Reading this means you are trying to be smart and proactive with your image SEO. We previously published an article about NextGEN Gallery image being indexed by search engines.

You're welcome to read that before continuing here, but please know that if you do everything in this article, then you're also covering what is discussed in the other article.

Want a downloadable PDF cheatsheet?

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Image SEO Best Practices

Now you are ready to be proactive with your image SEO. We hope that you find all the information here useful for your effort. If at any time you have image SEO questions please reach out via social media or through our contact page. We are happy to help!

Thanks to @imagely I'm learning so much about image SEO best practices! Click To Tweet

Please note that these Image SEO best practices are not just for WordPress image SEO but for any platform.

Best Way To Name Images For SEO

By default, cameras create filenames that are not very descriptive. That is ok for when you keep the images on a computer. But once they are online, search engines like Google and Bing prefer descriptive keywords within the filenames in order to identify related searches.

When preparing your images for the web, be sure to rename the files so the keyword you want those images to rank well for are included.  If the keyword has multiple words, then use hyphens or underscores in place of spaces.

Bad Filename

  • DSC0123.jpg
  • engagement-01.jpg

Good Filename

  • hoboken-engagement-photography.jpg
  • hoboken-new-jersey-engagement-photography.jpg

The filename template editor in NextGEN Gallery Export for Lightroom

If you are using the NextGEN Gallery Export plugin for Adobe Lightroom then you can configure uploads to use the image title (from the EXIF/IPTC) as the filename.

Keyword Rich Alt Tag

Although you can see images, search engines only crawl for data on your website. So instead of seeing your beautiful photograph and knowing what it is, it relies on metadata to determine that. The filename is just a start. The Alt or Alternative text is another, and equally as important. In fact the Alt text is specifically what tells search engines what the image is.

So you want to make sure that your keyword is also included within the alt text.  It would look like this:

<img src="" alt="Hoboken Engagement Photography">

Keyword Rich Title Tag

Like the Alt tag, you can include a Title tag that is used when images are broken on a site. This isn't crucial for image SEO, but it can't hurt to include one.  To make it easy you can simply use the same text you're using for your Alt text. For example:

<img src="" alt="Hoboken Engagement Photography" title="Hoboken Engagement Photography">

NextGEN Gallery does this by default. Meaning, NextGEN Gallery will automatically use the Title you set as both the Alt and Title text.

Captions Include Keyword

If you are placing a single image, or a group of images on a page then adding a caption that includes related keywords can also benefit your SEO.

NextGEN Gallery uses the description field for captions. Some galleries allow for captions below or above images, and some offer captions using a hover effect. That means when a mouse is on top of the image, the caption will display. The caption is also included in the page's HTML so search engines can see it.

NextGEN Gallerys AltTitle and Description fields FIlename is also visible

Keyword Optimized Page

This might be less obvious to some people as it's not directly related to the image itself. However, it's extremely important. If you really want your image(s) to rank well then the page itself, where the image is included, must be optimized as well.

Some of the ways to go about individual page SEO are as follows:

  1. Use only one focus keyword for one page. Don't try to optimize one page for multiple keywords.
  2. Include the keyword in the first sentence and towards the beginning of that sentence.
  3. Write more than 300 words on the page.
  4. Include the keyword in 1-2% of the content.
  5. Use only one H1 tag (post/page title)
  6. Use multiple H2 tags, one with the keyword and others with related keywords.

We highly recommend the Page Analysis tool included with the plugin, WordPress SEO by Yoast. It is very powerful and can help achieve a well-optimized page.

The Page Analysis tool in WordPress SEO by Yoast examines the page content and offers advice to for better optimization

A few of the following sections will also go into more detail.

Wow, image SEO goes way beyond just the filename! Click To Tweet

Keyword Optimized URL Of The Page

The URL of your page has a lot to do with its SEO as well. Ideally, you want the URL to contain your keyword alone, or with a couple of other words. Either way, the keyword should be towards the beginning of the URL. For example:

  • Bad:
  • Good:

Keyword Within The H1

The H1 tag is an HTML element that is included within your WordPress theme.  The H1 is commonly the page or blog post title. For this page, the H1 tag is "Be Proactive With Image SEO". Here are couple of important notable items for H1 tags:

  1. There should only be one H1 tag on a page or post.
  2. The focus keyword should be towards the beginning of, or the entire H1 tag.

Keyword Within One H2

The H2 tag is just like an H1 tag, excerpt it's for subtitles.  You can have multiple H2 tags on one page or post. However, it is important that at least one of them contains your focus keyword in a phrase.  Any others included should have related keywords to the focus keyword. For example:

  • Hoboken Engagement Photographer
  • Hoboken New Jersey Engagement Photography

Also, like the H1 tag, make sure that the H2 tag which includes your focus keyword also is towards the beginning of the H2.

Image Speed Optimization

Search engines prefer websites that load fast and one way to do that is to make sure your images are not too large. In fact, most website visitors wait roughly three seconds for a website to load on a desktop or five seconds on a mobile device like a phone or tablet.  In addition, Amazon found out that for every one second their website slows down they lose over a billion and a half dollars a year. That is a huge impact that says a lot.

