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How to Name Photos for your Website on WordPress

Last month, I shared all about how you can avoid some of the most common mistakes I see on website homepages. But there’s another super common mistake I see when I do website audits, and it’s not something you might think of at first! Renaming photos and alternate text (aka “alt text”) on your website can be a powerful tool to drive more organic traffic to your site. It’s a small change with the potential to have BIG results for your website – and I’m pumped to share with you all about how renaming photos and making the most of alt text can become a valuable part of your SEO plan!

As I’m sure you know, these days it’s almost a given that websites will have photos and images. It’s a fantastic way to build trust and brand recognition with potential clients – it would definitely feel like something was off if a site didn’t have photos! Not to mention, remember when I told you how important it is that you set up your homepage for skimmers? Adding images throughout website copy is another great way to do exactly that! Including photos as part of website pages and blog posts helps break up large blocks of text, making your site easier to read. When you add photos to your site, you’re also making the page more appealing and engaging for readers – meaning they’ll spend more time on your website.

But something I really get excited about is helping clients get real SEO results that help them stand out from the crowd! That’s why, if you’re asking me, one of the biggest reasons to add images to your website (aside from building know, like & trust with your ideal clients) is that it’s a huge opportunity to gain organic search traffic. Did you know that users get search results not just for the actual words on your site, but also for the images? Google image search makes up 22.6% of all search engine traffic! With numbers like that, you can’t overlook the power of photos and images to get more readers on your site!

Of course, there’s a little more to optimizing images than just including them in your site! Once you’re already including great photos and images on your site, the best way to make sure you’re really making the most of those images when it comes to SEO results is by using image renaming and alternate text! Renaming photos is a can’t-skip step for better SEO and Google Rankings, and it’s a simple thing you can do yourself either before or after uploading files to your media library.

Just like you can SEO-optimize the words on your website, you can use photo renaming to encourage organic search traffic. Renaming and alt text are great opportunities to use your keywords, and it doesn’t take long to do! However, there are a few best practices when it comes to renaming site images.

Stick around and grab a cup of coffee, because I’m going to share my tried-and-true strategy for making the most of photo names and alt text as part of your SEO strategy. We’ll cover:

  • The Difference Between Image Names and Alt Text
  • How Renaming Helps Boost Your SEO Results
  • How to Choose Keywords for Image Names and Alt Text
  • How to Write SEO-Friendly Image File Names
  • How to Use SEO Terms in Image Alt Text
  • How to Name Photos for Your Site on WordPress

So, what’s an image file name?

OK, so you probably already know the answer to this one! Simply put, an image file name is, well, the name of the file that contains your image. What you may not have thought about is how that file name can affect where your website’s images show up in search results. Usually, the image file name is a random, auto-generated name on your computer. Unless you change it, that random file name will stay the same when you upload the image to your website.

So, for example, a typical image file name might be something like “IMG_25.jpg”. Randomized image file names don’t hurt your search results, but they don’t really do anything to help it either. So, you definitely want to choose a different photo name and get those image names working harder for your website! Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered on exactly what you can do!

And what’s alt text?

Alternative text – also called alt text – is a field you can use to describe the content of an image on your site. This is especially useful for website visitors who can’t see the images, or if your site photos are broken or don’t load. In any of these cases, the alt text will take the place of the images and photos and tell viewers information about what’s in the image. It’s also part of what Google “sees” when it’s checking out your site and evaluating the content for SEO! Since it could replace your site images in some cases, ideally alt text will describe what’s in the image and be easy to understand. And – you guessed it – it’s another place you can strategically use to get better SEO results!

Why do image names and alt text matter for SEO?

When Google algorithms read your website to form SEO rankings and search results, the photo names and alt text of all the images on your site make a difference! These algorithms are complex and super smart – and they LOVE user-friendly and intuitive websites. Part of making a website great for users is properly using photo names and alt text. This is so important that in their own SEO guidelines, Google actually advises people to avoid using generic file names! What this means for you is that image names and alt text are an awesome way to maximize SEO optimization. With a little thought and planning, you can use those image file names to add more keywords to your website!

How to Choose Keywords for Photo Names and Alt Text

Chances are, you’ve already targeted some keywords to help drive web traffic to your site – they are at the center of a strong SEO strategy! If you’ve already researched keywords for the text on your page, I have good news for you! Image names and alt text are great places to use the keywords you already know and have targeted for your website! If you’re unsure of how to narrow down keywords, keep reading!

A great way to start with finding the best keywords for your business is to think like a client! Ask yourself, “If I were looking for my product or service, what would I search for?” You can also do a little market research and check out your top competitors to see which keywords they’re using on their websites. Once you have some initial words, you can head over to a keyword search tool to get more keyword ideas! Using your chosen terms as a starting point, these SEO search tools suggest keyword terms and let you know how much search traffic they’re getting.

My go-to tool when I’m researching keywords for clients is Ubersuggest. Once you’re on the main page, just type in your original word or phrase and search! As you scroll down the page, you’ll find more keyword ideas for your topic, along with information about which ones are getting searched and how often. I always make a spreadsheet of 10-15 top keywords as a reference, then cycle through them when renaming photos. In addition to these keywords, be sure to use your business name and location!

