Updating Your Images? Should You Keep The Original File Names?

Feb 21, 2013 • 8:08 am | comments (6) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google ImagesA WebmasterWorld thread brings up a topic I've honestly never considered before (which is why I love SEO forums). Here is the situation...

You have a web site with lots of images, let's say an e-commerce site with lots of product images. You decide to replace all the old images for each product with new fancy images.

The question is, what do you do with the old images? Options are:

(1) Leave them on the server.

(2) Delete them from the server.

Now, if you decide to leave them, all it will do is eat up your bandwidth. That is unless they somehow continue to display on the original product landing page and those somehow convert.

If you decide to delete them, then you have a things to consider. Do you just delete them and upload new ones or do you delete the old ones and replace them with the new ones but keep the same file name?

For example, you sell blue widgets on a page. That page has an image of a blue widget at domain.com/images/bluewidget.jpg. Do you replace the old one with a new image on a new file name, i.e. /images/newbluewidget.jpg or just overwrite the old one with /images/bluewidget.jpg.

What would you do?

Update: Google's Pierre Far responded to my question on Google+ with the answer:

You can keep the same filename if you're just updating the image of a product - i.e. the new image and the old image are about the same thing. As Googlebot re-crawls the images (assuming there aren't any robots.txt disallow directives), we'll start showing the new images in the search results. How long it will take to refresh all images on a site depends on a lot of things.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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02/21/2013 01:34 pm

I'd use .htaccess and mod_rewrite to serve an ad to everyone who's ever hotlinked/embedded one of my images and replace all my image files with newly named versions, safe in the knowledge I have replaced my Google traffic with display ad traffic and so don't need to lie awake at night worrying about a 5-page drop for all my converting widget keywords. NB not entirely serious. Wish Google would realise the chilling effect they are having on the evolution of the internet.

Praveen Sharma

02/21/2013 01:43 pm

If we are using same product's image with same (old) name, I don't think there is any harm in that. Will use new images with same name, same tag values (alt, title) and delete old ones.

Gregory Smith

02/21/2013 02:54 pm

That's a great topic, it's something that a lot of people just look over, i think...

Saijo George

02/22/2013 12:06 am

I have always kept the same file name as long its for the same thing and replaced the old one.


02/22/2013 01:45 am

In a case like yours (bluewidget.jpg), i'd keep the name for the new file. However, in a poorly structured site with (xyz123abc.jpg) i'd leave the old file and add the new file with a more relevant filename.

Rank Watch

02/22/2013 08:44 pm

Great and very unique topic Barry. New image with the same file name, directory or path, alt attribute, title attribute and description does make real sense if the new image is on the same subject or topic as that of the old. Google will certainly have the ability to differentiate the old image and the new image about the same topic on the blog. One cant add a spammy image or replace the old/relevant image with an irrelevant one and expect it to rank keeping the page authority and quality backlinks to the page in mind. Which doesn't make sense both to their visitors and the search engines.

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