The care and feeding of images: Optimizing your site’s images


The care and feeding of images: Optimizing your site’s images


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Google’s recent changes to search results means you can expect organic traffic to decline: There are more ads at the top for many queries, but Google may have also expanded the display in images in search results. There wasn’t an official announcement, but anecdotal evidence from the last several weeks proves this to be true.


Google loves speed. It’s because users love speed. A search engine that delivers speedy results can certainly expect to dominate market share. With exponential rise of mobile search, speed is more important than ever.

– Images should be sampled down to 72 dpi/ppi.
If needed, 96 ppi should be the absolute maximum. In photo editing apps such as Adobe Photoshop, this is usually found in a menu item named “Image Settings.”


– Try to scale images appropriately.

Increase width if needed, but rely on recommendations from and to gauge the best size (one or both will recommend images are scaled down, if needed).


Experimentation here will help optimize user experience for the best load times and that’s a great investment of time. When editing your photos, this is also found in “Image Settings” in your image editing app.


Google’s patents around reading text in images go way back. But they are not perfect, and if your image is of a certain item like a punching bag, there is no way for Google to instinctively “know” that.


– Keywords used in the image filenames.
Use dashes instead of spaces or underscores between words. It used to be hotly debated by techies, but now is mostly accepted that Google doesn’t see underscores as spaces. Dashes are so much better, and an improvement for your human audience as well. Image filenames with a space between words can look like this to users:


instead of the more pleasing



– ALT tags with keywords describing the product.
Use “punching bag” or “martial arts punching bag” instead of just “bag”. Use model numbers and serial numbers in ALT tags where appropriate. But not every image needs an ALT tag. The decorative squiggle image your site might use in its footer doesn’t really need an ALT tag.


– Use the Title attribute for images
The (lesser) title attribute for images can usually fill with the same content as the alt tag. In some browsers, this text will popup when a user hovers their mouse over the image. Consider situations where you might want text other than the ALT tag here, but they are often very similar.


– Put captions below the photos.
Text content in the same <div> tag as the photo will help describe your images to Google. Or use the <figcaption> tag when using the <figure> tag for images.


Google’s Rankbrain is an artificial intelligence system that helps Google return the most relevant search results for users. If users expect – and especially click – images for a certain query, Rankbrain is going to show more images for those queries.


– Prioritize images for related queries.
When someone types is a query “photos of dogs”, Rankbrain correctly guesses that a large block of dog photos should be shown.


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