WordPress Image SEO: The New Beginner’s Guide (2021)

by Nikita Shevchenko


Adding images to your blog posts can be an extremely rewarding process in terms of traffic and engagement.

It is also one of the most important actions for On-Page SEO.

Here are the questions that many novice bloggers usually ask:

  • How to choose the right images for a blog?
  • How to optimize images for search engines?
  • How to make images load faster?

This WordPress Image SEO guide will answer each of those questions and even more.

Let’s get started!

More than 20% of all web searches in America happen on Google Images. (Source)

This very fact makes many bloggers and online marketers tap into opportunities and optimize website images in the right way.

The question is:

How exactly can Image SEO help your website?

First of all, image optimization gives you many advantages over your competitors.

Among them are higher user experience(UX), quick page load times, and some other ranking opportunities that can help increase your website traffic and boost the website’s overall quality.

Now let’s find out what you can do for Image SEO. Step-by-step.

Image SEO: Before Uploading

1. Find the Right Images for Your Blog

Finding the right types of images for your blog can be a daunting process at first.

Should you use stock images or take original photos and create visuals by yourself?

Let me tell you one thing, stock images are overused nowadays. Too many bloggers upload them here and there in their articles. The big problem with them is that they generally look awful!

terrible stock photo wordpress image seo

Your website will have zero chance to stand out on the web if it lacks originality and does not offer unique images to its visitors.

So remember, any original photo(even taken on iPhone 6) will be much better than generic stock images.

Alternatively, you may also use high-quality image websites like Flickr.

Pro Tip: Make sure that the images you download from other web resources do not break copyright laws.

What about other visuals?

Create them by yourself or hire a professional on Upwork.

2. Prepare Images for Your Blog

You have a new photo/image/illustration, now what?

Now it’s time to polish it before uploading and make it web-friendly.

You probably wonder:

How to optimize an image for the web?

Here is the step-by-step you may refer to before uploading your visual assets:

Give it the right filename

Suppose that you want to use a photo of a cute french bulldog puppy in your article:

Your job is to make sure that the file name does not look like this – photo1923_2.jpg

Instead, name it according to the image content – cute-french-bulldog-puppy.jpg

good image file name wordpress image seo

Choose the right image format

It is important to note that there is no right image format for all visuall assets. Each picture serves its own purpose and you need to choose the format for each of them.

With that said, here are some basic rules you should know:

  • PNG – this format is good for the images that don’t have many colors. You should also use it if you want to have the background transparent.
  • JPEG – is good for colorful, big images that need to be clear and vivid.
  •  SVG – is the format that webmasters use for icons and logos.

Scale the image

In my website speed optimization guide, I’ve already mentioned that there is no point to upload a 3000×300 image if it will be displayed as a 300×30 image on your website.

Note: If you want your blog images to look great on retina displays you actually need to double pixel dimensions for every image you upload. The image that is displayed with a 300×30 dimension should be uploaded as 600×60.

Find out what exact file size is shown by your blog theme and make sure you stick to the right length and width.

Reduce the image size

As you probably know, images are some of the biggest enemies for website speed. The reason is simple – their BIG size!

The question is:

How to reduce the size of images?

I personally use Photoshop. It has a nice feature called “Save for the web”.

photoshop save for the web feature wordpress image seo

It allows me to reduce image size dramatically without losing quality.

There are many other tools though, that can do the job. Among them are Image Optimizer, Reduce Images, and more.

Make the image responsive

How do you do it?

If you are using the newer version of WordPress than 4.4, then you are all set!

Your image is now ready!

Let’s find out how to properly upload it to your website.

Image SEO: Uploading

3. Turn Off Attachment Pages in WordPress

Attachment pages have zero use for your website SEO.

WordPress creates a page for all images you upload on your website and this page just demonstrates a larger version of the original image.

Because these pages have no other value and do not include any other content they are considered “thin content” by search engines.

So, your job is to disable the attachment pages on your website asap.

