A Commonsense Approach to Improving SEO of Images and Videos

Search engine spiders haven’t yet evolved to the point where they can directly extract the meaning from a visual medium such as a photo or a video. Instead, search engines must rely on the metadata we provide them through alt attributes, title attributes, surrounding elements (for context), and so on.

With some basic techniques, we can enhance the semantic value of images and videos so that search engines, as well as humans, can better deal with them.

SEO Image Optimization

The simplest thing you can do to increase the meaning of <img> elements is to use human-readable file names.

For example, let’s say we have a web page about a local hockey team called Spitfires, and I took a photo of the team at their latest hockey game that I want to post up on the page. Instead of using the auto-generated file name that digital cameras assign to our photos (such as DS10213.JPG), I would rename it to something semantic and human-friendly such as spitfires-local-hockey-team.jpg.

This way, the URL of the image will be something like:

The image now has a better chance of being indexed for terms such as "spitfire" and "hockey team". The image may eventually rank in the top rows for Google Images and drive traffic to your site.

The second aspect involved in optimizing images for SEO is placing important keywords in the image’s alt attribute.

Here’s an example:

<img alt= "Spitfires Local Hockey Team" src="spitfires-local-hockey-team.jpg">

The alt attribute is typically regarded as the primary attribute of an image that a search engine will use for gaining context and meaning.

Much like writing title tags and meta description tags in the <head> of an HTML document, image alt attributes must make grammatical sense. In other words, don’t stuff keywords in them. Write your alt attributes for humans, first and foremost. Search engines view alt attribute keyword-stuffing as a bad practice and may ban your image from search results.

SEO Video Optimization

Much like images, videos can’t be crawled purely by its contents. However, there are signals and metadata that search engines use to understand what the video is about.

The main thing to optimize is the title of the video, especially when you’re using a third-party streaming service such as YouTube or Vimeo.

Google’s video tutorial for Webmaster Tools on YouTube is a great example of an excellent video title.

Screenshot of Google's video tutorial for Webmaster Tools.

The title of the video, "Google Webmaster Tools", contributes to the ranking of the video on YouTube searches as well as regular search engine results.

Another element that affects the search results of a video is the video’s description. Below is an example of a video description from a Java programming tutorial. The targeted keyword, "Java tutorial" is mentioned at the beginning of the description, and again in the second sentence. This videos ranks second on YouTube for the search phrase "Java tutorials".

Java tutorial video description on YouTube.

Another way to increase ranking in the search results for videos is to get as many views and Facebook Likes on your video as possible. This is based on the assumption that search engine algorithms take social proof as a ranking factor.

If your video gets a substantial amount of Facebook Likes compared to other videos in the same vertical, there’s a higher chance you’ll rank better for your targeted keywords.


SEO for images and videos takes little time to implement and can provide significant results in niche markets. For example, when you’re having trouble getting a page or article to rank for a competitive keyword in your niche, posting an optimized video or image may help you get a leg up.

At this time, search engines can’t index the actual content of an image or a video, but with our help, we can provide them with greater meaning and context using simple and practical (but often neglected) techniques.

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About the Author

Alex Galasso is a SEO Analyst at the Montreal web design company, NVI Solutions Inc. In his spare time, Alex also writes about independent video games and manages a portfolio of websites. Feel free to contact Alex for any inquiries at agalasso [at] nvisolutions [dot] com.

This was published on Apr 16, 2011


Haris Tahić Apr 16 2011

Hey Alex,

Nice information at this article.

I have a question: Can google image search help us to get additional traffic which has any value?

Best regards,

Your example alt attribute value fails to adequately describe the image. If that was read to me for a real image, I might—depending on context—wonder whether it is an example of the team’s logo, a group photo of the players, or perhaps a photo of their home venue. If the context is not clear, it could be any of those. It would also be quite annoying to have my screen reader read out a description that is exactly the same as the file name that I have just heard!

Thanks for the article, good stuff in there.

Haris, it sure can. A targeted traffic from google images is of the same value as from the “generic” search.

Fraser Boag Apr 16 2011

Heh, SEO really is a full time job!

Pablinho Apr 16 2011

Nice tips.

@Haris i dont think the incomming traffic will be of much value if they were just looking for images to start with.

shorty Apr 17 2011

I’m doing so for images for a long time, except that I also add the title tag which is the same as alt tag and image name.
Anyone got a way, how can u redirect the user to the page after 5seconds of viewing at the image preview from google image results?

I agree with pablino, it is very difficult to measure the quality of traffic from images and video but that goes the same with most search engine traffic where optimizing for articles, blogs, videos, and images are important.

Joshua Apr 17 2011

SEO for video and other content has really come a long way. It may take time but it definitely is worth it.

Thank’s for advices. It was my common problem.

Yes… images can help drive traffic if they are relevant for the specific KWs the image ranks for. If the vertical is very competitive and it is difficult to rank your site, images can be a great way to go.

shorty Apr 18 2011

Add this code into your :

if (parent.frames.length > 0) { parent.location.href = location.href; }

This JS code closes the google image preview, and redirects user to the page where image is located.

shorty Apr 18 2011

Looks like the comment system removed the tags… Copy that JavaScript code into your head of the document!

Kavya Hari Apr 19 2011

SEO images and videos are one of the accurate paths to get high ranking to our web sites. So, i would like to say thanks for given superb post on here. Great work, Alex :)

Alex, or anyone else know of a good article that talks about about optmising images for the Image search function of the search engines?

This article right here! When the images show up in the generic search, those images are the highest ranking images in the image search. Hope this helps.

Jatin Apr 22 2011

I completely go with author on using ‘alt’ attribute of ‘img’ tag for better SEO. I would also suggest to make use of ‘title’ attribute for ‘img’ tag.

BTW, nice article.

Sumit Khaneja Apr 22 2011

Great content for SEO of images & videos. Thanks for sharing

Muhammed Awais Apr 22 2011

Its great writing towards this unique topic of Images and Videos SEO, you dont find much stuff on this. Regarding the traffic to site is concerned i would support the writer’s words that images can help drive traffic if they are relevant.
Nice post Alex.

Guido May 03 2011

My SEO of my images are all optimized. And you can see it back in the google images.
When you put a keyword in it for a flash game, my website is most of the time in the top 10. And I’m actually proud of it.
And it is not really hard to do it, because most people don’t focus on this part!

Rickbischoff Aug 23 2011

…which is the best file type (to get top ranking; found first) …when all is said and done …jpg vs png ??

I’ve been researching this for some time now; both are ranking well, though which is the best ??
…I must move on : ) THNX!!

plz. respond – @Rickbischoff

To increase SEO for videos, they need to be captioned/transcribed (by humans, not machines). Search engines are blind, deaf, and physically disabled.

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