Your image sizes will depend on your equipment and settings.
Do you know where to find this information? On a Mac, you can right-click an image and select Get Info and it will tell you both file size and pixels. On a PC, you can right-click and select Properties. File size will be on the main tab and pixel size will be under details.
2. Use descriptive filenames
Before we talk about naming your files, let’s talk a little SEO and planning. You ARE doing your keyword research BEFORE your post – correct? If not, now is the time to start.
Here’s a post I wrote about How To Plan Blog Posts that Google Loves that I thought would help you out. You need to make sure you know what keyphrase you are trying to rank for as well as similar (but different phrases) so that you can optimize your photos/images around them.
Are you uploading photos named DSC0001.jpg or maybe wiaw-5.jpg? If so, you are losing a fantastic opportunity to optimize for SEO. You want to give your photos and images descriptive file names. This will help search engines readily understand what your images (and ultimately your blog post) are about.
Let’s say you are writing a blog post about a peanut butter banana smoothie recipe. You could name your images:
The idea is to name your files using your keyphrase and variations of it for the different images.
Just to make sure you know how to change the filename, I wanted to include these links:
Since chances are you have been blogging for quite a while and haven’t done this for all your photos, I don’t want you to stress over this. I would prefer you learn what to do and start doing this for all your posts from here forward. Then as you update and optimize old posts, you can take care of the photos then.
3. Resize the file
There is really no one size fits all blogs for this scenario. The question is what size image do you NEED on your blog or can your blog use. Using a Chrome plugin called Page Ruler, I know that the max width of any photo I use in a blog post should be 655px because that is the max width of my text (because I have a sidebar).
A standard photo taken on my iPhone is 4032px x 3024px and 2.63MB (2630 KB). So, way too large both size and filesize wise for my blog.
Using a program called Pixelmator, I resized the photo to 655px x 873px and the filesize became 339KB when I saved it. You could also use something like Lightroom, Photoshop, Canva, or PicMonkey.
The absolute worst thing you can do is upload photos directly from your DSLR or iPhone/smartphone without resizing/optimizing them.
There are TONS of different photo softwares out there. Find what works best for you.
Even if you are never going to use Lightroom, take a few minutes to watch the video. I show the size difference as a before and after at the end of the batch processing part. I took a photo from 4.6 MB to 74 KB. Or to show it in apples to apples – 4600 KB to 74 KB. That’s a HUGE difference.
Remember that one of the reasons we are optimizing our images is to improve site speed. Want to test your site speed? This is the site I use (provided by Google):
4. Create a pinnable image
If you know me, you know that one of my biggest pet peeves when reading blogs is (a) lack of social sharing buttons and (b) no pinnable image. Remember that social sharing is a SEO ranking factor. You want people to not only read your post(s) but share them. Make it easy for people to do so. Social sharing buttons, pinnable images, click to tweet – all of them are super easy to do and can make a HUGE difference.
I recommend creating your pinnable images in Canva. They make it super easy and provide dozens of fun templates you can use. The current ideal size is 735px x 1102px. (This sometimes changes and Canva changes with it). So you want to use the preferred Pinterest size (regardless what width you discovered from step 3).
I will say, if you are only going to have ONE image per blog post, it needs to be the pinnable image. If your blog has a featured image spot, I recommend making the pinnable image the featured image (as well as naming it with the main keyphrase you are trying to rank for). Those are my preferences since this would be the image most likely shared around the internet.
Quick break to spotlight Social Warfare (a WordPress plugin). They have a free version and a paid version (that was not an affiliate link by the way). In my opinion, it is by far the best social sharing plugin out there – and does everything you need. The paid version is ONLY $29 per year and allows you some amazing customization (when you look at my post below notice how the buttons match my colors).
Here is an example of a post with only one image: Ultimate Guide to Starting a Website
So, you have created the preferred pinnable size, but what about file size? This is where it gets a bit weird. You want to save it as a JPG rather than a PNG because JPGs are smaller. Let’s say you create 3 pinnable images for different posts. Chances are they will be all different KB sizes. The one I created was 813KB (which of course is still a bit large for a website). As an experiment, I deleted everything but a line of text and it was only 44KB in size. The amount of “stuff” your image contains will determine how large (or small) the file size is.
To reduce the size even further, I opened in Pixelmator and reduced the quality from an 85 to 70. I did a side by side comparison and you could not tell the difference. The 70 quality was 172KB – so perfect for uploading.
Since I know that is a bit time consuming and not everyone has that program, I found a super easy to use (and free) online tool for you:
It actually took the same 813 KB file to 102 KB. I did an online comparison of all three files and there is no noticeable difference.
Here is an example of a regular blog post photo:
Here is an example of that same image turned into a pinnable image:
See the difference?
After Uploading to WordPress
5. Describe the Image with Alt Text
Once you upload the image, you want to complete the alt text block. The alt text is designed to help readers with visual impairments. Search engine robots, given their limited natures, use them to help describe your images – this is the key step for SEO. Even if you don’t fill in any of the other blocks, you are losing a huge optimization step if you don’t complete the alt text.
When describing your image using alt tags:
- Use a description similar to the name
- Include detailed information when applicable. This includes makes, models, serial numbers and anything else vital.
- Keep your alt information short and to the point. Don’t overdo it.
- Don’t go crazy with your alt tags. Decorative images, layout images and other images with aesthetics purposes should not be optimized.
6. Add Titles, Descriptions and/or Captions to Your Images
Titles, descriptions and/or captions are often overlooked by bloggers. They add a more detailed description than alt tags or file names could ever hope to do. They can also better link images to the text of your blogs.
When you use any of these three, you can make them more detailed than alt tags or file names. You should focus on describing the image while defining the image’s context in relation to your content. This will help readers focus on your blog’s content after being drawn to your site.
However, I don’t recommend using all of them. I don’t use captions because I don’t like the way they appear on my screen. Same for description.
I typically use alt text and title and put the same phrase in both.
Do you need to do this for ALL the photos you upload? Not necessarily. You don’t want to give them all the same alt text/title. But let’s say you have multiple images of your smoothie. You could do:
- Peanut butter banana smoothie
- Peanut butter banana smoothie recipe
- The best peanut butter banana smoothie
- Chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie
Here is an example of how the image could look when all the fields are completed:
These 6 tips for SEO image optimization are easy ways to help your blog post rank, to improve your site speed, and to make it easy for readers to share your posts!6 Tips for SEO Image Optimization - Everything You Need To Know From Start to Finish! #seo #blogtipClick To Tweet
A few final notes about optimizing photos:
- If you have been blogging a while (over a year), chances are you don’t want to go back and redo all your photos. Consider having your developer install a CDN (content delivery network) like MaxCDN. This is what I use on both of my sites. Its $9 per year for 2 sites. (Not an affiliate link)
- Consider installing a plugin like “Smush Image Compression and Optimization” or another optimizer to help with your older images, but start optimizing all of your new photos/images immediately. Make sure whatever plugin you use is compatible with your WordPress version and has been updated recently.
- Your hosting provider could be the cause of slow site speed. Ask them if there is anything they can to help with your site speed. (Unfortunately if you are on Squarespace or Wix, you are stuck on their server and don’t have the option to move).
Questions? Leave them below in the comments or shoot me an email. Also – what questions do you have about SEO? I would love to answer them in a blog post for you!
Another resource I have found is The Step by Step Guide on How To Speed Up Your WordPress Website For Non Techy People! Five steps tried on an actual site that anyone can implement (regardless of technical ability).