4. Set the Default Image Size in WordPress

Every time you upload a new image on your blog, WordPress can create the default image sizes for your blog, they are:

  • Thumbnail size – 150×150
  • Medium size – 300×300
  • Large size – 1024×1024
scaling images for wordpress image seo

Your blog theme may also do this task and create additional image sizes that fit your website layout.

You can save yourself time and adjust WordPress Media settings so that you won’t have to resize each file manually.

Additionally, make sure that you are not creating too many image sizes for one original document.

5. Organize Image File Structure

You may already know that the file name is an actual ranking factor.

But what if I tell you that the file path is also used for ranking images on the web?

Here is what I mean:

The way you organize your file structure on your website really matters!

So if you have a big website or an online store you may consider creating media subfolders. The MMA online shop, for example, may create the following subfolders: grappling equipment, striking equipment, competition, and more.

6. Write Descriptive Alt Text

Alt text helps search engines better understand what your image is all about.

It is also displayed when images can not be shown for some reason.

Alt Text Is Displayed When Image Is Not wordpress image seo

Google Lens is certainly an impressive technology but alt text still plays a huge role in WordPress image SEO.

As Google states:

” Google uses alt text along with computer vision algorithms and the contents of the page to understand the subject matter of the image. […] When choosing alt text, focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in the context of the content of the page. Avoid filling alt attributes with keywords (keyword stuffing) as it results in negative user experience and may cause your site to be seen as spam.” (Google)

Now, do you remember that puppy photo I showed you at the beginning of the post?

Let’s write a great alt text for it!

In order to do that I will need to answer the following questions:

  • Who is in the picture?
  • What is it doing?
  • Where is it?

When I answered those questions in my head, I may now have this result:

A small cute French bulldog puppy is sleeping on the bed

Good Image File Name and Alt wordpress image seo

Pro Tip: If you upload hundreds of images on your blog and simply have no time for writing alt text for every single picture, you may use a plugin called RankMath. It will make sure to fill in all missing alt text information automatically.

7. Write Informative Image Caption

Image captions, as a rule, appear below images and serve additional value to the picture. They give readers more clues.

Image Captions are particularly useful for:

  • Family photos
  • Event photos
  • Product image galleries

You may consider using several words or even a couple of sentences. They are particularly useful for online magazines, online shops, and recipe blogs.

It is not the biggest Image SEO factor there but it should not be neglected.

good image caption wordpress image seo

8. Fill in the Description Box

Before filling this are in, let’s first answer the simple question:

What is Image Description in WordPress?

The image description is the third important detail after the file name and alt text.

Rather than showing the most important information about the image(alt text) it describes it in more detail. It allows people and search engines to understand an image much better.

Image description polishes your images and makes them truly optimized.

9. Find the Right Place for the Image

The place where you stick your image withing the article determines its value and relevance.

If you are using the cute puppy photo make sure you use in the article part that describes them.

Google and other search engines may be confused if you use this photo in the blog post about stretching routines for BJJ competitors.

10. Use Schema Markup(Products, Recipes, Videos)

Schema markup is a wonderful tool that helps people and Google better understand your content. It also makes your article title and description more appealing in SERP:

schema markup in serp wordpress image seo

But it also possesses true value for bloggers who want to make the best out their Image SEO process.

You see, Google has recently introduced the Badges.

The idea of badges is to help users find what they really want. You can see the badges on the thumbnails when you do an image search on mobile:

google image search badges wordpress image seo

If you have images on your site, you can help users identify the type of content associated with the image by using appropriate structured data on your pages. This helps users find relevant content quickly, and sends better-targeted traffic to your site.” (Source)

The real question now is:

How to add Schema Markup for videos, recipes, and products?

Or you can use the aforementioned RankMath SEO plugin.

Image SEO: After Uploading

Your images are now fully optimized!

This section will walk you even further and help you understand how to take the biggest advantage out of them and optimize them for performance and results.

11. Create Image Sitemaps

Images are an important source of information about the content on your site. You can give Google additional details about your images, and provide the URL of images we might not otherwise discover by adding information to an image sitemap.” (Source)

So now we know that having image sitemaps on your blog is really important.

The question is:

How to create image sitemaps?

Try RankMath.

This ultimate WordPress SEO plugin can create Image sitemaps and add new images there automatically. It even works for websites that have the “media” pages set to noindex.

12. Social Media Tags

This tip is a little bit more advanced but still absolutely doable.

The idea behind social media tags is making sure that the media if shared across social media channels, will be shown as you want.

In other words, it will look great on your website and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other platforms.

Popular WordPress SEO plugins like RankMath and Yoast can help you achieve this task.

13. Utilize Lazy Loading for Images

Lazy loading is a great way of improving the website’s overall performance and increasing its loading speed.

As I already told you images can reduce loading time significantly, thus making your website slower.

To prevent this, you need to leverage a lazy loading feature for your blog images.

It will defer the loading of non-vital assets that are not currently in the browser viewport.

In other words, if the user has not yet scrolled down to the point where the image is located, there is no need to load it upfront.

This feature helps increase website speed a lot!

The question is:

How to lazy load an image?

A3 Lazy Load and Autoptimize are two cool plugins that can do it effortlessly.

14. Leverage Browser Caching

Browser caching is the process of getting website files(including images) stored in the website visitors’ browsers. It results in faster loading times for them when they revisit your website.

For instance, without browser caching technology you have to download all the images on this post over and over again if you want to reread it in the future.

Fortunately, I utilize browser caching across the entire website so when you come back it will load even faster.

How to leverage browser caching?

I host my blog on SiteGround(Grow Big plan) that includes an incredible caching plugin called SG Optimizer.

You can check the prices for their hosting services by following this link.

Alternative plugins: W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache 

15. Try Content Delivery Network

Lots of websites(including mine) do not use CDN. This may be a huge disadvantage for them in terms of website loading times.

Content delivery networks create numerous web servers across the world and stores your website data in all of them. This great feature allows website visitors all around the world to access your blog in the same period of time.

In other words, if you host your blog on US servers, visitors from the US can reach your blog much faster than Indians. But if your CDN has servers in India, Indian visitors will be able to visit your blog as fast as the US citizens.

Here is a great GIF from Cloudflare that explains CDN working process:

cloudflare cdn working process wordpress image seo

16. Follow the Best SEO Practices

If you implement the latest SEO techniques on your blog and increase its ranking potential, the images that you have on your website will get an additional boost in image search.

Bottom line:

Images from highly-optimized websites will rank much higher in image search than the images from low-quality web resources.

Bonus: Great WordPress Image SEO Tools

This guide would not be complete without featuring some of the greatest tools and plugins that help optimize images for the web.

They are all battle-tested and work great with proper use.

Let’s check them out!

#1. ImageSEO

It is one of the best SEO plugins for images out there. ImageSEO helps you optimize WordPress Library content. This plugin automatically adds short but relevant file names and descriptive alt texts.

You may even check your blog Image SEO score by visiting the company’s website.

image optimization score wordpress image seo

#2. Smush

This plugin compresses and optimizes images with lazy load, WebP conversion. It also resizes detection to improve performance and makes websites load much faster.

#3. a3 Lazy Load

It is a mobile-oriented plugin that is very simple to use. It can speed up sites page load speed.

The more content-heavy your site the better the plugin will perform and the more you will see the improvements in performance

#4. RankMath

I’ve already mentioned this SEO plugin in this post. I use it on my blog and it helped me a lot with Image SEO.

#5. Kraken

It is a robust, ultra-fast image optimizer and compressor with best-in-class algorithms.

It saves you bandwidth and storage space and improves the website’s load times dramatically.

How long does it take you to do Image SEO?

Leave your thoughts and questions in the comment section below.

Also, add me on LinkedIn or follow me on Instagram, I share some useful stuff there 😉

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