SEO. Search Engine Optimization.  It's a mystery to so many people and often billed as the Holy Grail of blogging.  It promises you a quick route to high rankings, lots of traffic, a bigger community around your site, and, lets face it... all that can mean more money if you monetize your blog.

But solid SEO really has far more to do with following the basic principles of sound, user accessible, web design than it does with fancy algorithms, crazy long lists of vaguely related keywords, or linking to everyone under the sun.

Does that mean you need to be a web designer?  Not at all!

In my first instalment of SEO 101 I'm going to show you 2 simple things you can do with your blog photos that will make your posts much more SEO friendly.

Give Your Photographs a Meaningful Title

a bowl of cherries next to a coaster with painted cherries on it.Do you upload your photos to your blog with titles like "IMG367-8"?  Stop!  Name your photo before uploading it with a short name that describes the image.  "Cherries" is much more search engine friendly than the name your camera assigns.

wordpress screen shot for photo uploads

As you can see here in WordPress, I have uploaded the file with the name cherries.jpg.  This is important for those of you using Blogger because Blogger doesn't give you a chance to change the title once it's uploaded so it's best to do it beforehand.  WordPress also gives you a title field that you can change - it will automatically default to the uploaded file's name.  If you renamed it before uploading, you won't need to change it here.

Using the Alt Tag

As you can see in the screen shot above, WordPress allows you to fill in an Alternate Text field - use it!  This is where you can give a more descriptive, but still brief, explanation of the photo.

wordpress screenshot showing the Alternate Text Field The Alternate Text field is used by people who use assistive technologies such as screen readers.  This is the description that's read to them when they visit your page.

Don't think your blog has a lot readers using assistive technologies?  Maybe not.  (but you'd probably be surprised by how many do).  But, by filling it in and making your blog more accessible, you are unwittingly focusing on one of the key principals of good web design: semantic design.

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Without going into a long lesson in web design, semantic design is when page content (the text and information) is completely separated from style and design (the images, designs and colours that bring it to life and make it pretty).  By using the Alt tag, which is what the Alternate Text field fills in behind the scenes, you are separating your content from the visuals.  Think of it as if you had to write your entire post without using a photo to illustrate anything.

Blogger makes it a little harder for you to do this, which is very unfortunate given that Google owns them and they are such a popular blogging platform.  But it can still be done!

When you upload a photo to blogger, you'll see something like this:

a blogger screenshot showing a photo upload

You'll need to click on the Edit HTML tab where you'll see some HTML code.  Don't be frightened! This is easy, I promise!

blogger screenshot showing the image tag

Once you're looking at the HTML, you will want to find the opening img tag.  Right after img you'll want to insert your alt text, just like this:

alt="bowl of cherries next to a coaster with cherries painted on it"

It's important that you surround your description with quotations.  Here it is in action:

blogger screen shot showing the alt tag in the HTML window

That's all you have to do.  Don't delete anything, just add in the little piece of code after the img  tag but before the border tag.  Easy Peasy!

When your site is indexed by google bots, the bots don't see your photos.  But they DO read your alt tag where you have described the scene.  And they really like it when that's filled in!  It gives them more information about your site and they are better able to index it.  And that in turn will help your Search Engine Ranking.  So fill in those Alternate Text fields!  Not only will you improve your SEO, but you will instantly make your site more accessible compliant.  A two for one!


SEO 101: Using Photos to Improve Your Food Blog's SEO was written by Melissa Hartfiel, FBC co-founder and author of the food blog Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach.  She is a web and graphic designer, photographer and the resident FBC geek.  Melissa lives just outside of Vancouver, BC. Twitter: @mhchipmunk

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Categorized:: Resources, Blogging 101, Technology and SEO

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Great tips! I have the feeling that whenever I read one of your entries I’m going to be saying *I never knew that but I’m glad I know now!*


Wow!! I had no idea! And I will need to re-read to make sure I understand (kind of dingy here when it comes to techy stuff!). Great info~


This is fantastic information!

I am making sure to add info to my pictures now and plan on going in and updating the information on the shots I have already used.



These are great tips Melissa, thank you.

Quick question, will it work if we link to an image from Flickr instead of directly uploading to Blogger?



good question! In wordpress, yes this works the same if you upload the image using the “from a URL” tab in the Upload Box – you will still have the option to fill in a new title and alt description. If you put the direct flickr link into your post, you may wind up bypassing that option (but you should be able to go back and fill it in later). Blogger should also be the same – you will need to add the alt tag manually but all that is changing is where the image is being hosted.

As an aside, I use flickr to host about 90% of my blog’s photos. Be sure to give it a title, description and make use of flickr’s tag feature. And put a link in the description to your blog post. That will also help get you a bit more traffic!

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