Skip to main content

SEO Tips: 20+ Ways to Improve Image SEO in 2020

Depending on your industry, Image SEO can be just as important as on-page SEO. Because a third of all searches performed in Google are for images, that’s a lot of prime real estate to capitalize on.   

For companies that sell products or create highly visual offerings will especially benefit from an image SEO strategy that is in tip-top shape.  

How image search has changed in 2020  

Google is constantly updating its search results formatting, but one stable trend over the last couple of years is adding more images to the main results page. Whether it’s in an image search panel, or pictures within structured data snippets, or product images, the past few years have increased the number of images to see without clicking into the image search section. That means you have an opportunity to rank in SERPs when you optimize your images on your site.   

In earlier versions of the SERPs, clicking on an image in the image search, you would go straight to the website. Now with more recent updates, Google opens up a larger version of the image and shows what website the image is present on. Many people can get what they need out of that action, so that update leads to less and less traffic from image search.  

So why should you worry about image search in 2020?  

Image SEO is valuable for companies that rely on visuals to sell offerings. This could be retail products, interior designers, fashion, hospitality… any industry that relies on people viewing the product before committing. Having original images rank in image SERPS for your offerings can grab the attention of people during their product or service research phase.  

Great image SEO is a good way to gain backlinks. If you create valuable visuals that are made to circulate and be shared, it’s a great opportunity for other websites to link back to you. These assets can be graphs, visual data, event images, infographics… the list goes on. If you offer value in your visuals and make sure they are easily found in SERPs, you can gain valuable backlinks to pages, which will improve your on-page SEO as well.  

It will never be counterproductive to follow image SEO best practices. Yes, Google is doing what it can to offer value to searchers without needing to click into websites. But any time you find yourself ranking highly on a relevant or valuable keyword, it means you’re doing something right. Whether that happens on the page search, image search, video search, or anywhere on the SERPs, good SEO habits will benefit your company long-term.  

Image SEO 2020 best practices  

Choose the right image format  

Choosing the right image file type is an easy win for SEO-friendly images. The most popular image formats are PNGs and JPEGs. PNGs are helpful for larger image files when you need a sharp, high-quality image. JPEGs are good for smaller images that don’t need a high resolution. Finding a good balance between these file sizes will ensure that images look as great as possible while still accounting for good page speed wherever you can.   

Compress your images  

Images take up space – on the average website, images take up 21% of total website weight. To save your website from crawling at a deathly slow pace, compress your images before uploading them to your website. This can be done in photoshop, but several tools and plugins can do the job for you.   

Size your images appropriately  

Images Should Be At Least 1,200 Pixels Wide to rank well. Smaller images are less likely to be chosen for structured data snippets, so the higher quality an image the more in may be shown and prioritized in the SERPs.  

Add Quality Images to your Google My Business

Adding images to Google My Business is a sure-fire way to have quality photos present when Google searchers research your company or industry. Your GMB may have limited visibility, but the better you set up your profile, more likely your information and images will be visible for a larger variety of searches.

Use original images  

If you want to set your images apart from the other millions of images on the web, it can be difficult to do so with stock photos that are used all over. Creating original images to use on your site and represent your company on third-party platforms is a great way to showcase your unique brand and offerings.   

When you can’t use original images, modify them to make them unique.  

It’s not ideal to use stock images, but when you do, adding branding and changing up the original image to set it apart from the other websites using stock images.   

Be aware of image copyright  

The last thing you want to do is cover your website in images you don’t have permission to use. Down the road, you may deal with time-consuming, embarrassing, and potentially pricey cease-and-desist letters. To find images on the cheap (or free) without running into copyright infringement, peruse the images on Pexels or Unsplash. These images are free, ok to use in any situation, and there are tons of great options to choose from.  

Make your images mobile-friendly  

Images can make or break your mobile website. Making sure your mobile images are responsive and in the correct size/format can save you some major mobile site speed trouble down the road.  

