How I Helped A Buddy Rank On Top Of Google For Image SERPs

By Emma-Julie Fox

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in the SEO world an optimized picture can be as good as a 1000 word post!

Ironically, when most webmasters have already conceptualized, scrapped, and refined myriad optimization strategies just to keep up with the search engine algorithm updates, there are still a significant percentage of webmasters that have failed to capitalize on the SEO aspect of images.

Worse, there are even a few who are blissfully oblivious that images, if properly optimized, can be used to further improve a website’s visibility in the search engine results pages. If you belong to either of the two groups, this article should prove to be an eye opener.

How I Helped My Buddy Get Google Love!

One of my friends owns a blog about gourmet recipes. Because it’s just a hobby, he only does minimal SEO on his own. A month ago, he called me and asked for help to increase his blog traffic, and I gave him a quick DIY SEO plan on image optimization.  Imagine his surprise when he suddenly started getting a significant bump in ads-related profit after he put up a post about some new cooking utensils.

Do you know what he did? He tagged a picture with a description optimized for a high search volume keyword that very few in his niche were using.  After he scanned several analytics tools, he found out that he was ranking first in Google’s “Images” SERPs for a 4-word keyword.

Without revealing his keyword (since, that’s one of his trade secrets), here’s the step-by-step DIY SEO plan that I shared with him.

Optimizing images involves several things, some of which are listed below. Once, you have understood these you may view more advanced image optimization tips at the most complete guides on image SEO.

1. Identify High Search Volume Low or Medium Competition Keywords: Google adwords tool is a great resource for keyword research, however, in order to find the right keywords for your website, you must keep the following points in mind:

a) Select the ‘Broad Match’ option to create your list of keyword ideas.

b) Enter synonyms of the keywords you have in mind as well as longtail versions of the same to create a diverse keyword list for your research. For instance, let’s say you sell designer shoes, now your potential keyword list could include: ‘designer footwear’, ‘designer shoes for women’, ‘designer shoes for men’, ‘high fashion shoes’, etc.

c) Select the ‘Exact Match’ option to get an accurate idea of competition level and search volume.

2. Tag your images with keywords: Tagging several images with a variety of keywords would prove useful if you’re having a tough time ranking for a keyword with a robust monthly search volume. Just make sure that the keywords you use are relevant to the images.

Don’t worry if your images entail that you tag them with keywords other than the ones you’re competing for. While it would be nice if you can, the main point here is optimizing images so they can draw in a stronger organic traffic influx.

  • Keywords can be placed in The images’ filenames: Certainly your images would pop up more in loftier positions in the “Images” SERPs if they’re labeled with descriptive terms and not with “Pic_1,” “Image_01,” or worse, labels like “00012.”
  • Use a description that you think users would search for. In fact, you can use keyword tools if you want to go overboard in this aspect. Just remember to choose relevant terms.
  • The images’ alt attribute: While humans can easily recognize what an image is at a glance, search engines haven’t reached the stage where their algorithms can analyze the placement and colors of the pixels and form an analysis about what an image is about. Placing keywords in the “alt” HTML attribute field when you upload images via a CMS will go a long way in optimizing your images for the search engines.
  • The images’ title attribute: Just like the alt attribute, you can place keywords in the “title” HTML attribute field when you upload images via a CMS. However, unlike “alt,” the title attribute is more geared towards website visitors rather than search engines. W3Schools define the title HTML attribute’s purpose as simply “[specifying] extra information about an element. The information is most often shown as a tooltip text when the mouse moves over the element.”

While, this technique may not be as handy where SEO is concerned, it’s still something to consider for your visitors’ experience with your website.

3. Size matters – consider what the images are for and go from there – A lot of SEO gurus recommend that when uploading images, you should cut down their dimensions as much as possible (some in fact, recommend image sizes as small as 300X400).

While this certainly has merit, given that Google and visitors alike hate webpages that load slowly, you should consider what your images are for. If they’re just there to break up your content, going for that time-tested tip would be sensible.

However, if your site is graphics oriented, like say, you’re a programmer selling 3D rendering software, you might want to upload the images unaltered. You may also want to use thumbnails that lead your visitors to the pages where the images (in their original dimensions) can be found.

4. Be wary of images that aren’t yours – Aside from the obvious risk of infringing on someone’s copyright, linking your post to images from another website presents unwarranted risks. If the source removes the image, there would be nothing you could do about it, resulting in your page looking askew.

But the most insidious danger this method brings is the threat of malware. If the server of the image you’re linking to becomes infected with malware, that would bring the terrifying consequence of your website being delisted from the SERPs.

Optimizing images might not catapult a poorly performing website to the top of the SERPs but if taken in tandem with other sound, powerful, and white hat SEO strategies, they could go a long way in providing your site with more search engine juice.


Emma-Julie Fox writes for Pitstop Media Inc, a top rated Vancouver SEO company that provides services to businesses across North America. If you would like to invite the author to guest post on your blog please contact

4 thoughts on “How I Helped A Buddy Rank On Top Of Google For Image SERPs

  1. Point 4 is a very good observation and people need to be more aware of it! I always use Creative Commons images to avoid any potential threats, such as the copyright infringement you mention in the post. I hadn’t thought of the virus possibility, which is actually terrifying! I’ve heard of instances where, someone annoyed with a blog using an image without their permission, managed to change the picture to something provocative. Not good for business, so thanks for that! Always use Creative Commons; or buy yourself a digital camera.

    1. I’ve actually replaced images that have been hotlinked from other sites to an image that is basically a big banner-ad for my website. Very effective free advertising!

    2. I always give attribution whenever I use images in my articles, but I am still suprised to see how many (even reputable ones) blogs don’t. I heard a client of mine being threatened by one stock image sites to pay royalties for some images he used on his site, but didn’t provide the image source.

  2. Early in the life of my blog, I installed a paper texture image that I was thinking of using as a background. I never did, but google found it somehow and directed hundreds of people a day to my site for it. The traffic wasn’t of any real use since I’m not in the paper texture business, but it does illustrate how effective image search can be.

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