Google about image file names and a surprising SEO mistake

Google’s Lizzi Sassman and John Mueller discussed the importance of image filenames in a recent Search Off the Record podcast and at one point discussed a major filename mistake.

Importance of Filenames

Google’s documentation does not say whether image filenames are ranking factors.

But they say Google is taking notice of them to help find out what the image is about.

For that reason Google recommends giving images meaningful filenames.

Google’s image guidelines documentation states:

“Similarly, the file name can give Google clues about the image’s content.

For example, my-new-black-kitten.jpg is better than IMG00023.JPG.

If you’re localizing your images, make sure you translate the filenames too.”

It’s also good practice to give images meaningful filenames because it makes it easier for organizational purposes to see the image’s filename and know what it means.

How Important Are Image Filenames?

Google’s Lizzi Sassman and John Mueller begin their discussion by confirming the importance of file names and then discuss how important they are in general.

“Lizzi Sassman:

So another part where you could probably focus your attention would be the file name.

So words for the name of the image itself.

Because that’s not an area where I haven’t invested a lot of effort, but I don’t know, like we should?

What if I went and just changed all the images on our website to a different file name?

To be more descriptive or, I don’t know… put more words in there too, like in addition to alt text?

John Mueller:

We recommend doing something with the filenames in our image guides.

So having descriptive filenames is good.

But I don’t think you would see a significant change if you are already doing the other things around images, like the alt texts, the text around the image.

Those are very, very strong signs.

And the name of the file itself is often … it’s kind of a technical point of view.

This is what we called it, but it doesn’t provide any real unique information, usually.

Something to Know About Google Image Crawling

Of course, if you don’t do the alt text, or if you don’t have good surrounding text, then of course the filename might be the only place you mention what this image is about means it.

But if you do the rest, then usually the file names are fine. “

John Mueller next raises an important technical issue about how Google crawls images and why this should be considered when optimizing images on an already established website.

“And the other thing with file names, especially for images, is that when we crawl images, we tend not to crawl them as often, because usually, they don’t change much .

John Mueller:

So that means if you’re changing all of the file names across the site, then it’s going to take a long time for Google’s systems to see, “Oh, well, this is a new image, and we have to look at it at some point.”

And to understand that kind of connection between the old image and the new one, that’s something that’s going to take a very long time.

So if you were to change all of them at once, my guess is … I don’t know, over a period of a few months at least, it’s going to be kind of annoying in Image Search because we’re dropping the old ones. firstly because they are no longer mentioned on the page and the new ones are raised in a very slow way.

So that’s something where I would only try to do that if it’s really essential.

Like when we made the switch from Blogger to the new set for the blog posts.

Changing File Names Has Minimal Effect

Of course, the images also had to be moved.

And at that point, he was like, “Sure.” It was like, “Change the file name, move the image to a different URL.” “

The big takeaway here is to be aware that Google doesn’t crawl images very often and be prepared to rename images that haven’t been indexed for months.

Another important takeaway is that changing the file name of images that have already been crawled and indexed has minimal benefit to the point that it would not be visible.

“But otherwise, once they were moved on the website, and you’re like tweaking things, and it was like, “Oh, I’ve got a new system for image filenames.”

I don’t think that would make it better.

That would probably have very little effect, maybe no visible effect at all.

Lizzi Sassman:

How much effort, yes.

And everything falls out for a few months. It’s not fun.

Image Filenames and SEO

Lizzi Sassman:


Listen to the Search Off the Record Podcast

And room for human error too. To like to lose a broken link.

If you need to exchange, where these images are embedded and stuffed.