How to Make SEO-Friendly Image File Names

In a related tutorial about how to optimize image alt tags for SEO, I briefly went over the importance of naming your image files in a way that makes them easier to rank in search engine’s image search.

This article is only about how to name your files (images or not).

How to name your image files

This is what Google says about how to name image files:

The filename can give Google clues about the subject matter of the image. For example, my-new-black-kitten.jpg is better than IMG00023.JPG.

With that in mind, here’s a simple recipe for making SEO-friendly image filenames that makes search engines like Google happy. The following will apply to any file you embed on your website, images, PDFs, etc.:

  • Make your filenames short but descriptive.
  • Add your focus keyword at the beginning of the file name.
  • If your file is an image, its file name should reflect the alt tag description — but without filler words like “on“, “in”, “to”, etc.

Note: focus keyword means the most important keyword that describes your image or file the best for people who typically search for that type of content.

SEO-friendly image file name example

This is my dog Naya, she’s having a bit of a hard time with the hot weather during the Danish summer, but she’s always happy, as long as she can be outside:

My black dog Naya is feeling the summer heat, but she’s still happy
She’s such a cutie

Here’s how the HTML code looks for embedding the image above:

  alt="My black dog Naya is feeling the summer heat, but she’s still happy"

Notice that the file name "happy-black-dog-summer" reflects the alt tag description, but it only mentions the most important keywords to make search engines understand what it’s about.

File names vs. Alt tag descriptions

Here’s a practical way to understand how file names and alt tag descriptions compare to each other:

  • File names should be just descriptive enough for search engines to understand-
  • Alt tags should be descriptive enough for humans and have proper grammar.

No matter how you name your files, any approach is better than keeping default image names that often come from cameras, such as “IMG00388” because that says absolutely nothing about an image.

If you think that search engines like Google are so advanced now that they can recognize any image content without an explicit text description, you’re almost correct. They probably 90% precise at this point, but not perfect.

I suggest you keep naming your files descriptively. Not only for SEO purposes but for making it easier to organize your files where ever you store them.

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