6 Top Tips For Google Image Search Ranking | Varn


21 July 2016

6 Top Tips For Google Image Search Ranking

Universal search results

To illustrate the importance of images in universal results pages here is the desktop screen results for a generic search term ‘weddings’:

image search optimisation on universal results page


You can see that the local results pack and five featured images take up most of the page above the fold and only one organic search snippet is in view. None of these five images are the same as the organic search results on the rest of the page. In fact it is possible to get a share of traffic for important but competitive search terms by getting your images to rank on universal search even when your webpages are unable to compete.

Image search results

Here are the top ranking images for ‘weddings’ in an image search. The sites being featured are completely different from those in the top ranking positions on the ‘All’ universal results tab:

image search results page google

So how do you go about optimising your images for Google search? Google uses a combination of factors when ranking images. The most important factor is to work on image optimisation in connection with on-page optimisation, as Google uses ranking factors from both together.

Here are our 6 top tips for image optimisation:

1. Quality of your images will be taken into account so make sure you only use good quality images. No fuzziness or distortions.

2. Oversized images are detrimental for overall page optimisation as they slow down page loading speeds. Images should be scaled to the correct display sizes before uploading. And there are plenty of tools like ImageOptimJPEGmini, or this tool from Website Planet that you can use to reduce file sizes without compromising quality.

3. Google also looks for original images as an indication of page quality. Though Google can’t ‘see’ your image it can often identify stock images through names, descriptions, titles and other data automatically carried through from the supplier. And Google will check to see how often the same image is used on other sites. So try and use your own images as much as possible.

4. The image, or in fact how it is described to Google in the image HTML, must be on a relevant page or part of a page, surrounded by text that matches the context of the image.

5. Use keyword targeting in the image HTML that matches the main on-page search term and best describes your image.

6. Use OpenGraph title & description tags and Twitter tags to make sure your image also gets social shares and links which will contribute to the overall page optimisation.

This is what a complete HTML image tag looks like:

<img src=”image name.jpg” alt =”image description” title=”image extra description”/>

And this is what it should look like to rank for the search term ‘church weddings’ on a page from a wedding supplier in Somerset:

<img src=”church wedding summer 2016.jpg” alt =”wedding at St Nicholas Church in Somerset” title=”sunny day for the summer church wedding”/>

Page URL: https://www.thebestweddings/churchweddings/somerset/

META title: Weddings in Somerset | Church Weddings

META description: If you’re looking to have your wedding at a church venue in Somerset, you’ve come to the right place! Contact our friendly team to find out more…

H1: Church Weddings

As always though, be careful not to spam your keyword. All the above points are not predominantly there for SEO but for user experience, so this needs to be an equally important consideration when working on your images and pages. You need high quality, size optimised and relevant images on your page where it makes sense to have the focus keyword in the filename and HTML to aid your users.

Image Snippets

When setting your image HTML you also need to think about how it will be featured in image display results.

Good image optimisation will get your images included in relevant category sections at the top of the page and ranked highly within the page.

Category Search Results

Rather like the ‘Searches related to…’ that are added to the bottom of universal search results pages, Google tries to help searchers by displaying sub-categories at the top of the image results page. These categories are then further sub-divided til we get to a niche results page. For example clicking on Flowers>Blue>Centerpieces> will give me the following categorised results for my original ‘church weddings’ image search:

image search results page categories by google

The top ranking image in the final results page has to give google enough information to enable it to make this categorisation. Descriptive and informative filenames and ALT text are therefore essential. For example the ALT text for the first image ranked above is ‘blue wedding flowers centerpieces’.

Page Search Results

Clicking on any image in the page search results shows the user a bigger screen shot, the image snippet and related images. For example the image ranked in position one on our ‘church wedding’ search is from an article published on The Telegraph website about the rise in popularity of church weddings:

image page search results google

Here is the HTML they have used showing the use of search term ‘church weddings’:

Page title: Church of England weddings up by 4% in 2010 – Telegraph

META desc: The number of church weddings has risen for the first time in several years, new figures show.

Page URL: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9026093/Church-of-England-weddings-up-by-4-in-2010.html

Page H1: Church of England weddings up by 4% in 2010

Page H2: The number of church weddings has risen for the first time in several years,  new figures show.

Image URL: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01925/church-wedding_1925562a.jpg

Image ALT: For poorer: cost of church weddings to rise 50pc

Usually the META title of the linking page is the top snippet description which has a limit of approx. 35 characters before truncation. Sometimes Google uses the image title here if it is more appropriate. The image ALT is also being displayed in the snippet as a secondary description.


If you need any more advice on image search please contact us here at Varn. We will be able to look at your analytics data to see what percentage of organic traffic is coming from image search and suggest ways to improve rankings and click through rates.

Article by: Tom, Managing Director of Varn Digital Marketing More articles by Tom

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