How to Write SEO-Friendly Image Names

OK, now you’re ready to do some image renaming! In general, search traffic from image searches is better when you give your photos names that are relevant to the content of the image. So, with the image’s content in mind, choose the most relevant keywords possible from your list. When deciding on photo names, you want to be sure to keep it short but descriptive – five words or fewer should do the trick! To make it easier for Google to read the photo names and recognize the individual words, separate each word with a dash.

So, for example, instead of naming an image “custom wordpress websites”, I’d name it “custom-wordpress-websites.” Every time you upload a new image file to your site, you can also use this naming strategy! Just remember: use the dash in between words for SEO-friendly image file names!

How to use keywords in alt text

Just like with photo names, your image’s alt text should be short and descriptive. But since alt text is meant to tell people and search engines what’s in the photo, it’s important to make sure you choose the best keywords that will do that! Remember, if someone can’t see the images on your site, this text is what they’ll see instead! When you’re writing alt text, there’s also another small difference from renaming photos – you don’t have to place dashes between each word in your alt text!

How to avoid keyword stuffing!

When it comes to including keywords in your image names and alt text, I should mention that there are a couple of big no-nos that you absolutely don’t want to do. If you’re thinking of using all of your keywords in every photo name or description, hold the phone! That’s called “keyword stuffing” or spamming – and it can seriously hurt your SEO rankings. So, rather than spamming image file names with tons of keywords at once, choose just one keyword phrase for each photo.

Another form of keyword stuffing that could knock down your site’s SEO rank is using the same exact keywords for every single photo. It’s totally ok to use similar language for different photo names and descriptions! But too much repetition of the exact same terms could accidentally flag search algorithms that are on the lookout for people who try to misuse SEO – and I know that’s not you! Researching and building a keyword bank, then rotating through those keywords is a helpful way to make sure you sidestep this mistake.

At first, it might seem like the best approach is to fit in as many keywords as you can, wherever you can. And though it might seem counterintuitive, you should focus on choosing keywords that make your website’s experience better for visitors! Search engine algorithms are able to tell if your site is built for users and if the content would make sense for a real person to read or search. If you take the time to keep photo names and alt text relevant, short, and human, ultimately you’ll come out on top with great SEO results. I like to make this process easier for my clients by providing them with a list of ready-to-use keywords whenever I build their new website!

Image file name examples

I know a lot of people are visual learners, so let’s take a look at some examples of how to write an image file name for SEO. If I were writing a blog about a pecan caramel ice cream recipe, I wouldn’t want to use just “ice cream” in my photo name or alt text – that’s way too broad! Keyword stuffing with a name like “best frozen dessert pecan ice cream caramel chocolate ice cream best caramel recipe” wouldn’t be a good choice either. A more targeted phrase, like “pecan-caramel-ice-cream-recipe” or “best-pecan-caramel-ice-cream” would be a better choice that would help my blog show up in more search results. Don’t forget the dash in between each word so Google can understand what’s in your photo!

How to name image files and use alt text on WordPress

Now you know exactly how to find quality keywords and the best way to rename photos and write alt text! The next step is to actually start making these changes on your website. Let’s talk about how to name photos on your site for WordPress. To do that, you’ll have to go to your media files and edit each image on your site. I’ll walk you through it – it’s a simple process that just takes a few steps!

  1. Once you’ve logged into your WordPress site, just head over to your media library.
  2. From there, you can make sure that you take the time to rename your photos to something specific to your business, niche, and keywords.
  3. To rename files and write new alt text, just edit the fields for “alternative text” and “title.”
  4. From now on, whenever you upload new images and photos to your site, be sure to use your keywords when creating the file name!

If you’re more of a visual person, you can follow along with me as I show you exactly how to do this on my Instagram!

I hope this post helps you as you’re learning the ins and outs of photo renaming and alt text! Quality photos are a must-have for your business’s website, but with just a few small tweaks, those images can go the extra mile and do so much more than what you might expect at face value! Understanding photo names and alt text is a game-changer in optimizing your images for SEO. When you dig into keyword research, you’ll learn how you can hone in on the best search terms that potential clients will use when they’re trying to find the services to fit their needs. And with just a handful of easy and achievable steps, you can include those valuable keywords in your photo names and alt text – adding another strategic piece that will strengthen your website’s SEO and have your business showing up in more search results. Once you know the basics of this strategy for renaming photos and alt text, making it part of your process every time you upload new images to your site is a breeze!

As always, you can follow me over on Instagram for more Web Design and Development tips! My signature web design service includes strategic market research and SEO services that will get your business ranking in search results and will drive organic traffic to your site. When you work with me, you also get a personalized keyword bank after launch. My clients use this resource to hit the ground running with SEO strategy from day one, and can add to it as their business grows.

I’d love to partner with you to develop a website and SEO plan that will get you in front of your ideal client! If you’re ready for a custom web redesign that will drive sales and take your business to the next level, schedule a free consultation with me!

Steph O'Keefe, SEO strategist and WordPress designer sitting at desk wearing a white shirt in Raleigh, NC.

I'm Steph!

I'm the Founder and creative Director behind Southern Creative, a.k.a. your SEO strategist and web designer.

My passion is crafting websites rooted in strategy so you can put your focus where your heart is while we launch your dream website that shows up online.