Google uses page load time as a factor in their ranking algorithm and as of April 2015 mobile friendliness is also a factor in ranking.

So as you read through the speed optimization advice remember that if your site load is over 10 seconds not only will you lose visitor attention but you will potentially lose customers.

With this all said, there are multiple methods of making your image speed optimized.  The next few sections will discuss some of these methods in image SEO.

Image size plays a huge role in image SEO. Thanks @imagely! Click To Tweet

Small Resolution

The first is to have your image small enough to look at big small screens and small/large enough to look good on large screens.

At the end of the day, image size preference depends on each website owner, photographer, graphic designer, artist, etc.  With that said, our recommendation is to either keep your images around 1280px at the longest length or 2048px to be iPad optimized.

File Format

There are many image file formats, but the two most common formats are JPG and PNG. Both of which can be optimized to a large degree. So we strongly recommend using either of them, but preferably JPG when no transparency is needed.

Small File Size

Next on the fast loading image list is the file size for image SEO.  Your image could be very large if the resolution, DPI, PPI, and compression are all set larger than necessary.  We recommend aiming for no more than 256kb in image size. However, as with anything, it's purely a preference of the site owner which direction to go.

Compressed Images

Speaking of compressed images, Photoshop and Lightroom do great jobs at compressing. However, there are plugins and apps that can further help reduce image size without degrading quality. Here are some of those tools:

  • JPEGmini is a free and paid standalone app for the computer, and the Pro version has a Lightroom plugin that can be incorporated within your Lightroom to NextGEN Gallery workflow.
  • Kraken is a WordPress plugin that uses its server to compress your images for the web. The service starts at $50/year.
  • TinyPNG is a free WordPress plugin with a limited volume per month. There is also a $40 Photoshop plugin.
  • ImageOptim is a free plugin that optimizes offline via drag and drop (similar to JPEGmini Lite).

Many of these tools can kick your image SEO into overdrive.

Responsive / Fluid

Google now requires websites to be fully mobile-friendly to rank well. This goes for images too.  There are two types of responsive capability.

  • Responsive is when there are multiple sizes of each image on the server. Depending on the screen size, a specific image will be shown to the viewer. That means on big screens the larger image will show and the image load speed will be optimized for that. On small screens, the smaller image will be shown and the image load speed will be optimized for that.
  • Fluid is the more commonly used method where one image is on the server and scales down to fit smaller screens.  Both are acceptable but responsive can be beneficial for site load speed.


Modern screens have a high pixel density commonly referred to has retina. The way retina-ready images work is as follows.

If an image is 500px at the longest length, then on retina screens a 1000px image is displayed at half the size. Meaning the 1000px image is displayed at 500px. It also means that on standard displays only the 500px image is shown to the viewer.

This method helps display images in better quality on retina screens and keep image load speed as fast as possible on standard screens.

Images Within Sitemap

This is a screenshot of the sitemap feature within WordPress SEO by Yoast It can be configured in many ways suitable for most needs Images are also included within the postpage sections

Google no longer requires an image sitemap specifically, as long as the robots.txt file does not block images, and the site has a valid page and/or post sitemap.  So instead of an image specific sitemap, images are included in the normal sitemap.

WordPress SEO by Yoast creates a modern sitemap that already includes images.  If you don't have a modern sitemap then create a separate image sitemap.

Social Media

Social media has become a very important aspect of SEO. Having images shared and talked about will help page/post and image rankings. NextGEN Plus and NextGEN Pro include image commenting and social sharing features.

When it comes to sharing images on social media it's important to include Open Graph and Twitter Card metadata.

Hover social sharing built in to NextGEN Plus and NextGEN Pro

Open Graph is metadata started by Facebook and slowly being adopted across most social media platforms. Using Open Graph metadata tells Facebook what link title, description, and image to use. NextGEN Plus and Pro include this within the social sharing features.

This is what a shared NextGEN Gallery image looks like when shared on Facebook

Twitter Cards are just like Open Graph except more specific to Twitter.  Once a link with Twitter Card support is shared, Twitter crawls the URL and within minutes will add the Twitter Card to the tweet.

This is what a shared NextGEN Gallery image looks like when shared on Twitter when Twitter Card support is enabled


Recently Matt Cutts, of the Google Web Team, went on record saying that Google does look at EXIF data included with images. However, they are not using that data for indexing. That can change at any time. So we strongly recommend including all EXIF and IPTC data within your images prior to uploading. This data includes:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Keywords
  • Geolocation
  • Exposure settings
    • ISO
    • Shutter Speed
    • Aperture
  • Camera settings
    • Camera model
    • Lens model
    • Focal length

When the time comes for when search engines use EXIF and IPTC data for image SEO, do you want to be left out or included? If you already have the data there then you don't have to add it later on.

Image Search Optimization

You have reached the end, but your journey is not over. If you have not already done so, be sure to download our one-page cheat sheet to smart image SEO.

Download the PDF

Keep that document with you so whenever you are creating a new gallery, new post, or new page, you are always looking at the important image SEO items.

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