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When Images Kill

Naming Your Images Correctly

Okay, let's get to it. Why is it important what you name your images? In a word, SEO. There is it again, that stupid, three-letter word. Well, this stupid, three-letter word is what makes your website crawl to the top of the page rankings in Google and all other Search Engines. So, before we move forward with this, let's nail this down.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Just as we must "Optimize" our images for use on the web, we must also - make as perfect, effective, or functional as possible our whole website for the search engines. However, there is a delicate balance you must strike between optimizing for the search engines and optimizing for your visitors. There is a general SEO rule that you are encouraged to follow.


To put it simply, make your site easy for your visitors to use and understand, then make some adjustments for the search engines(SE). So is naming your images correctly more for your visitors or the SE? Well, it is for both, but mostly for the SE.

A Naming Example

Rolex Submariner Watch

Rolex Submariner Watch, Model #116610LN

Here we have a Rolex watch, which you can pick up on Amazon for only $7,995 (I think I'll pass). When this picture came out of the digital camera, it was probably named something like, IMG_0025478.jpg. For most purposes, that might be fine, but it doesn't tell anyone what the picture is, does it?

However, if we name it, "rolex_submariner.jpg", then we have a pretty good idea that the picture is of a Rolex Submariner watch. So I have named the above image, 'rolex_submariner_116610LN.jpg'. The underscore ( _ ) represents a blank space. The 116610LN is the model number. This was added to make the name more descriptive. If I was trying to sell this watch and someone was looking for a Rolex Submariner watch, model #116610LN, then there is a good chance that the SE will pick up the name of this image and return it in the search results. However, we have two other things in our arsenal to help us with our SEO.

Enter The Alt and Title Tags

Every image should also have an alt tag and a title tag. Many people get these confused and will use one or the other, if they use them at all. The "alt" tag is an alternative tag. It is an alternative description if the image is unavailable. It is primarily used for screen-readers and for the visually impaired. It lets them know what an image is about. It describes the image, because they can't see the image. So in our example above, the alt tag will read,

alt="Rolex Submariner Watch, Model No. 116610LN".

However, Google states that it pays more attention to the alt tag than it does to the title tag. Take three minutes and listen to Matt Cutts from Google explain.

The title tag is where we can get a little more SEO juice for our image. The title tag is to offer "advisory information about the element for which it is set." This simply means that it is an expansion on the alt tag. It should be descriptive and informative for the visitor, and contain one to two keywords for the SE. The title tag for our example above looks like this,

title="Rolex Submariner Watch, black face with gold band, Model No. 116610LN".

In Summary

The issues that we have dealt with here are important for your visitors, and for the search engines, therefore, they should be important to you. Don't take naming your images, and using the provided html tags, alt & title, lightly. These can have a huge impact on your page ranking. So, to summarize what we have stated,

  • Name your images with a concise name, which actually describes the image.
  • Use the alt tag to give a brief description of what the image actually is.
  • Use the title tag to supplement/expand on the image description.
  • Use one or two keywords in both your alt & title tags, but don't go crazy.