Which Has More SEO Value: An Image File Name or ALT Attribute?

Feb 1, 2007 • 4:10 pm | comments (11) by twitter | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization

One of the tactics often employed in Search Engine Optimization is the naming of images to include important keywords as well as the use of a descriptive ALT Attribute, also commonly including the targeted keyword. Although the ALT Attribute also doubles as being something to provide screen readers for the visually impaired a concise description of the image, the changing of the file name would be hard to justify other than for SEO purposes, although some may argue that. Perhaps if a web page has images available to be downloaded, they may be able to increase user experience by clearly labeling the image file.

A recent discussion at Cre8asite Forums asks which has more SEO value: the file name or the ALT attribute. Some great responses follow, and provide some insight as to how to "properly" name files or images, based on the opinions of the posters. However, as usual, Bill Slawski (Bragadocchio) takes it up another level and introduces some higher level thinking on the subject, including some links to valuable tutorials and a cited patent application which supports one of his theories.

However, another poster, "Halfdeck," goes a step further to analyze how certain images appear within Google image results, or as Bill puts it:

You've set out a nice way to explore how words around an image might influence what that image may rank for.

This is one of the best threads I have read in a while, as it pushes for further research on the quantifiable validity of image labeling, and the relationship that is evaluated by search algorithms between images and text around them. Join the discussion and add your thoughts or learn something new at Cre8asite Forums.

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Andrew Girdwood

02/01/2007 10:02 pm

Good find. Frankly it's easier to find people who talk about the "alt tag" than it is to find sensible forum discussions on the alt attribute these days. Historically, the file name is most important - the point that it would be hard to find a picture of a cANAL. However, with the addition of Sitemap XML for images it has all changed.


02/01/2007 10:25 pm

I have always wondered that too. I just started with naming conventions and alt tags. I just put them as equal but now I know the file names are more important.


02/02/2007 12:42 am

ALT Attribute and only it.

Jeremy Luebke

02/02/2007 04:25 pm

It's my opinion that Google is treating ALT tags the exact same as they do as on page text. See the screen shots here http://www.xuru.com/blog/google-and-alt-tags/

David Mahon

02/08/2007 01:37 pm

Hmmm, I always thought it was a combination of ALT and image file name, leaning slightly to the ALT tag.


02/28/2007 01:28 pm

"It's my opinion that Google is treating ALT tags the exact same as they do as on page text." This is incorrect. Google certainly indexes the alt attribute text but these old SEO tricks (keyword stuffing) no longer work as the major search engines do not generally use the alt text when determining relevancy. (therefore it's not treated the same as on page text) According to Google's webmaster guidelines alt text should be "descriptive and accurate". My suggestion for images would be to use a relevant file name and a short relevant alt text. Think of the user, use the alt attribute as it's supposed to be used.


07/23/2009 03:43 pm

Having an alt tag on an image named PZXGH.jpg would be useless. They are both equally important. Having an alt tag "clemson tigers" on "clemson_tigers.jpg" would have a much higher ranking on image and web searches.


01/12/2010 02:59 am

There is no such thing as an ALT tag...it's an attribute...get it right

Rob Abdul

01/12/2010 12:53 pm

"alt attribute" used in HTML and XHTML documents to specify alternative text (alt text). I have found that more weight is given to alternative text than the image name.

Tony Sale

09/08/2010 10:53 pm

I'm just about to update the images on my web site so this thread and the linked thread have been invaluable - thank you. Will get to work on my alt tags


02/03/2012 06:47 pm

Garbage, After reading "How Important" image filenames with keywords are I spent over a week manually renaming 1000s of images with keywords relating to the alt tag.. Guess what, they are all indexed now and I am outranked by every image which just uses 497943.jpg but has the alt tag which matches the query. I have tried to find any image based on the filename keywords, guess what? They don't show up! This is complete garbage and I am furious that I wasted my time on this.

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