Create custom image file names  

Most image file names out there are an unintelligible string of letters or numbers – and that does nothing for SEO. By creating a unique, keyword-rich file title. You are standing out from the millions of IMG_723344892019s. It may be easier to just upload the images without committing to a thoughtful title, but this habit is an important step of image SEO, and it’s much easier to do it right the first time. It’s much better than re-uploading all of your images down the road when you’re ready to commit.  

Image URLs Must Be Crawlable & Indexable  

Crawlability and indexability relate to the ability of a search engine to find and rank your images. To confirm that your images are being indexed, you can do a simple Google search of the file name to see if your images are present in google search. If your image file names are incredibly general like “image001.jpeg”, you will have a very hard time confirming indexed images. Yet another reason why specific and descriptive image file names are so important!  

Try to have your images in your featured snippet.  

By adding image information to your structured data strategy, you will increase the chances of search engines pulling your images into any featured snippets it generates from your content. Featured snippets have great real estate right at the top of the SERPs, so it’s beneficial to strategize what images you want to showcase!  

Add alt text   

Alt-text is an important ranking factor and is also important for usability. It used to be that just throwing in focus keywords as the alt text was enough, but now it is much more impactful to use descriptive sentences that describe the photo, as alt text is used but tools for describing images to website users with visual impairments.  

Add captions  

Image captions are important for context and explaining the images available in your online content. They are where you can describe the background, elaborate on the image, and offer credit where necessary. Google also uses captions to extract the context of images so it knows how/where to rank the images in the image search results.  

Metadata affects Image SEO  

Alt-text is still the most impactful best practice to add to image uploads, metadata is helpful to offer maximum information and context behind your images. However, too much metadata info can increase the download size of your image files.  

Supply image descriptions  

This is very recommended for image galleries and other pages that rely heavily on image assets. Image descriptions are another opportunity for offering information to Google on how and where to showcase your images so they reach the individuals who are most likely to benefit from your images.  

Create image XML Sitemaps   

An image sitemap is an important source of information for Google and a great opportunity for you. An image sitemap is your place to give Google all of the information about the image that it may not be able to generate organically, from a detailed image description to a link to the image license.   

The content surrounding the images must be consistent with the image itself.  

If you are just throwing your focus keywords into alt text and captions willy-nilly on an image that doesn’t embody your keywords, that can hurt you in the long run. It is also an insensitive practice for your website visitors who utilize image-describing accessible technology.  

Use image structured data and schema markup   

While adding image info to your structured data strategy, it is best to take the time to accurately fill in all information you have access to. It may seem time-consuming to list ratio, width, description, etc. With your images, but it helps google connect the image context and relevant pages on your site, so the most complete information (and traffic pathway) is showcased to Google users.  

Leverage high-quality images  

Google doesn’t want to rank tiny, pixelated, or generally low-quality images. The nicer the image quality, the more likely your images will be chosen for featured snippets and other valuable ranking spots on the SERPs.   

Offer clear, clean product images  

If you want your product images to rank on Google, Amazon, or anywhere else, make sure to avoid the mess. This means the main object of the image must be evident, it has a clean, preferably white background, and the product takes up at least 70% of the space in the image.  

Boost your image presence on Visual Social Networks  

Your website isn’t the only way to rank your images on google. Adding your best images to visual social networks like Pinterest or amazon is another opportunity for having images rank in SERPs.   

Internal and external links impact visual search.  

The more third-party websites use your images, the better it is tagged with related entities. Eventually, this makes your images more visible in image search. So, great image SEO can also lead to an increase in link building, which improves image visibility! What a great cycle. 


Following image SEO best practices can help you drive more relevant search results, provide context to Google, and increase your speed. Putting image optimization as a top priority may be the crucial change to push your content up the ranks in search. Are you ready to revamp your SEO strategy? Reach out to our team! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *