Optimize Your Image Filenames for SEO

January 3, 2023
By   Alexandra Few
Category   Search

There are several components involved when boosting your website's overall SEO efforts. However, one often overlooked aspect is the filenames of your images. Keep reading to learn how to integrate this SEO tip with your website and digital content.

If you own a business, whether that be a start-up, small- to mid-size brand, or are the owner of a franchise system, you likely already know how valuable search engine optimization (SEO) is when it comes to website content. And while there is an extensive list of attributes connected to SEO, such as page speed, adding keywords, and more, there are some lesser-known steps you can take, one of which you can utilize before you hit ‘publish’ – optimizing your image filenames.

Images can help amplify your web content and can be a great tool to use to help articulate your message. But how you are uploading those images is important. For example, if you have an image that you want to add to your blog or webpage and its filename is an alphabet-length amount of letters, you might think that it is not a big deal seeing as how no one will see it, but that is not entirely true – Google sees it.

When Google crawls your website, it also crawls your images. So, while you might be taking steps to increase your ranking on the search platform, if you do not consider your images, you are not helping Google “understand” the content on your page to the greatest extent.

What should you do? When you save an image, change the filename to something more descriptive. Remember, this step is entirely different from adding ALT text to an image for accessibility purposes. Changing the filename of an image means you are telling Google what that image is about, and it should tie into the content that the image is alongside. You are not necessarily describing the image but giving it a title of what it is.

For instance, if you sell shoes on your website, you will likely have many images of different types of shoes. Rather than saving your images with filenames of different variations of the word “shoes,” you can save them as “open-toe-sandals.jpg” or “ballet-flats.png.” Or, let’s say your website’s blog includes stats and figures. Rather than saving an image as “chart.jpg,” for example, you could add the chart’s title or what that chart illustrates, such as “2022-population-by-province.jpg.”

According to Google, adding more context to an image can lead to higher-quality traffic. They mention that the URL structure and the filename of an image are important, as that is how the platform understands the image, and it impacts how Google recommends your webpage to someone searching. They also note that the webpage image should appear near the copy that discusses whatever that image illustrates. Google wants to see that the image is relevant on the page, and having it near the copy with a descriptive filename that corresponds with it can be beneficial to your website.

Google cannot tell what an image is by itself. Instead, it reads it through its filename. Therefore, ensure that you save your image with a filename that makes sense and is relevant.

Should you go into the back end of your website and swap all of your images to new filenames? Not necessarily. Since Google has already crawled your webpage (copy and images), whether on a blog post or a page of your website, for example, changing the filename of an image now tells Google that this is a new piece of content to crawl and index (which can take time). This “refresh” is not going to lead to many benefits. In other words, changing images after the fact with optimized filenames will likely not be worth your time. However, now that you know this information, you can upload better image filenames moving forward.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

It is worth noting when we discuss adding descriptive filenames the concept of keyword stuffing. Since Google crawls images, some might think this is a good chance to add more relevant keywords to the image to boost SEO. We recommend not doing this – at least to a certain extent.

Based on Google’s guidelines, you need to avoid keyword stuffing to have your website indexed in their search and not flagged as spam. If you don’t know, keyword stuffing refers to adding a significant number of keywords within a piece of content to increase the likelihood that Google will rank it higher on its results page. One issue with doing so is that it makes the content seem unnatural or difficult to understand.

While you should insert keywords in your image filenames, it is important to ensure they are relevant and make sense in accordance with the image itself. To avoid keyword stuffing, limit your keywords. For example, an image filename should not repeat the same keyword, as it can appear as spam and will likely not make sense when describing the image. Additionally, if you upload three images to a blog post and change the filenames to include the exact keywords in each image, it can lead to keyword stuffing. To avoid this, use a keyword within one image and associated keywords in the other images.

Image Filename Quick Tips

  • When creating an image filename, be sure to hyphenate between each word, making it easier on Google’s end.
  • Keep the filename to a minimum – around five or six words (or less) is ideal.
  • Avoid irrelevant keywords at all costs – you want to describe the image accurately.
  • Leave the image type (i.e., JPEG, PNG, etc.) in the filename and ensure it correctly corresponds to the image. For example, an image with .jpg should not change to .png.
  • Do not add any special characters (i.e., underscores, apostrophes, exclamations, etc.) other than hyphens (refer to the first point).
  • An optimized filename is not equivalent to adding ALT text – ensure you add descriptive text for both.

This simple yet effective step of optimizing your images’ filenames can help increase your SEO efforts for your web content and help get it in front of your target audience.




Alexandra Few

Alexandra is a Content Producer at Reshift Media. Her work in our social team includes creating and designing content for social media, as well as researching and developing blog posts, landing pages, and other forms of web content for several brands. She has completed certifications in digital marketing, professional writing, and digital strategy and communications management, and she has published work on topics that range from franchising and social media to music and wellness.

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